The British Bobby: Best Police Brand In The World

by Ray Ally on September 27, 2012

Photos: Ray Ally

The killing last week of two young women police constables has reignited the question of whether British police should be armed.

The officers were responding to what they thought was a routine low risk burglary callout, when they were ambushed in a hail of bullets and grenade attack. It’s a tragic story, but in that situation it’s unlikely that being armed would of saved their lives, as the surprise attack was over in seconds.

The British police have arguably the best reputation of any police force around the world. One of the cornerstones of its strong brand image is the fact they are not armed. They are one of the few forces where regular police do not carry guns. Interestingly, one of the others are the police here in China.

Opinion is divided in the UK, but the majority of the general public and the police forces still agree that the “British bobby” should not be armed. Sir Peter Fahy the police chief of Manchester, where the two constables were shot, said his force still believed “passionately” that police should not be armed and stated:

“We know from the experience in America and other countries that having armed officers certainly does not mean, sadly, that police officers do not end up getting shot.”

The main reasons for not arming police are historical and cultural, dating back to the establishment of the Metropolitan police in 1829. It was the world’s first police force set up by the conservative home secretary, Sir Robert Peel. They were dressed in blue uniforms and unarmed except for a wooden truncheon, to differentiate them from the regular army.

At that time the army was used to quell public protests and street demonstrations often with violent and bloody means. So people were initially suspect of the police, but their primary role was the protection of the public, not as an instrument of the state. Their guiding principle of “policing by consent” continues to day, which is why people in the UK generally hold the police in high regards.

Peel believed the key to effective policing was to be visible, having officers walking the streets and getting out into communities. Building relationships with the public through mutual trust, respect and co-operation. This he stated was the foundation of good policing, focusing on the their basic mission of “preventing crime and disorder”. He famously quoted:

“the police are the people and the people are the police”

While the unarmed bobby on the beat is still relevant today as it was in the 1800s. There is also a need for highly trained specialist armed police. These officers are deployed at high-risk security venues like airports and events that could be targeted by terrorists. They also respond to crime incidents where suspects are thought to be armed and dangerous.

At the recent Olympics games in London I witnessed the two different types of police on duty; the regular bobby and the SCO19 specialist firearms officers. Despite the high professionalism required for each role, they still very approachable and friendly, which is the hallmark of British police.

In today’s modern world, it may seem old fashioned, quaint or even a weakness that our police do not carry guns. However, carrying a gun does not create a better policeman or make our communities a safer place to live.

I believe because the British bobby’s is unarmed is their greatest strength, which makes them the envy of other countries and the best police brand in the world.

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Photos: Ray Ally

In the past few weeks anti-Japanese sentiment has risen in China, fuelled by the controversy over the Diaoyu Islands. Both China and Japan claim ownership to these uninhabited lands, which have rich deposits of natural resources. There have been protests across the country and many Japanese businesses were attacked and vandalised. Riots even spilled out onto the streets, which is very rare in China. In Beijing, protestors tried to storm the Japanese Embassy and the car carrying the Japanese ambassador was attacked.

Although the anger is toward Japan’s government, it’s Japanese brands in China that have been the focus of the attack. The wave of anti-Japanese feeling has been widely spread across social media through the internet and on Weibo, China’s twitter.

This Tuesday, was the 81st anniversary of Japan’s invasion of China back on 18th September 1931. Many Japanese shops and restaurants closed their doors as a mark of respect and to prevent igniting any further animosity on this dark symbolic day.

Our local Japanese restaurant was closed for that day and had hung Chinese flags outside its door. The Canon shop next to my wife’s office on Jinbao Street had even removed all its signage and masked out its windows so you couldn’t see inside.

The growing sense of Chinese nationalism sweeping the country is in part answer to the anti Chinese sentiment from overseas, especially coming from the US over trade issues. But what the protestors and rioters don’t realise, or care about, is that Japanese brands in China employ local people. They are mostly run and managed by Chinese and play an important part in the business and social community.

Japanese brands have been in China for a long time and enjoy a strong and loyal following across market segmentations. At the low-end consumers aspire to own brands like Sony and Canon, which dominate in electronics and cameras.  For the middle classes that can afford cars, Toyota and Honda are favourite and popular brands of choice. While for the young and trendy, brands like Evisu and Bathing Ape represent a cool and urban street style.

Japanese products are generally more modern in design, have increased high-tech and innovative features and built to superior standards of quality, service and value. In fact they are the exact opposite of how Chinese consumers perceive most local brands, designed and made in China.

With such irrational fears and emotions running high, the only option for Japanese brands is to keep their heads down. While all the time continuing to build relationships with local communities through low-key initiatives. As any big national PR campaign could easily backfire and would only highlight the issue even further.

Many Decades ago in the UK, we had a similar problem due the aftermath of World War Two. Most people including my grandparents were strongly against buying Japanese brands. I even remember my mother telling me I could marry anyone, as long as she wasn’t Japanese. Lucky I married a Chinese woman, but when I first came to China in 1988 many people in the UK were still confused between Japan and China and couldn’t point them out on a map.

