Can you still unlock your phone if your fingers are coated in grease? For the answer, please ask KFC and Huawei, which teamed up to launch a smartphone earlier this year that commemorated the fast food firm’s 30 years of doing business in China.
The special edition was a remake of Huawei’s mid-range Enjoy 7 Plus, but was coloured red with a portrait of Colonel Sanders etched on the back. The Rmb1,099 ($165.72) phone also comes with 10,000 “K Dollars” – the fastfood chain’s digital currency – and it has KFC’s music app pre-installed (it allows patrons to choose the music – jukebox style – in the outlet they are eating in).
The phone, the app and the cryptocurrency are just a few of the ways KFC is trying to stay popular in the Chinese market. But a more recent reinvention from rival McDonald’s – which opened its first China franchise in Shenzhen in 1990 – hasn’t gone down so well with the public.
Late last month word got out that McDonald’s had changed the name under which its business is registered to ‘Golden Arches’ or jingongmen. The change went unnoticed by the public for two weeks, the People’s Daily reports. But when consumers found out, they were unimpressed. Some weibo users complained that Golden Arches sounds more like a traditional Chinese medicine shop, or a cheap restaurant selling Peking duck. Others began a game of renaming other Western brands based on their logos, advising Starbucks to change its name to “Mermaid Cafe” and KFC to “Happy Old Man”.
According to the Global Times, a Beijing radio show dedicated an entire discussion segment to the name change. One conclusion was that KFC is “moving forward very fast compared to McDonald’s”. (Media opinion on the relative merits of the two brands seems to change almost monthly, mind you – see WiC379 for comments from Xinhua-backed China Newsweek on “why McDonald’s is better than KFC”.)
The broader complaint was that McDonald’s is losing touch with the Chinese market – again a little surprising, as the McDonald’s China franchise was sold recently to a local conglomerate (see WiC351).
That acquisition did spark another theory, with Sina speculating, that the new Chinese owners had pushed for the name change because it has better feng shui.
This wasn’t confirmed by a company spokesperson, who told Sixth Tone that the name change was merely made to meet “the needs of business development”.
A non-event, perhaps? Nonetheless the debate over “Golden Arches Ltd” generated enough momentum for McDonald’s to make a statement on its official Sina Weibo explaining that it was just the company’s registered name that had changed, and that its storefronts will retain their original Chinese transliteration, ‘Maidanglao’.
Truth be told, for consumers it should be of little importance.
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