Byravee Iyer
Jul 19, 2013

Adolf Hitler: The new brand ambassador?

BANGKOK - When the signage for the Hitler restaurant went up in Bangkok last month, it caused a stir not only for its poor taste, but for its resemblance to the KFC logo.

Soldantenkaffee's staff posing in their Hitler-themed costumes
Soldantenkaffee's staff posing in their Hitler-themed costumes

Around the same time, a Thai university came under fire for a graduation mural that depicted Adolf Hitler as a comic book super hero. More evidence of an odd fondness for Hitler came when students in a Chiang Mai school organized a Nazi-themed fashion show and sports parade.  

“There’s a lot of misappropriation of images in Thailand without really knowing its significance,” said an industry expert in the country, who did not wish to be named. He said the matter was a simple mistake and perhaps a reflection of poor history lessons. “In all likelihood, the restaurant didn’t see the implications and at that level they think they can get away with it.”

Perhaps the little restaurant was hoping to replicate JC Penney’s success with Hitler. Last month JC Penney put out a huge billboard in Culver City, California, advertising a kettle which resembled the Nazi leader. Within a day, the kettle had gone viral and was sold out on the retailer’s website.

In response, JC Penney issued a short statement via its Twitter page: "If we had designed the teapot to look like something, we would have gone with a snowman or something fun.”

Interestingly, the trend isn’t restricted to Thailand. In March, a Nazi-themed café cropped up in Indonesia, sparking controversy in the region. The café in Bandung, called Soldatenkaffee, featured Nazi memorabilia, including a large Swastika flag and a picture of Hitler. Worse, its staff dress in Nazi military uniforms and can even be seen wearing them on the café’s Facebook page.

A local news report said that when summoned by officials, the owner of the café said his intention was only to attract customers.

Meanwhile, the Thai University has issued an apology, stating that the mural had been removed and was created by students who “had no ill-intentions and were not fully aware of the consequences".

KFC is less likely to be as forgiving. The fast-food chain owned by Yum Brands told Huffington Post that it was considering taking ‘legal action’ against the little eatery that plagiarised its logo, replacing Colonel Sanders with Adolf Hitler. It is understood that KFC is likely to send a cease-and-desist letter to the restaurant.

Multinational brands are showing little tolerance for trademark infringement. A few months ago, American retailer Gap sent a legal notice to Green the Gap, a New Delhi-based not-for-profit company, claiming it was taking undue advantage of Gap’s reputation and goodwill by carrying the word ‘Gap’ in its name. It warned the company to stop using the word ‘Gap’ on its stores, apparel and website.

In March, Louis Vuitton triggered angry responses when it demanded compensation from local businesses for infringing its trademark. The luxury French brand had accused a Hong Kong hair salon of trademark infringement for using its check pattern on its chairs. 

Even less serious cases are getting heavy-handed reactions. Netizens were up in arms when the legal team of Ferrero, which owns the Nutella brand, demanded that American blogger Sara Rosso, who organises an unofficial event called World Nutella Day, shut down the event website, as well as its Facebook and Twitter accounts.

 

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