The Week in China: Co-Eds Sex Up College Admissions, Bev Brands Boost Dog Meat and more


China is the second largest economy in the world and every significant brand’s future is impacted by its growth (or collapse)—but who’s got the time?! Here’s the week’s reads that will make you look like a keen China observer in case you find yourself immersed in a cultural conversation.

This week: EVs lose juice… Lin for Gatorade… expanding waistlines… “free” Porsches… the lux show… trademark law changes… car recalls (again)… Tom Ford smells like China… rental Beckham… HIV PSA… vegetarians… Colonel Sanders-san… college students sex (and joke) it up for enrollment… and more.[more]

Marketing Memo: Don’t Sponsor Dog Meat Eating

The drinks have long been at the center of one of China’s most epic trademark disputes. But now herbal tea titans 王老吉, or Wanglaoji (Wong Lo Kat) and 加多宝, or Jiaduobao, are at the center of a more unpalatable scandal involving dog meat.

Last week, a decades old dog meat eating festival in the city of Yulin went forward. During the event, thousands of dogs are butchered and eaten to the great dismay of a growing number of Chinese. Not surprisingly, resistance to the event has grown as dog ownership had exploded in China where very unreliable figures put the number of dog owners anywhere from 40 to 70 million. Where the matter gets bad for Wanglaoji and Jiaduobao is that the drinks both openly sponsored and advertised specifically at Yulin’s dog meat feast. One promo was of an anthropomorphized Jiaduobao can happily explaining pin rhyme to “eat dog” and “drink lots of Jiaduobao.” One Weibo user called the promo “disgraceful” and called for a boycott.

Meanwhile, Wanglaoji found itself in more hot water at a June 26 shareholder meeting, where its parent company, Guangzhou Pharmaceutical, was accused of “three excesses,” including indulgent spending on marketing and branding, some of which, if the dog meat case is any example, may also be counterproductive.

China Auto Owners Step on the Gas

There is more bearishness on electric vehicles in China even as demand for petrol explodes with China’s growing car ownership rates as “Texas sized” gives way to “China sized.” Looking at the potential reception for electric vehicles in China, it’s no surprise that Beijing is touring the globe, spending billions to lock up oil supplies. One bit of news those combustion engine drivers won’t like is Beijing’s announcement of another retail gas hike.

Paris to Parisians: Be Nice!

“Let’s be perfectly clear, this is a competition with London, this is a battle between cities. Our goal is that Chinese visitors come to Paris, stay for longer and spend more money.” Oh, it’s on like Megatron!

So what does Paris have up its sleeve in the battle to keep its title as the top spot for Chinese tourists? A new guide to help the French better relate to various tourists, including the Chinese. The new guide, Reuters reports, identifies the Chinese as “fervent shoppers” and that, in dealing with them, “a simple smile and hello in their language will fully satisfy them.” What will certainly not satisfy them is being robbed. As the AFP report above notes, Chinese tourists are getting special attention from French police after some nasty recent muggings and robberies. Incidents that have not gone unrecognized back in China.

But beware Paris lux boutiques, Chinese consumers are getting thrifty, with a new focus on traveling to outlets malls. Brand name products can be up to 80 percent more expensive in China’s shops, a fact that makes it possible to quite easily make up the cost of a flight to a nation with discount outlets. In a way, this makes much of China’s retail industry vulnerable to a form of a nationwide showroom effect. That is to say, the luxury boutiques on Shanghai’s Nanjing Road exist only for customers to get an idea of what they want to buy on their next flight to France or California. But for now, France is fine. For proof, here’s an edifying photo gallery of Chinese shoppers flocking into French stores as the five week “Shopping Season” kicks off.

Crowd-Sourced University Ads Get Oddly Sexual

Finally, there seems to be a bit of sexual energy fueling crowd-sourced university recruitment ads on China’s social media networks. First, a group of pretty women posed with signs inviting recent gaokao (college entrance exam) takers to come to Fujian Normal University (at top). In the meantime, attention to the “Goddess of Renmin University of China” knocked that school’s website offline. Not to be outdone, good looking’ big men on campus then got into the act (above).

