Your regular update of international digital marketing news covers some familiar and less familiar topics. Chinese counterfeiting may not be a new story, but an empty package controversy presents a new problem; Meanwhile, Iran is a new frontier, EU data storage in the US is in dispute and video game localisation changes expose the fascinating case of Cantonese’s alleged marginalisation.
Rampant counterfeiting is a well-known issue with China’s online marketplaces, despite efforts by the Alibaba group and its competitors to get the problem under control. However, an investigative report by The Beijing News (as reported by Technode) suggests that it’s not just the products themselves that aren’t what they seem – transactions are allegedly being faked on an industrial scale.
A system of “empty package scalping” is apparently in operation via marketplaces such as Taobao and Tmall. Companies offer to deliver empty packages on behalf of sellers in order to inflate sales statistics – a crucial metric for store promotion on the platform. In some schemes, unsuspecting victims of identity theft will suddenly start receiving hundreds of empty packages. In others, couriers are aware when a package is fake and will mark it as delivered without forwarding it. One source in the investigation states that the delivery industry has been aware of the scam since at least 2013.
2015’s Iranian nuclear talks and the subsequent lifting of UN sanctions in January of this year have heralded a new era of cautious investment in the market. East-West Digital News reports that Russian Billionaire Vladimir Potanin is among the first to experiment: his private equity firm Winter Capital Partners has acquired a small stake in Pomegranate a Swedish company actively and primarily investing in Iranian digital assets. The portfolio includes DigiKala (Iran’s largest e-commerce company), Divar and Sheypoor (classifieds sites) and Café Bazaar (Iran’s homegrown, dominant Android app store).
Other Russian business activity – include the Mail.ru group, telecom magnate Yevgeny Roitman and software company ABBYY. Interestingly, Yandex was forced to comment that it has no Iranian market plans when, last October, the Iranian communications ministers claimed that Yandex would be shortly starting operations there.
The proposed ‘EU-US Privacy Shield’ pact – concerned with protecting the data of EU citizens when stored in the US – has been criticised by the European Data Protection Supervisor, who states that the agreement is in need of “significant improvements”. As reported by The Drum, Giovanni Buttarelli claims that the proposal is “not robust enough to withstand future legal scrutiny”.
The EU has banned the transfer and storage of citizen’s data outside of its borders, except in parts of the world where adequate privacy protections are in place. A previous pact – Safe Harbor – was ruled invalid by the European Court of Justice in 2015.
Chinese ethnicity, language and identity present unique challenges in localisation. This fact has been unusually expressed this week by minor protests in Hong Kong over Nintendo’s plans to rename many of the creatures in the upcoming version of its Pokémon game series. These fans are specifically upset over what they see as a bias towards Mandarin at the expense of Cantonese.
For example, the game’s electric mouse mascot ‘Pikachu’ was originally transliterated as 比卡超 (Bei-kaa-chyu). Now it is 皮卡丘 (Pikaqiu) – a rendering that works well in Mandarin, but will be interpreted as the clunky “Pei-kaa-jau” by Cantonese speakers. The societal struggle between Mandarin and Cantonese in Southern China, Hong Kong and Macau is an interesting market problem. Though trivial, this incident recalls successful protests (10,000 strong) in 2010 over proposed reductions in Cantonese programming on Guangzhou Television.
China-2010-62 photo by Flickr user Thomas Sauzedde
Sanctuary Dome photo by Flickr user David Stanley
The EU Flag and Castor and Pollux photo by Flickr user bob
Pikachu Parade photo by Flickr user Yoshikazu Takada