The anti-Japan mood in England, slowly died out in the 67 years since the war ended in 1945.  I think in part, because in the West, we commemorate the date the war ended. This was initially a celebration of the victory over the Japanese, on 15 August 1945, known as VJ Day and the end of the war. Every year since, ceremonies have been held across the world and in London, a member of the royal family lays a wreath at the Cenotaph, the grave of the unknown soldier. Nowadays it’s a more sombre event full of remembrance, pride and sorrow.

In China it’s very different, as every year the country commemorates the start of the Japanese invasion of China. I think this plays a large part in keeping the memory alive and breeding a new generation of young people, who feel anger and resentment to what happened more than 80 years ago.

While China continues to commemorate the start of the conflict rather than the end, it makes it harder to forgive. Of course China should never forget the atrocities of the Japanese war, but they should not keep opening up the old wound and reliving it again every year.

Sadly, I don’t see the situation over the Diaoyu Islands being resolved anytime soon, as there is too much pride, patriotism and historical conflict for China and Japan to both back down on this issue. However, economic relationships between the two countries are also very more important, as trade between them generated US$345 billion last year.

So while Japanese brands are being damaged, they may look to take their factories and business elsewhere, which in the long run, will only hurt the Chinese people.

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Olympic Tickets Fiasco: No Pain No Gain

by Ray Ally on July 27, 2012

My Olympic tickets arrived a few weeks ago, but I had to wait to open them until I arrived in the UK. The ticketing process has been an Olympic fiasco with many people complaining about the frustrating process and exorbitant price of the tickets. I must admit it was a very stressful experience trying to buy them online, which is why many people gave up. I tried unsuccessfully three times, but I kept trying and would not give in. In fact I must of used all the Olympic brand values of “Faster, Higher and Stronger” to succeed.

Firstly, I had to be faster than anyone else and make sure I was online the split second the tickets became available. Secondly, I had to bid for the higher price tickets to make sure I had the least competition. I figured out everybody would want the £20 tickets so competition would be fiercest for these. And thirdly, my perseverance had to be stronger than anyone else. To keep going through the constant crashing and timing out of the ticketing system and starting over and over again. I had to work through the pain and disappointment of the process and not give in till I won.

I am glad to say my Olympic effort paid of in the end, as I ended up with tickets for most of the sports I really wanted to watch. I could have tried for more, but I was so worn out by long hours of training and the whole process I decided to retire and walk away while I was still on top.

The ticket designs are modern, bright and colourful with a number of new features which make them special. The ticket is split into three parts; the top section contains the date and time, the middle section illustrates the sport and the bottom section has all the main ticketing and seating information.

The tickets are colour coded depending on the venue. They have an illustration of the stadium on the bottom right hand side,  just about the security hologram. I like the idea of using the Olympic icons to differentiate each sport on the tickets. However, I don’t like the design of the pictograms, which I think look like old fashion clip art images, which look badly drawn and lack style and finesse.

While I understand the designers of the icons have taken their inspiration from the angular and jagged design of the London 2012 logo. This has created uncomfortable looking images with fall between appearing like realistic drawings or stylised designs. They also lack a uniqueness, look generic and have no visual link to London. If you compare the pictograms for Athens, Sydney or Beijing, they did a great job in making their Olympic icons ownable, unique and memorable.

Despite this the tickets do convey the excitement and energy of the sports and I’ll be keeping mine as souvenirs of the event. The Olympic Games opening ceremony kicks off tonight, and my first Olympic event is fencing tomorrow morning.

It took me a lot of effort and I had to fight hard to get my tickets, but I can say now it was worth it. And the sporting cliché of “no pain, no gain” was never truer.

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Olympic Sponsors Brand Heathrow Airport

by Ray Ally on July 26, 2012

Photos: Ray Ally

I’ve just flown into Heathrow Airport’s Terminal Five and was surprised by the lack of Olympic branding at the airport. Considering it’s the host airport for the games I think the organisers have missed a big opportunity. As when athletes, spectators and tourists arrive from around the world, the airport is the first point of touch of the games.

This could be due to several reasons; a lack of vision from the organisers, restrictions from the airport or insufficient funds for promotional activities. However, more likely it’s a strategy to earn money from the Olympic sponsors who have taken up all the media space available at the airport.

While sponsorship is important for the Olympics I think there is a balance to be made. In between the messages of the sponsors to associate themselves with the games and those that the Olympic organisation wants to communicate. In the case of London 2012, its message of the “legacy games that inspires a generation” has been drowned out by big money advertising.

BP, Panasonic and especially Visa have done a good job in branding Heathrow airport. Ensuring they are the first images that arriving athletes and visitors see and owning the first moment of the games. The ads are in the spirit of the Olympics and sportingly feature some of the stars like Usain Bolt and Phillips Idowu from team GB.

The Olympic sponsors have dominated at the airport, but I hope the London 2012 message comes thorough stronger at the main Olympic venues. Money is important in sport, but it should not overshadow the message and values that the Olympics stand for.

