McDon­ald’s new name a golden mis­step

Global Times – Metro Beijing - - TWO CENTS - By Ka­trin Büchen­bacher

Have you ever heard of the Grimm’s fairy tale Mother Hulda? It tells the story of two daugh­ters. One is pretty and in­dus­tri­ous, the other one ugly and lazy.

One daugh­ter falls into a well and gets to live at Mother Hulda’s house. She proves to be use­ful and gets re­warded with a shower of gold upon her re­turn. Her sis­ter, want­ing to get the gold too, dives into the well. But since she be­haves like a spoiled brat at Mother Hulda’s, she re­ceives a pitch shower in­stead.

The same thing just hap­pened to McDon­ald’s China, which an­nounced its name change from the phonetic Maidanglao to Jin­gong­men (Golden Arches.)

The change oc­curred af­ter sig­nif­i­cant parts of McDon­ald’s China oper­a­tions were sold to the CITIC group, a State-owned Chi­nese in­vest­ment com­pany, and the Amer­i­can Car­lyle group. The Chi­nese In­ter­net went nuts over the new name.

“Why does it sound like a drug­store?” video blog­ger Jeremy (Yang Ji­acheng) said in a video posted on Weibo. Oth­ers called the choice old-fash­ioned, back­ward, and too ba­nal.

Soon, cre­ative Net users flooded Chi­nese so­cial me­dia with sim­i­lar name sug­ges­tions for for­eign brands, de­scrib­ing their lo­gos to make fun of Golden Arches. Star­bucks be­came “Mer­maid cafe,” Kappa be­came “sit­ting cou­ple wear” and Lam­borgh­ini “Buf­falo car.”

Try­ing to un­der­stand the furor around the is­sue on­line, I dis­cussed it with some of my Chi­nese friends.

“I think I got my head caught in a door when hear­ing this news,” was my for­mer Chi­nese teacher’s only re­mark.

An­other friend said, “I’m speech­less about such a lack of orig­i­nal ideas. It’s silly.”

Oth­ers thought of the pos­i­tive side of the name change.

“It’s ex­tremely tacky and not what any­one ex­pected. Ev­ery­one talked about it and re­mem­bered it right away,” my friend Grace said.

The name change seems to have suc­ceeded in hit­ting the mark in Chi­nese hu­mor. Still, it shows us that when try­ing to lo­cal­ize a for­eign brand in China, it is not enough to just come up with a Chi­nese name. You have to cre­ate new, lo­cal­ized prod­ucts ac­com­pa­nied by ag­gres­sive mar­ket­ing. You have to make your­self use­ful to the Chi­nese con­sumer to be­come the golden girl.

“KFC just in­tro­duced their Chi­nese hot pot. They are mov­ing for­ward very fast com­pared to McDon­ald’s,” my col­league said.

McDon­ald’s needs to work on their up­dated im­age in China. Bei­jing traf­fic ra­dio ded­i­cated a whole talk show to dis­cussing the new name and crit­i­cally an­a­lyzed the of­fer­ings at Golden Arches. One host ex­pressed dis­ap­point­ment at the un­healthy food op­tions of­fered in China.

“In Europe, there is a salad menu and carrot side dishes, but you can’t get these in China,” he said.

McDon­ald’s China has changed its name to Golden Arches, prob­a­bly in the hope of a golden shower and catch­ing up with their ri­val KFC.

But the Chi­nese In­ter­net just emp­tied a full ket­tle of pitch over the Amer­i­can fast­food chain. Maybe the com­pany should take it as a sign.

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