At first glance this article may seem to be just one of those idiosyncratic things we read about on crazy Chinese social media. It seems to bear no relationship to marketing in China at all.
[A bit like our image bears little relationship to steamed buns! – Thanks Ruthy Yang ]
Even less interest to foreign firms in China.
But deeper down, there is a warning- a lesson to be learnt.
In a bun crust, the fuss was about an old, as in decades, established brand of Chinese steamed bun. It began with some disagreement over the quality of service in a local Beijing branch which spilled over to a popular Chinese mainstream TV programme. Being an old, State owned, northern China business, the chain reacted negatively and went into attack mode.
This wound up the Chinese Internet and social media came out swinging.
Knives and axes!
This in turn forced the brand to backtrack, back down, offer an apology and axe the offending franchiser from their chain.
But it was too little, too late.
Damage had been done and it was irreparable – “The People” wanted blood.
Social media kept up the barrage accusing the brand of hypocrisy, of paying merely lip service, of being more concerned with their reputation than customers satisfaction [although we would ask are those two not linked- but anyway]
An example of some of the vitriol aimed at the brand:
“Goubuli is past its prime and is now just an old store selling old goods to old people,Caixin Global
Ouch! Or this one.
“Never mind franchises, the main restaurant is rubbish too.”Caixin Global
Ooooo, that’s really kicking it in the buns!
If you would like to savour more steamy buns, errr, we mean barbs as well as deeper background press either of the links on the above quotes.
The moral or lesson here is that in China, or anywhere else for that matter, if you have a problem, attack is not the best form of defence. What might begin with a disagreement with one customer can quickly snowball into a bigger group – in this case, millions. What started as a small issue has been blown way out of proportion, largely because of the brands attitude, arrogance and under estimation / misunderstanding of the power of social media.
The brand will probably continue to survive, largely because we humans like to, occasionally, connect with the past, if only to see what all the fuss is or was about.
If the F&B industry in China interests you, this article artificial meat in China or this re China beer may be useful. To talk with Everlyne re the pitfalls of social media marketing in China and how to avoid them, please don’t hesitate to shout out.
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