Tuesday, August 01, 2006

grey area

Walking through Beijing airport the other day I noticed there were two Shanghai Tang shops within only a few metres of each other:

Except one of them wasn't Shanghai Tang at all. The first picture is actually their old store which has been taken over by a new tenant that happens to be selling very similar Shanghai Tangesque products. This is a good example of the degrees of fake-ness you get in China. Officially they aren't doing anything wrong as the original branding is covered up, and they aren't calling themselves something like 'Shanghai Fang' but its certainly implying similarity every other way; their product and clothing display style are highly suggestive of Shanghai Tang, especially when framed by the original Shanghai Tang shop fittings. It's operating in a branding grey area.

To make matters worse the real store has updated its look so, for a moment there, I thought it was the copy as the 'grey' store had registered as the real Shanghai Tang because it looked more familiar. This might not be a life-or-death issue for Shanghai Tang here in Beijing airport but imagine you are a leading brand who is trying to update its image in the Chinese mass market. Aggressive local competitors unconstrained by IP protection are ready to steal your old and more familiar image to sell their own product and while your brand is in the limbo of establishing a new look they may even manage to position you as the fake.

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