Branding Lessons in China from LeBron James, Vietnamese Soup and a Taxi Driver

I made a trek to China last month.

After 20+ trips to China since my first adventure in 1998, you would think they would feel humdrum by now. That couldn’t be further than the truth.

My senses still automatically jolt to high alert the minute I step off the plane. Inevitably, I will see something within 10 minutes that reminds me, “Toto, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.”

Splitting my time between Shanghai and Beijing, three snippets related to branding in China caught my attention.

LeBron James Gets This Branding Thing

Or at least his business advisors are switched on to the power of branding.

That’s why LeBron not only makes an annual trip to China, but leverages the time to spread the LBJ gospel through the Chinese media.

Branding Lessons in China from LeBron James, Vietnamese Soup and a Taxi Driver image LeBron JamesBranding Lessons in China from LeBron James, Vietnamese Soup and a Taxi Driver

BQ Weekly is a lifestyle magazine that supplements Chinese newspapers.

The headline on the cover loosely translated says, “Like Me or Hate Me, You Have to Admire Me.”

Even if the line doesn’t resonate with you, you have to “admire” the consistency in building a brand that means the same thing across the world.

What Does Pricing Say About the Soup?

Our Beijing office sits in the Citic Building – also known as the “Chocolate Building” – with a range of restaurants within a 10-minute walk. One of my favorites is a Vietnamese Pho place. I’ve never paid much attention to the menu, instead pointing to the picture of the beef pho with a clever English comment like, “I’ll take this one.”

For whatever reason, I noticed the pricing on the menu when I was there last month.

Branding Lessons in China from LeBron James, Vietnamese Soup and a Taxi Driver image Noodle Menu in ChinaBranding Lessons in China from LeBron James, Vietnamese Soup and a Taxi Driver

You can see the small bowl runs 30 RMB while the large bowl runs 32 RMB or $4.93 versus $5.25.

Even I can do this math, figuring out that 32 cents gets you the larger bowl.

So what does the pricing say about the soup?

As best as I can surmise, they want you to order the large serving.

Which I did.

This Taxi Driving Takes Personal Branding to the Next Level

Many white-collar professionals in China choose English names to supplement their family-given Chinese names.

This makes it easier on Westerners who can struggle with certain sounds absent from the English language.

The driver we use for airport pickups/drop-offs in Shanghai demonstrates a certain amount of branding savvy in how he packages his name.

Dispensing with the first name, he simple calls himself Mr. Button.

Branding Lessons in China from LeBron James, Vietnamese Soup and a Taxi Driver image Taxi driver in China Mr. ButtonBranding Lessons in China from LeBron James, Vietnamese Soup and a Taxi Driver

Because he is.

On the button.

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