The brands hit hardest by the social unrest in Hong Kong include Xiaomi, Yoshinoya, Maxim's, Starbucks, and Genki Sushi, according to Ervin Ha, head of data products at YouGov APAC.
Recent events triggered by the extradition bill in Hong Kong have been ongoing for months, with uncertainty as to when it will slow down. Street demonstrations have led to an overall reduction in consumer spending, and the economy has slipped into a recession.
YouGov's Plan & Track tool looks at the brands that have been hit the hardest since mass gatherings began in Hong Kong on 9 June 2019, and the various causes that have led to a decline in their brand metrics.
The Buzz scores for Xiaomi, a prominent Chinese brand, began to decline after a controversial ad made its rounds on Weibo on 27 August 2019. The ad for a new Redmi smart TV carried the slogan “five platforms, not one less” and was perceived as uncannily similar to a slogan chanted in the mass gatherings.
The ad was widely criticised on social media, resulting in a fall in Xiaomi’s Buzz scores. On the day the ad was released, it held a score of 36.4. It has since dropped to -40.5 points and today stands at -4.1.
It is not only Chinese brands that have been targeted. Japanese multinational fast-food chain Yoshinoya has also been caught in the crossfire. On 12 July 2019, it published a Facebook post that was deemed insulting to the police force. Although the agency responsible for the insensitive Facebook post was fired and a swift apology was made, this did not stop Hong Kongers from talking negatively about the brand. Its CEO Marvin Hung was also criticised for attending a rally organised by the pro-Beijing camp.
On the day the mass gatherings began, the brand had a score of 55.7. It has since fallen to -111.8 points and currently stands at -56.1.
Other brands that have seemingly unimpressed Hong Kong consumers are those licensed by HK-based restaurant chain Maxim’s Caterers. On 8 September 2019, Annie Wu, the daughter of Maxim's founder, denounced the mass gatherings during an appearance at the United Nations Human Rights Council meeting in Geneva and criticised Hong Kong youngsters for their actions. These comments resulted in Maxim’s outlets being boycotted and vandalised. Brands licensed by Maxim’s like Starbucks and Genki Sushi have all received negative publicity, with their YouGov Buzz scores in negative territory. Since the day Annie Wu made her statements publicly, Starbucks fell 118.8 points from 73.5 to -45.3, Maxim’s Fast Food fell 111.1 points from 52.6 to -58.5 and Genki fell 103 points from 41.8 to -61.2.
The negative trend in Buzz scores is also reflected in Current Customer scores, which measure how many people have purchased from the brand in the past 30 days. The brands that have seen the biggest loss of customers in recent days are all in the F&B industry. Since the beginning of the mass gatherings, Starbucks has fallen 8 points from 28.4 to 20.4; Maxim’s Fast Food has fallen 10.6 points from 27.3 to 16.7; and Yoshinoya has fallen 10 points from 22.8 to 12.8. A decline in these scores shows that fewer people are now purchasing from these three big F&B brands.
The past few months of unrest has resulted in a lot of changes in Hong Kong, and one of the biggest impact is seen in business. It is not often that brands in Hong Kong lend a social voice to societal issues, but it is clear in these circumstances, taking a political stance reflected poorly in their brand health. It will be interesting to see if or when these brands will recover, as the Hong Kong protests continue to evolve.