CHINA: Brands Adopt Names To Project Foreign Flair


Chrisdien Deny, a retail chain with more than 500 locations across China, sells belts, shoes and clothing with an “Italian style” — and a logo with the same font as Christian Dior’s. Helen Keller, named for the deaf-blind American humanitarian, offers trendy sunglasses and classic spectacles at over 80 stores, with the motto“you see the world, the world sees you.” Frognie Zila, (something similar of Ermenegildo Zegna)a clothing brand sold in 120 stores in China, boasts that its “international” selection is “one of the first choices of successful politicians and businessmen” and features pictures on its website of the Leaning Tower of Pisa and Venetian canals. Eager to glaze their products with the sheen of international sophistication, many homegrown retail brands have hit upon a similar formula: Choose a non-Chinese name that gives the impression of being foreign.


“You could call it fawning on foreign powers,” said Cheng Wei, 37, who was recently at a Beijing mall buying winter clothes at Chocoolate, a Hong Kong casual wear outlet, where Chinese characters were absent from all but one store logo. At a time when manufacturing is cooling and real estate is slumping, consumption is a bright spot in the Chinese economy. In the first 11 months of 2014, retail sales grew by 12 percent over the previous year to 23.66 trillion renminbi, or $3.8 trillion, according to the National Bureau of Statistics.


The government considers consumer spending so vital that Prime Minister Li Keqiang in November declared, “Let the people be able to consume, dare to consume and be willing to consume,” according to the state news agency Xinhua. But some Chinese appear loath to spend their disposable income on locally produced fashions. “Buy Chinese brands? Never,” said Fu Rao, 20, a university student, who was browsing the clothes at the Japanese outlet store Snidel in an upscale Beijing mall one recent evening. Ms. Fu complained that Chinese products were shoddily made and lacking in style. “Foreign stuff is so much better,” she said.


As Chinese retail companies try to attract consumers, mystifying maladaptations of English have spread across the country’s storefronts, shopping bags and clothing labels. Wanko, Hotwind, Scat, Orgee and Marisfrolg (the L is silent) all sell clothing. A sponsor of China’s national golf team is the apparel chain Biemlfdlkk.


If Chinese companies have stumbled in the branding race, that is because few ever gave it much thought. For years, as China’s economic growth soared into the double digits, branding was largely considered a low-priority marketing decision left to top executives far more concerned with the next product introduction than with building long-term value, said Joel Backaler, author of “China Goes West,” a book that charts the efforts of Chinese companies seeking to build international brands. ( Source: NYT )