History Lays Landmines For Marketers

TO PARAPHRASE EDMUND BURKE, the Anglo-Irish political philosopher, those who don’t know history are doomed to be fined for it.

Chinese authorities have fined Sony’s Chinese subsidiary 1 million yuan ($155,000) for announcing a product launch event for a new camera, the A7, that was to have been held on the opening day of a trade fair in Shanghai on July 7, Japan’s Nikkei reports.

The date marks the anniversary of the Marco Polo Bridge Incident in 1937, generally considered to be the start of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

There was an immediate backlash in China when the date was first announced. The new camera’s reported marketing tagline ‘Capture More of Your World’ probably did not help. Sony apologised suitably profusely and cancelled its event.

Nonetheless, authorities have gone ahead with imposing the fine, the maximum allowed, citing violations of China’s advertising laws that forbid online advertisements from hurting the dignity or interests of the state. Authorities found that Sony had hurt the dignity of the nation.

Authorities also said they fined the Chinese unit of South Korea’s Samsung Electronics 400,000 yuan because its advertisements for two smartphone models violated laws forbidding the disrupting of social order and spurring disobedience.

Last year, the Japanese gaming giant Capcom found itself caught up in a PR whirlwind in China after using ‘918’ as the passcode for the launch of Resident Evil 3. Patriotic social media users took this as a reference to the Mukden Incident on September 18, 1931, which Imperial Japan staged and then used as a pretext for its invasion of China.

Just the previous month, Tencent had removed a popular Japanese anime and manga, My Hero Academia, from its streaming services following Chinese claims that a newly introduced character was a reference to Unit 731, the Japanese military’s biowarfare research unit during the Second World War, responsible for hundred’s of thousands of deaths.

The only safe dates for Japanese product launches in China might be August 15, the anniversary of Emperor Hirohito announcing Japan’s surrender to end the Second World War or September 2, the date of the surrender ceremony and the formal end of the Second Sino-Japanese War.

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