Chinese companies need help with branding

chinese backpack names

Have you ever noticed that Amazon sells lots of cheap stuff with weird brand names?

These goods are shipped from China to you (sometimes direct) without any help from American marketing experts.

Look at the backpacks that were featured in the top eight results from a search on Amazon for “packable backpack”:

  • Zomake
  • Neekfox
  • Venture Pal
  • Hikpro

Only one of those brands would even get close to appealing to an American: Venture Pal. But even the word “pal” is not part of American English anymore. None of those outdoor equipment brands are as attractive to American consumers as:

  • North Face
  • Osprey
  • Herschel
  • Patagonia

Admittedly, several of those known brands have a lot of equity – years of making quality products. But they evoke the untamed destinations, rugged adventure, or at least a feeling of quality.

And the Chinese brands are often very good value for the money. They may even be made in the same factories as the big brands. But those companies are cutting themselves out of a lot of profit that could be realized if they had better branding.

My recommendation to companies that produce products like Hikpro (“hick-pro”) and Neekfox (what?!) – simply hire a group of American teenagers. They can come up with a better unique name within 20 minutes of brainstorming than five hours spent by a team of Chinese nationals sitting in a room in Shenzhen.


Lost in translation

thank you card, written weirdly

Most English speakers would read this thank-you card as “TNY-HKO-AOU.”

The designer who created this lovely card was not a mother-tongue English speaker. According to the ever-trustworthy Wikipedia, traditional Chinese scripts were and are written top-to-bottom. (Nowadays, horizontal and vertical both work.)

The designer of this card was a traditional Chinese thinker.

But I have to say, the Santic Garments Weaving Co., Ltd. was very nice to include a thank-you note with the bike shorts I recently got. Bonus… the thank-you card text was bilingual (Mandarin Chinese and English).


Sometimes new is better

Old mailboxes in rural Colorado

My wife and I have this debate. She is happy with a postal delivery person carrying our mail to the box right by our front door. I am happy for the march of progress. I wouldn’t mind if one of the newer mailbox sheds (or whatever they are called) replaced the individual boxes in our neighborhood. I understand and appreciate the efficiency they represent, particularly in light of how the US postal system is getting in deeper debt every day. Also, the “sheds” offer better security (not that we’ve ever had anything stolen from our box – at least to my knowledge). I do admit to their complete lack of romance and beauty.

Heather likes the convenience of delivery to our front door.

Which do you prefer?

I took these photos in rural Colorado. I thought it was interesting to see the old and new side by side.

Old and new mailboxes in rural Colorado


Vending machines and culture

Umbrella vending machine in Hong KongIn Hong Kong, I saw this umbrella vending machine. In Ghent, Belgium, I saw an entire storefront made of vending machines, selling a huge variety of stuff, including Hoegaarden beer.

Why is it that machines in North America mostly sell food and soft drinks? We could sell a much greater variety of things, making our lives that much more convenient. We wouldn’t have to employ shop keepers to work at 3 am. (Those same shop keepers could drive around the city refilling machines, during normal waking hours.)

What we don’t put in those boxes is reflective of the boxes we put ourselves in.


It’s all about context

MangosteenWhen we were in London, we stopped into Harrod’s. My sons loved the food hall that had a large selection of exotic fruit. If you were willing to pay, you could sample all manner of fruits, flown in from very far away.

I had to take a photo of the mangosteen – £32 for a kilo – or about US $ 52, as of this writing. My dear friends in Southeast Asia pay quite a bit less. But sitting on a tropical patio eating mangosteen is a lot different than sitting in a cramped apartment in grey London, enjoying (nearly) the same taste. And maybe to someone who sorely misses their home near the equator, that taste would just about be worth it.

We also saw an unbelievable number of exotic cars. The highlight was a Bugatti Veyron, worth about $1,500,000. Just driving on the street. The guy behind the wheel was maybe on his way to get a litre of olive oil at the nearest supermarket. Driving that car was an ordinary part of his day. For me, it would be an experience to remember for the rest of my life.



Remember what a privilege it is

This “Discover Riches at Your Library” bookmark was given to my daughter as part of a summer reading program at our local library.

I remembered that in Nairobi, a city of about 4 million people, there are a few libraries. Most of them have old tattered books. There is not a selection of the latest best sellers. There are no libraries at all in Kakamega, a city in western Kenya with maybe 250,000 people.

So be thankful for what you have, people of “the western world.”


The loss of something

As life moves forward, we lose some things.

When I was a kid, my family had encyclopedias. I used to enjoy sitting down and reading them. Or skimming them to find interesting articles. Hours and hours of my childhood were spent learning that way.

Today, kids have Wikipedia and Google. Both offer huge advantages over encyclopedias. But some things are lost. I wonder how many kids spend hours combing Wikipedia for interesting articles.

I have a Kindle, and I love it. But it’s far from perfect.

Recently, I learned of a high school not far away that is “paperless.” No books, except eBooks. Again, some good things come with that – but some things are lost.


Proud of America

hibaHiba Ibrahim spoke at at Ben’s graduation ceremony (or continuation ceremony). Her family immigrated from Sudan to Littleton, Colorado, about five or so years ago. Her speech reflected complete adjustment to life here. Her delivery showed confidence and poise. She had a totally American accent.

I was so proud of our country for accepting Hiba and her family! She has many more opportunities to excel and grow as a person and contribute to society here than she would have had in her warn-torn village in southern Sudan. Reflecting on this brought tears to my eyes.

p.s. Horrible photo? Again, I was a long distance from the stage.


When you MUST have an accent

pendragonIn our desire to provide suitable entertainment for our fathers or family, we watched Pendragon.

It was pretty much a C-grade movie. The acting was OK, in some instances. None of us thought the heroine was beautiful enough. But the thing that killed it for us was the American accents. Somehow we have been conditioned to expect that any historical film reflecting that era should have actors and actresses with English (British) accents.

(Image courtesy of the film production company’s site.)


We have no accent

accent-rAs I have traveled to different places in the world, I am always amused when people claim, “We have no accent.” It’s true – if they have never lived anywhere else. But my contention is that we all have accents.

I admit that there are standard accents. In England, there is the BBC broadcaster’s accent, which is a kind of measuring stick. The American equivalent would be what one can hear on the national nightly news. In Kenya, national radio broadcasts are spoken in a standard baseline Swahili that is most easily understood by the largest majority of the listening population. But those are still accents!

Another factor is saturation. If we are used to hearing a particular voice on a long-term basis, we put their voice into our accent-less category. In high school, my friend Bryan’s mom was from Quebec. She had a wonderful French-Canadian lilt. He thought she had no accent. My dad grew up in Texas. Bryan claimed he had a southern accent. I thought he had none.

The lovely model for today’s photo is my daughter Rachel.