Last Thursday (18 August), Chinese lifestyle retailer MINISO Group released a public apology for marketing itself as a Japanese brand since 2013, following a widespread criticism from Chinese netizens.
For those who do not know, yes, MINISO is actually a Chinese brand instead of Japanese. The marketing strategy was so successful that news of the furore prompted many to remark that they were surprised that the brand was in fact Chinese.
In a statement, MINISO apologised for its marketing strategy which hurt consumers’ feelings and pledged to clear away its Japanese elements before March 2023. It also explained that in its early phase of developing its business overseas, it hired a Japanese designer as its chief designer and promoted itself as a “Japanese designer brand.”
“We did use wrong brand positioning and marketing campaigns during the early days. We are regretful,” the statement reads.
The company is now working on ‘de-Japanising’ itself and have altered the shop signboards of 3,100 domestic stores from their previous ‘Japanese’ styling to their Chinese name.
The company also emphasised that they will hold the executives responsible for coming up with the Japanese branding approach.
In 25 July, the brand’s Spanish Instagram account posted a picture of dolls wearing Chinese cheongsam but named them Japanese geisha dolls instead.
This incident prompted negative feedback from Chinese netizens and was made worse when MINISO’s Spanish account did not correct it and only replied with a smiling emoji.
Following the backlash, the brand’s headquarters immediately asked the Spanish agency team to delete the post, and imposed penalties on the local social media agency operator, immediately terminating their relationship.
Nonetheless, this is not the first time MINISO promoted itself as a Japanese brand.
According to Global Times, its social media account in Panama had in the past introduced the company as Japanese, whilst some said that MINISO stores were not allowed to play Chinese songs.
“It is not that a Chinese brand cannot use Japanese elements, but trying to paint itself as a Japanese brand is another thing given the history of Japanese crimes in China,” said a Beijing resident.
Despite MINISO’s apology on Weibo, netizens still find it hard to accept and asked the Company to explain whether it has used the Japanese national flag at signing ceremonies with foreign partners.