I was privileged to learn about Linguistics from a fine Queen’s University Prof, and learn Trademark treatment from Legal/Paralegal guru’s advising some of the world’s most valuable brands in USA & Canada. These 2 worlds have never before collided; but this article
made me consider rethinking classic ‘guidelines/rules’ for Brands facing what is, in my mind, the ‘intersection’ of two previously unrelated topics.
Formal training advises to prosecute and not acknowledge a brand name mistreatment. But that guideline predated Brands & Business going fully, irreversibly global. If a nation’s people (in this case, China) have spent a lifetime using a fully functional language that doesn’t ackowledge English consonants, vowels &/or pronunciation, and if (prospective customers) have difficulty pronouncing some Western words (and BRANDS!), should we –aghast!– consider the unthinkable?
Should we not just acknowledge the mistreatment, but leverage it? register their ‘alternate’ brand-equivalent phrase? use it in our communications? in our advertising?
If I were BMW’s agency (the article claims tht the BMW brand, in China, has been adapted to ‘Don’t Touch This‘), I’d meet MCHammer for music rights in China, to test a ‘working with it, not against it’ alternate brand campaign. Is it time to customize to the local market? Show some empathy?
imo the key is subtlety/tone- no ‘talking down’ or being obvious or patronizing. If you can master that, such a campaign, if done correctly, wouldn’t** destroy brand protection (it’s China! Bootlegs & Patent ripoffs are a much bigger worry than trademark protection!) but it might convey you ‘get’ the customer ie “Yeah thanks for recognizing our brand & btw we love what you’ve done with it”.
As always, this is just creative food for thought- **do NOT proceed with this idea until you clear it with your Trademark/ Legal gurus! They’ve saved my butt many times; their counsel is worth heeding with care & reverence.