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CHANGING CURRENTS
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CYCLING TO XANADU
THE CHINESE DREAM
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1 Zola and Retail Marketing
2 Playing the Waiting Game
3 Beware the Ides of March
4 The county not on a map
5 Chinese Chess in Beijing
6 Build it and They'll Come
7 Riding the Water Dragon
8 The Best of Both Worlds
9 Storming the Great Wall
10 Welcome to the Wangba
11 The Catcher in the Rice
12 The Marriage Business
13 The Crouching Dragon
14 Counting the Numbers
15 A Century of Migration
16 Shooting for the Stars
17 Rise of Yorkshire Puds
18 Harry Potter in Beijing
19 Standing Out in China
20 Self-pandactualisation
21 Strolling on the Moon
22 Tea with the Brothers
23 Animated Guangzhou
24 Trouble on the Farms
25 Christmas in Haerbin
26 Dave pops into Tesco
27 A Breath of Fresh Air
28 The Boys from Brazil
29 Rolls-Royce on a roll
30 The Great Exhibition
31 Spreading the Word
32 On Top of the World
33 Moonlight Madness
34 Beijing's Wild West
35 Avatar vs Confucius
36 Brand Ambassadors
37 Inspiring Adventure
38 China's Sweet Spot
39 Spinning the Wheel
40 Winter Wonderland
41 The End of the Sky
42 Ticket to Ride High
43 Turning the Corner
44 Trouble in Toytown
45 Watch with Mother
46 Red-crowned Alert
47 In a Barbie World
48 Domestic Arrivals
49 Tale of Two Taxis
50 Land of Extremes
51 Of 'Mice' and Men
52 Tour of the South
53 Brooding Clouds?
54 The Nabang Test
55 Guanxi Building
56 Apple Blossoms
57 New Romantics
58 The Rose Seller
59 Rural Shanghai
60 Forbidden Fruit
61 Exotic Flavours
62 Picking up Pace
63 New Year, 2008
64 Shedding Tiers
65 Olympic Prince
66 London Calling
67 A Soulful Song
68 Paradise Lost?
69 Brandopolises
70 Red, red wine
71 Finding Nemo
72 Rogue Dealer
73 Juicy Carrots
74 Bad Air Days
75 Golden Week
76 Master Class
77 Noodle Wars
78 Yes We Can!
79 Mr Blue Sky
80 Keep Riding
81 Wise Words
82 Hair Today
83 Easy Rider
84 Aftershock
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86 Pick a card
87 The 60th
88 Ox Tales
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Rogue Dealer

BMW1_www.ChineseCurrents.com.jpg
Good idea but dodgy paintwork

I’ve never had the pleasure of sitting down with Sir Geoff Hurst and hearing how he scored a hat-trick in the 1966 World Cup final. The three goals propelled England to their first (and so far, only) world cup victory.  However, brand fans may be interested to read that, 15 years ago in New York, I did have the great pleasure of meeting Martin Puris, the founder and former chairman of the advertising agency Ammirati Puris Lintas, and listening to him recount the marvellous story behind his creation of one of the most powerful advertising slogans of all time, “The ultimate driving machine”.  In so doing, Mr Puris scored the copywriter's equivalent of Mr Hurst’s astounding World Cup final hat-trick.

 

This line, written by Mr Puris in the mid-seventies, encapsulated the essence of BMW and, as well as capturing the imagination of a generation of driving enthusiasts, also acted as a rallying cry for the brand’s designers, engineers, and marketers.  The rest, as they say, is history.  BMW, a beleaguered brand up until that point, went from strength to strength to strength. 

  

   One of the pillars of the brand was and is its meticulous attention to detail; another was its provenance – Germany, the fatherland of engineering excellence.

  

   So surely BMW, the bastion of Germanness, couldn’t possibly be made in China?  On the contrary, the stellar sales performance of China-made BMWs has embarrassed the doomsayers who believed that “made in China” would somehow damage the integrity of the brand and lessen demand.  On the contrary, in the first nine months of this year, BMW’s sales in China have increased by about 32 per cent year-on-year, to around 60 thousand units – most of which are built in the company’s plant in Shenyang, Liaoning province, where the 3 and 5 series models are produced. 

  

   So, if that’s okay, then at what point is a brand’s identity compromised by a cultural or geographic shift in its identity? 

  

   What about the notion of painting a Chinese flag on to a BMW?  Surely, that’s going too far?

 

  Others may disagree, but I don’t believe that this is going to change what people think about the brand. That's because BMW has many decades of German heritage – to the point that, for many, one is synonymous with the other.  Painting the colours of the Chinese flag onto a BMW, complete with its five yellow stars, and showing it off in a glass case on the piazza of one of Beijing’s busiest shopping areas, will not for one moment make anyone, at least anyone of sound mind who’s ever driven a car, think that BMW is a Chinese brand.

 

   Likewise, painting the Great Wall (and, yes, a China flag flying over it) on the front of a Harley Davidson – as I photographed a few weeks ago – is not going to lessen that brand’s association with the United States, Route 66 and, for some, the film Easy Rider.  A strong brand needn’t have to worry about the occasional sortie into unfamiliar territory.   


  The positives gained from improved PR and enthusiastic word-of-mouth (WOM), not to mention the increasingly important eWOM, far outweigh any possible negatives.   

 

  That said, I do have an issue with the BMW in the picture.

 

  The 'ultimate driving machine' and 'meticulous attention to detail' sit hand in hand.  When looking at the photographs on this page, please don’t think for one moment that my camera’s colour balance and sharpness are out, the presentation of the car was, as it appears, nothing short of appalling.  In fact it’s one of the worst paint-jobs I’ve ever seen.  If it had won third prize in a primary school’s painting contest, I would be questioning the integrity of the judges.  Take a closer look, among other things, at the outside of the fuel-filler cap.  Yes, they’ve missed more than a bit.  Contrast this with the perfect finish of the artwork that was used on the Harley Davidson I photographed. Clearly, the Harley was painted in the Harley factory, while this BMW was probably painted by a rogue local dealer or the dealer's five year-old.

 

  Whoever signed it off should be shown a yellow card, a copy of the BMW brand book, and the way to the nearest BMW-approved paintshop.

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Are my eyes deceiving me?