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Jargon watch: yellow economic cycle

Reading Time: 2 minutes

The yellow economic cycle has manifested itself as a positive boycott.

The anti ELAB protest movement in Hong Kong exposed the fracture lines between pro-Beijing (blue) and pro-Hong Kong sides (yellow). Some of Hong Kong business community came out and criticised the protestors. This resulted in consumers boycotting their business.


The classic example of this was when Annie Wu criticised Hong Kong protestors. Wu’s father James co-founded Maxim’s Caterers Limited. Maxim’s is has a wide range of restaurants for all budgets. It also owns bakeries, provides catering for universities and businesses. Maxim’s even has a joint venture with Starbucks. Starbucks coffee shops in Hong Kong and southern China are run by this joint venture called Coffee Concepts.

Mainland businesses, especially Chinese state-owned enterprises like China Mobile and Bank of China were defaced by protestors. McDonalds restaurants in Hong Kong and China are majority owned by CITIC – a Chinese state-owned investment company.

Garden Bakery

Garden Bakery’s Life bread ended up becoming a yellow brand by default when it was criticised by members of the Hong Kong Police. Hong Kong protestors rallied around and even brought along loaves to demonstrations.

#AnywhereButChina Challenge

Consumers bought everyday products that weren’t made in China and shared the product and its country of origin online. This becomes quite tricky as products from western brands like Wrigley chewing gum or pair of Nike sneakers could be made in China.

It’s particularly interesting as it raises questions about long term perception of quality. Back before the protests when I was living in Hong Kong LG and Samsung smartphones being sold advertised with pride that they were made in Korea. It was a similar story with high-end Sony TV sets. #AnywhereButChina channels China’s political and quality related issues in one meme.

Solidarity with their customers

Many small businesses in Hong Kong started to do what they could for their young customers. And the customers paid them back with loyalty. By trying spend their money only in yellow businesses and avoid blue ones by creating a yellow economic cycle.

Yellow economic circle

Online assets were created to point customers in the right direction. Here is one of the posters that have been circulating on Twitter. The use of QRcodes is much more common in east Asia than Europe. The code takes you through to a Google Maps overlay of Hong Kong featuring Yellow businesses which would be preferable to shop and eat at. Green businesses which are preferable to blue businesses. Blue businesses will be avoided wherever possible.

Reviews of yellow shops and restaurants on review sites like Open Rice have been poisoned by pro-government supporters placing bad reviews and protestors piling in to defend their yellow economic circle members. At its worst, even the most hardened Wikipedia editor would be daunted by the pitched battles going on.

思想 | ideas | 생각 术语定义 | jargon watch | 용어의 정의 模因 | meme | 밈 消费者行为 | consumer behaviour | 소비자 행동

Jargon watch: truth decay

Reading Time: < 1 minute

Truth decay was a concept that I came across when reading Monocle’s Forecast issue.

Donald Trump
President Donald Trump

Michael D Rich is the head of the The RAND Corporation – a not for profit think tank. When he was interviewed and described as being preoccupied with ‘truth decay’. Truth decay occurs when society and the body politic can’t even agree on basic facts.

  • Increasing disagreement about facts and analytical interpretations of facts and data
  • A blurring of the line between opinion and fact
  • The increasing relative volume and resulting influence of opinion and personal experience over fact
  • Declining trust in formerly respected sources of facts

Truth decay. One point that we’ve made over and over again is that no important problem can be solved in the US within the span of just a four-year presidency or a two-year Congress. And the way those problems have been surmounted in the past is consensus and compromise. That’s impossible if two sides can’t agree on the basic facts.

Thought Leaders – The Forecast 2020 Monocle magazine

All of this sounds like the rhetoric used to describe Vladislav Surkov and his work for the Russian government, or Dominic Cummings and Cambridge Analytica. The RAND Corporation is America’s foremost think tank. It spun out of Douglas Aircraft Corporation. From national security it expanded to social and economic areas. It now has its own grad school and nine different research facilities. It’s website is a good source of resources across a range of areas.

中国 | china | 중국 媒体与艺术 | culture | 미디어와 예술 市场营销 | marketing | 마케팅 模因 | meme | 밈 铭记 | branding | 브랜드 마케팅 香港 | hong kong | 홍콩


Reading Time: 3 minutes

A decade and a half ago Kevin Roberts wrote his book Lovemarks. In reality, Roberts reiterated the factors needed for a successful (consumer) brand. Though much of it would benefit a business-to-business brand as well. Indeed someone like Snap-On are are a great example of this.

I took the piss out of Roberts book after I read it. It tried to rebrand branding by repeating the same tools that branding uses anyway. Roberts’ Saatchi & Saatchi famously parleyed Lovemarks ‘thought leadership into winning the JC Penney advertising account.

I still think that it was money for old rope. But in retrospect, I view it also as plea to make branding great again; in the face of the nascent performance-only digital marketing that was gaining momentum.

Moving forward to 2019 and brand marketing is a dark place. Digital now accounts for 70 per cent of media spend in the UK. God knows advertising now needs a move back to craft as advocated to Roberts back then.

One thing that Roberts failed to grasp in his book is often that consumers put the ‘value’ or love in a brand. Steve Jobs didn’t invent the Apple fan boy. Being under attack by the IT department and peers did. I remember whilst at college advocating Macs to other students and get them up and running on (secondhand) machines that they bought. Or subscribing to Guy Kawasaki’s Apple ‘EvangeLIST’ and Small Dog Electronics ‘Kibble and Bytes’ email newsletters – which helped me realise:

  • There were other people like me out there
  • I had rational ammunition to deal with opponents
  • Technical advice to exist in a Windows world

Garden Life Bead

A more recent example of this is the outpouring of support for Garden Bakery in Hong Kong. Garden Life bread is like Wonder bread in the US, Brennan’s bread in Ireland or Warburtons in the UK.

During the stand-off at Hong Kong Polytechnic University. A policeman was quoted as saying that:

Protestors were irresponsible, brainless rubbish that he looked down upon. They eat ‘cold bread’ that’s usually eaten by poor old people while police go to Shenzhen for hotpot and beer

The cold bread that he was so dismissive of is Garden Life Bread – which is a well loved local brand. It is part of the hybrid cuisine of Hong Kong like Hong Kong style milk tea or Spam fritters for breakfast. It is usually eaten toasted with coconut jam, or peanut butter and condensed milk. You can often buy it as toast with scrambled egg on it.

The brand love that came back from Hong Kong protestors was part politics, part Hong Kong pride.

It inspired art

Garden Bakery autobot

And even started to appear at protests

Garden Bakery Life bread at protest in Hong Kong's Central district

The challenge Garden Bakery have is an interesting one. It is a local champion brand, but also has presence in China and sells biscuits to overseas Chinese communities – who are split in their view of the Hong Kong protests. The Chinese government has substantial influence or even ownership of overseas Chinese language media outlets.