McDonald’s new name a golden misstep
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.