The London Olympics needs to inspire a new generation to the benefits that sport can bring for the individual and to society as a whole. And that in part, is what the Olympic rings logo hanging in the arrivals hall should stand for.

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Union Jack Crazy!

by Ray Ally on June 1, 2012

Photos: Ray Ally

On my recent trip to London I saw an amazing number of UK flag inspired designs. The country’s national flag, called the Union Jack has been applied in part, or abstractly to a wide range of products in the supermarkets and on the high street.

This year the Queen is celebrating the 60th Anniversary of her reign and the 2012 Olympics are being held in London this summer. So perhaps it’s not surprising that the iconic symbol of Britain has been hijacked for these occasions.

Wearing a Union Jack design on clothing is not something English people would normally do. In the 1970s wearing the flag had strong associations with far-right extremists and later the skinhead culture of the 1980s. More recently the flag is more commonly seen in London applied to tacky tourist gifts bought by overseas visitors as souvenirs of England.

However, now it appears the flag design is back in fashion, but this time with street style and more innovative designs. Wearing the flag has become linked with a new Cool Britannia, associated with the Olympic games and symbolizing everything that is great about Britain.

I saw it used on almost every kind of product from deckchairs to frozen chickens, so not always used in the best possibly taste. But it is as a fashion style that it seems to have the most appeal. Every high street fashion brand has some Union Jack clothing, and even Stella McCartney has used it on the British Olympic kit.

In the past no self respecting Londoner would be seen dead wearing a Union Jack. But with the Queens 60th Anniversary, the Olympic games in London and the upcoming Football European Cup have changed all that. As there is a new sense of pride and patriotism sweeping the nation.

I predict that this year will be known as the Year of the Union Jack. And this Londoner will be proudly wearing his Union Jack T-shirt, drinking tea from his Union Jack mug, while watching all the three big occasions on the TV.

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London’s Olympic Doom And Gloom

by Ray Ally on May 14, 2012

Photos: Ray Ally

I just got back from UK, where it rained everyday and was the wettest April on record. But what was more disappointing was the general atmosphere of doom and gloom about the London Olympics.

I expected to find the city buzzing with excitement and sporting energy. However, most people didn’t seem bothered and lacked any interest. The most important topics were; the rising cost of the games; the impossibility of getting tickets and the worry about transport congestion during the event.

Most newspaper columnists also took negative views on the games. Discussing the ugly (and probably most hated) London 2012 Olympic logo; the mutant mascots, Wenlock and Mandeville and the Orbit Olympic sculpture, which has been likened to tangled piece of scrap metal.

With less than 80 days to go I was saddened by this reserved and slightly cynical British attitude to the event. This is the opposite of what I experience in 2008 before the games in Beijing.

At that time the city was covered with Olympic posters, billboards and advertising promoting the event. Every street hoarding and available wall space was covered with Olympic themed graphics celebrating China and the host city of Beijing.

There was a buzz in the city and everyone was excited about the upcoming event. People felt proud that Beijing was hosting the games and there was an emotional patriotic Chinese mood across the city. After all it was a chance for China to showcase Beijing to the world and show how modern, dynamic and progressive the country was becoming.

London has less to prove as it’s already a world-class city, but it’s people can be cold and cynical. Maybe it’s also to do with the grey, wet weather that has so far put a damper on the event. I hope as the weather heats up the doom clouds will disappear and the Olympic spirit and warmth of Londoners will shine through.

As a big Olympic Games fan and a proud Londoner; I will be flying the Union Jack flag in my little corner of Beijing. My only gloom about the games is that I couldn’t get any tickets. So with the seven hour time difference I’ll be staying up late or getting up early to watch the games on TV in China.

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Shanghai’s Go-Fast Brand Image

13 April 2012

Image: Ray Ally This weekend the Formula One (F1) circus comes to China with the Chinese Grand Prix in Shanghai. Hosting global events is one of the many ways cities in China seek to enhance their brand image at home and overseas. Sporting occasions are particularly attractive, but not every city can host an Olympic […]

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Changing Geography Of China’s Brandscape

9 April 2012

Photo: Ray Ally When most people talk about China, they often think of it as one country. After all Mao Tse-tung and the communist party have spent the last 60 years trying to unite the country. Creating one party, one political system and introduced one language, Putonghua (common speech) to achieve this goal. However, for […]

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Benetton’s Kissing Presidents: Make Love Not War

30 November 2011

PHOTOS: BENETTON Public displays of affection like kissing or even holding hands between the sexes use to be taboo in China. This gradually relaxed with the opening up of China in the late eighties, though attitudes to homosexuality remain in the closet. The latest ads from Benetton would definitely be frowned upon, as they show […]

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No Medals For London’s Olympic Posters

24 November 2011

The official posters for the London 2012 Olympics were unveiled earlier this month in London. Despite being created by some of Britain’s best artists, the response from the public and the press has been largely negative. With comments ranging from “absolute rubbish” to “my two year old baby could of done better”. Art has always […]

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