Airbnb launches new brand name in China. Maybe needed more, or “more effective,” research.

Airbnb, the very successful, worldwide, U.S.-based online marketplace and hospitality online service provider, just launched the brand name it will use for marketing in China. It is a three-character name 爱彼迎 (ài bǐ yíng). Individually, the three characters mean ‘love’, ‘mutual’ and ‘welcome’—strategically on-target for Airbnb,  if you consider them in isolation

According to an Airbnb spokesperson, the name represents “the value and mission of our brand, with the love of the world’s tens of millions of neighborhood communities converging in the different corners of the earth”.

Except, there ‘s a little problem. Chinese consumers’ response to the name has been mixed and in some cases quite critical.

While an important step in localization for Chinese consumers and for establishing a clear differentiation from domestic competitors, the brand’s “love”-laden Chinese name may prove to be a liability.

The name has gotten more than just chuckles from Chinese netizens on the brand’s Weibo account and other social media, where comments have ranged from “ugly-sounding”, “sounds like a ‘filthy love hotel’ “and that the brand “might as well stick to having no Chinese name at all”.

Some marketing professionals have criticized the choice, because with the letters it joins together, it is not easy to pronounce. Also, the first character “爱 ài” is a widely used Chinese word expressing the idea of love. “Nothing wrong for a brand to be associated with love, but the issue is too many brands use it for exactly this reason,” says Jerry Clode, head of digital and social insight at Resonance. He feels the character is used excessively in the advertising of other industries and product categories in China. “There is too much ‘love’ in Chinese marketing; it seems difficult for Airbnb to own this emotion for themselves in a differentiated way.”

Well, we’ll see how this turns out. It seems to me that Airbnb will stick with its choice, until significant negatives develop.

However, it does seem strange that a company as knowledgeable in marketing as Airbnb did not either adequately or effectively use market research to evaluate all aspects of a completely new name in a market as widely diverse as China.

For the complete article from Campaign Asia go here: http://www.campaignasia.com/video/china-to-airbnb-new-chinese-name-is-ugly-sounding-like-a-filthy-love-hotel/434914

Falstaff Beer — Gone, but not forgotten.

falstaffThis post doesn’t have a lot to do with “branding” per se, but it’s an opportunity for me to recollect and revisit, however briefly, a brand of cheap beer that I grew up with in Saint Louis, Missouri — Falstaff.

Falstaff was started in 1883 by the Lemp family and closely held by them until it’s sale in 1921 to the Griesedieck Beverage Company. It was one of two major breweries in Saint Louis . (Recollection #1 — I’ll warn you upfront about the sick humor that follows, but you can imagine the juvenile laughs we underage, male beer drinkers found in referring to our purchase and consumption of some “Greasy D–k” beer.)

Griesedieck/Falstaff was always overshadowed by the Anheuser Busch brewery which continually fought Schlitz Brewing (in Milwaukee) for #1 beer brand in the United States. However, Falstaff did have its moment in the sun in the mid-1960’s when it was the third largest brewery in America. (Recollection #2 — In the 1940’s there was a humorous joke going around describing Saint Louis as being “First in shoes, first in booze and last in the American League.” With two of the top three breweries in the United States located in Saint Louis, and the industry-leading Brown Shoe Company founded in 1875 also there, all that was needed to complete the joke was a lousy  American League professional baseball team. The Saint Louis Browns met that requirement easily, having only 11 winning seasons over 51 seasons played).

Ultimately Falstaff was the victim of beer industry consolidation throughout the 1970’s and 80’s, but held on grudgingly and usually as a “low price” brand, not discontinuing production until 2005. (Recollection #3 — Falstaff’s “price brand” days were in full swing when I was coming out of high school and taking a razor blade and glue to my paper drivers license to masquerade as of legal drinking age 21, when I was in fact only 18. I remember one weekend when Falstaff was on special at the local liquor store for $2.49 per 24 can case. That works out to about a dime a can of beer, and even in 1963 that was a deal).

“Those were the days my friends. We thought they’d never end.” Mary Hopkin 1968

 

 

 

 

As a branding component, Australian tourism advertising misses a great opportunity.

“THERE’S NOTHING LIKE AUSTRALIA”Print

“There’s nothing like Australia” is Tourism Australia’s global consumer marketing campaign highlighting some of the the country’s very best attractions and experiences on offer. Apparently the campaign has been judged effective, since after three years the Australia Office of Tourism is developing new advertising creative, using the same tagline.

Now don’t get me (or the headline to this post) wrong. I like Australia, have been there only once , but was impressed with the range of tourism opportunities. In other words, I like the country and its people.

HOWEVER, (and you knew this was coming didn’t you?) in crafting the campaign’s one universal phrase, tagline, slogan, whatever you choose to call it … the element that appears in every piece of marketing material, the Aussie branding team seemed to take the easy way out.

I can appreciate that “There’s nothing like Australia” was designed to be long-lasting and flexible, something which could be updated as necessary to stay relevant and be used in a myriad of partner associations and geographies. The trap the marketing team either fell into or just didn’t try to avoid was that by creating something that had “one size to fit all”, their end-result was something that didn’t necessarily  fit me or tell me why I should go to Australia instead of Thailand.

After all, with just four words, I can accept “There’s nothing like Sri Lanka,” and of course, “There’s nothing like Poland,” nothing like Iceland,Tahiti, etc. either. My point is the line doesn’t do anything to really make Australia different or special.

Now I realize those four words will almost always travel with visuals and copy expanding on the premise, but why not make the line work even harder by allying it with an emotional connection that can go further in rationally differentiating Australia AND emotionally appealing to consumers.

I don’t have the magic bullet suggestion or answer, but I think that tagline could be energized by adding an emotional payoff or connection that prospective visitors might get. Australia has so many amazing attributes and offerings that call to and stimulate people to consider traveling there.

I’ve ventured out on this shaky limb, so here are a couple of off-the-top-of my-head thought starters, and remember, I’m  not auditioning for for an agency job in Sydney.

“There’s nothing like Australia, and that makes it special for you.”

“There’s nothing like Australia for someone just like you.”

“For life’s adventures, there’s nothing like Australia.”

OK, you get the idea. I can hear the brickbats crashing against this blog’s web address, but you can’t say I didn’t at least try to demonstrate where I think things could’ve been better. Sure, Sri Lanka, Poland and others could also say the things I’ve offered above, but remember, this was only a five minute exercise.

My intent is to suggest that even a branding signature line that necessarily needs to be very flexible could try harder for an EMOTIONAL connection, and not just stop with what is really (by itself) just a literal undifferentiated statement.