There’s More to the Game Than Just A Name


Foreign brands are taking off in China. It seems that anybody who has money in this growing market is clamoring to buy imported goods. This makes China a very enticing market for Western companies to enter, and success stories abound of corporations who have brought their brands to China and have achieved great success. But there are even more stories of disastrous, and even comical failures.

A recent posting on our sister site talked about the importance of translating your marketing materials and even your brand name into Chinese before entering the China market. Above and beyond simple things like easier marketing and SEO benefits, translating your brand name into Chinese is a chance to define yourself in a whole new light. Even hugely successful Western brands have taken their entry into China as an opportunity to position themselves in the market with a whole new brand identity and vision.

One of the most interesting Western name brands to pop up in China in recent years is a small restaurant chain in Beijing called Gung Ho Pizza:

Gung Ho Logo

The New Zealand-born partners who founded this chain didn’t bring an established brand into China, but they did assume a distinctly Western name that has been common parlance here for more than half a century and automatically gives them a unique identity in the eyes of Chinese consumers. Their website notes the history of “Gung Ho“:

The term was picked up by United States Marine Corps Major Evans Carlson from his New Zealand friend, Rewi Alley, one of the founders of the Chinese Industrial Cooperatives. Carlson explained in a 1943 interview: “I was trying to build up the same sort of working spirit I had seen in China where all the soldiers dedicated themselves to one idea and worked together to put that idea over. I told the boys about it again and again. I told them of the motto of the Chinese Cooperatives, Gung Ho. It means Work Together…”

This combination of English and Chinese is a linguistic jackpot. But just as you can’t judge a book by its cover, you can’t judge a brand by its name alone- even if it’s as cool a name as “Gung Ho”. To truly stand out you need to incorporate a set of core values into your brand that can then be identified with your product. To wit, the boys behind this funky chain have made a list of commitments that they stand behind and live by with each transaction. It’s a list that, in China at least, is as unique as their name. It includes:

  • Using fresh, high quality food (which is a huge concern in China):

We do gourmet pizza. Great tasting healthy gourmet pizza. Pizza made from the freshest high-quality ingredients, thrown together with almost Zen-like carelessness… Our wholewheat flour is organic… Our cheese is imported… from New Zealand, a country known for the cleanest skies and purest water in the world. The cheeses on our Four Cheese pizza are all imported specialty cheeses from Europe.

  • Making investments in local talent:

We teach our team life skills like personal finance and goal attainment, we send them to school to learn new skills and accreditations in areas like cuisine, accounting and human resources. We teach our young leaders the latest bleeding edge global management techniques like the Rockefeller Habits, Good to Great and Topgrading.

When they have family problems we’ll help them out and when they’re sick we’ll take them to the hospital. And if they rock it hard enough, for long enough, we make them partners.

  • And having fun:

Sure, we work hard. We work hard for the pride of a job well done, but also because that’s what we do. We work to the best of our abilities. But we also make sure we take time for ourselves. We’re just as serious about our personal lives, our friends and family, as we are about our work.

How many brands in China put those kinds of values front and center? It’s no wonder that they’re making waves. In just 2 1/2 years they’ve gone from a risky venture in a single store to their delivery bikes being ubiquitous on the streets of central Beijing, coming from 3 delivery centers, 2 of which are in the heart of the city.

Their vision is expansive, ambitious and delicious. They’re clearly committed to China and to adapting their Western business know-how to the local community’s needs. It’s this laser-like focus on the Chinese market -along with their consistent delivery of quality food- that has been their biggest driver of success. They stand out so much amongst the glut of Western food brands and restaurant chains in Beijing that CCTV did a glowing in-depth piece on them last fall.

This is PR that you simply can’t buy. The road to riches in China is full of potholes and dead ends, but for any businesses thinking about trying their luck here Gung Ho is a great example of how to establish your brand  the right way and how doing so will make you well-positioned to succeed.

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