Mark Tanner

Foreign Brands’ Blunders for the Chinese New Year

2016/02/01 Mark Tanner
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After last year’s high profile gaffe by Burberry, when their special edition Chinese New Year scarf was mocked on social media, you’d think foreign brands would take extra care to ensure that their Lunar New Year-themed promotions were checked by Chinese experts before launching them. Think again.

Leading up to this year’s Spring Festival, there’s been the usual line-up of monkey and New Year-themed paraphernalia hoping to tap into China’s busiest shopping season. This year has seen its share of foreign brands miss the mark, mostly with monkeys that don’t appeal to Chinese, an unfortunate choice of font or even poorly considered characters. Here are a few that have been laughing stock on WeChat, Weibo and other media, circulated by accounts such as 齐鲁晚报.

Monkeys that Are Just All Wrong in China

Luis Vuitton’s wealth of experience in China didn’t seem to factor in when they designed the Monkey Crew Necklace to see in the New Year. Based on the unanimous mocking on Chinese social media, it may not be a top seller this Spring Festival. Some of the more humorous quotes included “Does this monkey come from other planet?” and “Even though I can’t afford this, I must say it’s ugly.”
Similarly, the choice of monkey on the ornamental Breguet Queen of Naples and the Piaget Altiplano’s watches have scared a good few online Chinese, claiming they looked too real, like they’d jump out at any second.Luxury Year of the Monkey Watch

The Correct Chinese Typeface

Even Giorgio Armani has had its share of critics for their Chinese New Year highlighting palette. The red and black colours were popular and considered high quality, and some liked the monkey imprint, but no one liked the 福 (“fu” meaning fortune) character on the cover. To a Westerner it may look nice, but many Chinese claim it has no sense of design at all – looking to be taken straight out of a Word document. Chinese place great emphasis on the brush strokes of the “fu” in reference to the New Year, and this example clearly hasn’t.Giorgio Armani Year of the Monkey highlighting palette

The Fa Fu Faux Pas

The award for the biggest bungle of them all goes to our friends at Nike. In December, the brand launched a new pair of customized shoes, with a traditional Chinese character 發 (“Fa” meaning getting richer) on one shoe, and 福 (“Fu” meaning fortune arrives) on the other. The characters are perfect for Chinese New Year, but combining them together to make “Fa Fu” means getting FAT in Chinese! Obviously China’s social media has been buzzing for the wrong reasons since.

Nike Fa Fu China Blunder
The day before the Fa Fu launch, Nike had released another Chinese New Year edition called “Nian Hua”, which is a traditional painting that Chinese buy for the Lunar New Year to bring good luck.

The consensus on Chinese social media was why would they put them on the white shoes, they are so ugly? A few of the better quotes included:
“OMG, why they are such ugly shoes?”
“Finally there is something equal to the GA Highlighting palette”
“Maybe the Westerners who can’t read Chinese would wear them pretending to be cool!”
Nike Nian Hua shoe China
Many others commented on the Chinese characters gave the impression that the shoes were fake.

Double Check it with an Expert

Even the big foreign brands make mistakes localising for Chinese culture, but there really is no excuse. Things that we assume in the West are often completely different in China. If you are localising for China from another country, or without a trained Mainland branding expert, ensure that you always run localisation ideas past a company like China Skinny who can provide professional advice to ensure you get it right. Happy New Year!
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