More China News:

China Auto Rental or, ahem, “CAR,” is the latest Chinese entity to team up with footballer David Beckham.

– From the department of making the best of a bad situation: Brands in Malaysia and Singapore—like Olayleveraged the recent haze from Indonesian forest fires to do a little pro-brand messaging.

– Last year, we dug up some trademark applications by Tom Ford for China-themed fragrances, including “Fleur de Chine,” “Shanghai Lily” and “Atelier D’Orient.” It looks like those fragrances are finally here. (Though, as author Paul French points out, “Shanghai Lily” was a prostitute.)

– Speaking of the Luxury China 2013 exhibit: buy a yacht, get a free Porsche. (Also, a Dyson fan.)

– Houston Rocket Jeremy Lin for Gatorade in China.

– Actress Sun Li in a branded mini-film for the Citroën DS3.

– Hong Kong’s new PSA to promote HIV testing is, um, effective. Sure, let’s go with effective. In another PSA, actress Sharon Kwok speaks out against shark fin soup.

McKinsey on China’s Gen-2 consumers: Start thinking micro and niche.

– Chinese men’s waistlines are growing and heart disease in younger men is up 30 percent in just 3 years.

– When life gives you lemons, make lemonade. When life gives you 16 of the world’s most polluted cities and 50 percent of rivers too polluted to put to any possible use, make water purifier supplier profits.

– China’s state run news reports that iconic, Shanghai jazz-era Cathay Theatre rented out a floor to a luxury brand. Does not report which brand. (Pssst.)

– Luxury names and Chinese property developers sitting in a tree, B-R-A-N-D  E-X-T-E-N-D-I-N-G.

– China has doubled its trademark violation fines to a maximum of 2 million RMB or about $325,400.

Twitter is seeking a Greater China Partnership Manager. Twitter is still blocked in China.

Cisco can blame Snowden for imperiling its business prospects in China.

– Which one of the US big three is recalling vehicles in China this week? Meanwhile, which Chinese automaker is not recalling cars?

– Worse than a recall? VW, GM Shanghai dealerships investigated for fraud.

– Luxury auto sales are slowing.

– If China’s luxury e-commerce market value was a GDP it would be Bolivia.

– With a foothold in the Mainland, Carrefour looks to Taiwan.

– Hongqi and other local automakers drive to capture the now-Audi-free business of the CCP.

– A peek into China’s mobile, connected future.

– Why should I care that China’s experiencing a credit crunch? Here’s why.

– Head of iPhone assembler Foxconn calls 3D printing “a gimmick.”

– US companies aren’t the only ones worried about online snooping. A leaked memo from China tech giant Alibaba preaches data protection.

– China’s video site Youku knows where the future is as it reboots its pages for use on smaller, mobile screens.

Amazon, Apple’s App Store and Taobao added to China’s copyright supervision plan.

– China study: Bloggers are losers.

– A story of localization victory, Haagen-Dazs sells 2 million ice cream mooncakes a year in China.

– Hong Kong’s official press release on allowing Snowden to leave the city after the US requested an arrest is passive aggressive gold.

– China is going vegetarian in a big way.

– While China’s baijiu struggles to find an international market, France says oui to Japan’s sake.

– “I think that the Holy Grail is that in 10 years’ time the expats will leave, and the Chinese creatives will be running the agencies.” O&M China’s Graham Fink.

– Mao’s rice bowl: Simply adorned Hunan ceramic bowls made for Chairman Mao sold at auction.

Pauline Hanson‘s phone is probably ringing after evidence that Australian real estate prices are very subject to Chinese immigration.

– The president of KFC Japan stands accused by the internet of sacrilege after he won an auction for Colonel Sanders’ iconic southern gentleman’s suit and promptly tried it on.