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Red Hot Cars, Cool Red Wine

September 2011

By Jonathan Shearer, Beijing,Shanghai

Consumer demand in China, the fastest-growing market in history, doubles year upon year, creating opportunities for copycat brands.

In the burgeoning supercar market, name is especially important and while I marvel at the number of buyers who are often unable to recognize the car they intend to purchase, two specific makers, Ferrari and Lamborghini, are universally revered. I’m inclined to suspect that this adulation is partly due to the logos themselves—logos that resonate within Chinese culture: prancing horse, raging bull. As you would expect, Chinese-made supercars, like the Geely GT “South Chinese Tiger,” are basically knock-offs of their Italian predecessors – they are a requisite shade of red and bear badges featuring a menagerie of prancing creatures like scorpions and tigers.

Speaking of red, another growing trend I’ve noticed flowing through China is wine. Reports predict that by the middle of this century, China will be the biggest producer and consumer of wine in the world. Until very recently, popular brands like Great Wall, Dragon Seal, Changyu and Huadong came in a near-identical Bordeaux-style bottle with a faux-aged label and picture of some chateau or other plastered onto it; the branding and design is far more “aged” than the wine itself. More and more brands seem to be adopting bright, standout “modern” labels and original bottle shapes.

Shanghai is arguably one of the world’s most brand-conscious cities – appearances, money, and the appearance of money rule. Nanjing Road is more of a catwalk than Via Monte Napoleone or even the Boulevard Saint-Germain.

Amid the showy prosperity, one brand is universally worshipped amongst the Cartiers, Ferraris and Rolexes: Apple. The most profitable outlets in the Apple Empire could conceivably be the most profitable retail establishments in the world. The aspect I deem fascinating about this dominance is not what Apple did to precipitate the phenomenon, but rather what it did NOT do. With no advertising campaigns nor promotions nor any real effort at all, the brand simply built Apple Stores, architectural marvels and centres of constant frenzied consumption. To give credit when it’s due, comparing Apple Stores with typical Chinese computer supermarkets is like pitching Oscar de la Renta against the Salvation Army.

Food & Drink

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