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:


Victoria’s Secret catalog goes online only. Adolescent males in mourning.

OK, now they’ve really done it! It was bad enough when Playboy magazine swore off running NUDE photos in their publication, but now Victoria’s Secret is discontinuing mailing out its iconic catalog, and will only direct market its compelling lingerie merchandise online . Oh sure, even though the company’s sales are good, the maneuver is touted as an expense saving tactic, and one that aligns more closely with today’s shopping behaviors.Elsa-Hosk-Victorias-Secret-Swim-2016-Cover-Catalog

Maybe that’s true for the great majority of their older, sorta “adult” customers who actually buy this stuff, but what about the young pubescent adolescents only beginning to form their own  brand recognition, and appreciation of the female form and lingerie draping of it?

No Cisco, I realize that 350 million hard copy catalogs and postage for 22 mailings a year can get a little pricey, BUT ….aside from what might be a negative impact on the Victoria’s Secret brand among their actual paying/shopping customers (see below):

In a research note entitled, “Every Guy’s Worst Nightmare,” Citi retail analysts estimated the company would save about $100 million by eliminating the catalogs, but worried the move would hurt sales “as the brand may be less top of mind with male and female customers long-term.”

What about the the little teenage and below boys that use the hard copy piece (excuse the unintentional play on words) for relief and practice behind closed doors in their rooms or bathrooms? You all know what I’m referring to.

imagesEveryone learns how to ride a bike somewhere, and sometimes it’s good to have training wheels.

Philip Roth’s 1969 novel, “Portnoy’s Complaint”, pulled the metaphorical shower curtain back on what little boys were doing in the bathroom or elsewhere with mom’s Sears catalog or dad’s stash of True Detective magazines or National Geographic’s latest coverage of topless Borneo natives. I’ll never forget the perfectly descriptive “bent over my flying fist” imagery from the book.

Well, with the arrival on the scene of Victoria’s Secret catalog in the 90’s, the “bent over” operation was ratcheted up several levels. Now, young males had breathtakingly beautiful women attired in stunning and dramatic costumes, posed in alluring (to say the least) poses. What was not to like?

The short answer was/is nothing. Nothing not to like. And something to mentally (and physically) “use.” But that’s all gone now. A mobile phone or tablet device is just not the same, and cannot be comfortably held on one’s lap while other procedures are being performed.

So I’m predicting that very young males love affair with Victoria’s Secret is going to suffer a bit. And, ultimately, along with less active connection to their lingerie offering, brand interest and connection may lessen.

So I hope VS’s management put that into their long term brand allegiance model. Yes, the world is going digital and mobile, but some things for some audiences were perhaps better served by nice glossy printed pages. We’ll see.neuman

My favorite coffee shop (and coffee shop brand) in Bangkok…Mascotte The Coffee Corner

I don’t hang out in Starbucks or any other Bangkok cooffee shops, as I really don’t think their coffee and general “branding ambience”  is worth the high altitude prices they ask for their cups.

Mascotte The Coffee Corner

Mascotte The Coffee Corner

There is one (and, yes, there is only ONE at this time) that can get me to part with my hard earned baht for a latte or cappuccino, and that is Mascotte The Coffee Corner. The owner, a Dutchman named Martien Vlemmix, has truly created a unique little oasis of Dutch “coffeeness” with a retro jazz theme right here in Southeast Asia on Charoennakorn Road Soi 15/1 . Throw in an electic menu of breakfast through dinner Dutch and Thai specialties, background jazz music and vocals from the 30’s up to Dave Brubeck in the 60’s all reinforced with floor to ceiling photos of jazz greats  and you have a truly unique “branding ambience.” And that makes me for one, willing to stop, order and savor in a place that has gone over and above making itself different and special. My-Dutch-Grandmother CHOCOh, and did I mention my most favorite thing about the “Corner” aside from the creativeness and effort that has gone into making it more than just a “coffee shop?” It’s their My Dutch Grandmother’s brand hot chocolate, prepared according to what Martien swears is his grandmother’s original recipe that he enjoyed as a boy growing up in Holland. He says it’s legit, but that doesn’t matter to me. It’s delicious, so when I’ve maxed out on his lattes, I can shift easily to a hot chocolate and enjoy the sounds, the faces on the walls, great food if I’m hungry and feel that I’m having a special experience….not just a Starbucks corporate moment. It’s different. It’s special. You should try it….Mascotte The Coffee Corner.

What is the “emotional” component of a Brand and why is it important?

SME’s know and understand the “rational” part of their brands. The physical features and attributes of the products and services provided. For B2C’s it could be how many stores, product choices, number of colors or flavors, ease of ordering and fast delivery and more. For B2B’s their personnel expertise, service response, bandwith, upgrades, memory, etc. These are all important considerations; considerations business owner/managers are very comfortable with and ones of interest to and easily understood by customers.

However, they are all rational considerations and primarily operate with potential buyers on that level. By definition connections made on the rationale level are at best only half of the branding equation and at worst the weaker half. Psychologists will tell you that relationships based on only rational considerations, while many times strong, are vulnerable to competing rational input or arguments. Think of it this way… girlfriend likes boyfriend only on a rational basis, e.g. money, good looks, nice care…you get the drift. Along comes wealthier, better looking guy with super nice car and….she’s outta here!  Same thing can happen when a business competitor offers a bigger, better basket of goodies (or maybe just one) customer attracted only on a rational basis. LOST CUSTOMER.

On the other hand, if a business has a competitive (not necessarily better) mix of rational offerings and the, wraps it in a compelling and attractive “emotional” wrapper, the customers that attracts are more likely to stay longer and be more resistant to the “rational” siren songs of the competitors. Staying with the probably over-extended girlfriend/boyfriend metaphor above: how many of you have thought about an unlikely couple pairing,”Gee, I don’t know what she (he) sees in him (her). Well, it probably is something well past the hard to discern rational reasons, but probably something quite a bit more. “He makes me laugh.” “He cares for others.” I feel good when I’m around him.” So it is in branding for business. A good mix of rational reasons to buy is important, but if you can’t establish that emotional connection with a prospect…they either won’t buy OR will always be open to a competitor’s offer.