Saturday, August 17, 2019

China Screw-ups

Many companies seem to be getting it wrong about China. And paying the price. 

Versace had T-shirts that implied the Chinese territories of Hong Kong and Macau were separate countries. Image credit: Sina Weib

China claims self-ruling Taiwan as its own territory – and Coach claims ignorance or oversight. Image credit: Sina Weibo 

Global brands such as Versace, Coach, Calvin Klein, Givenchy, ASICS, and Swarovski all faced similar angry criticisms for listing Hong Kong, Macau, and Taiwan as separate countries or regions – not part of China – on their official websites or branded T-shirts. 

Even Huawei got careless. Taiwan was listed as its own country when the default language in Huawei's smartphone setting was set to traditional Chinese – which is the script used in Taiwan and Hong Kong. Know that mainland China mostly uses simplified Chinese. 

These brands have upset Chinese consumers because of either their ignorance and/or oversight. It’s not only negative publicity but boycott campaigns, if they are initiated can harm the companies’ sales and profits, even if temporary. 

Not only that but there’s also what is called “celebrity brand flight” – and this has the effect of accentuating the negativity surrounding the delinquent brands. 

This week saw Chinese actress Jelly Lin, Calvin Klein's brand ambassador for the Asia Pacific region, announce an immediate termination of collaboration with the American fashion house. Chinese star Yang Mi also ended her relationship with Versace, while Chinese singer Jackson Yee and supermodel Liu Wen terminated their partnerships with Givenchy and Coach respectively. And Chinese actress Jiang Shuying, also known as Maggie Jiang, announced on Tuesday that she would be ending her co-operation with Swarovski.

China Fashion Week responded to the controversies this week, writing that "all brands doing business in China should respect its national sovereignty and territorial integrity". 

In the light of the ongoing Hong Kong protests which don't seem to be going away any time soon and having demonstrated pronounced anti-China sentiments  it becomes even more necessary for companies which market to China to exercise extra vigilance and due care.

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