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Made in HK: Why Ding How's authenticity wins over Hongkongers' hearts

Made in HK: Why Ding How's authenticity wins over Hongkongers' hearts

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The “Made in Hong Kong” frenzy has begun as the reintroduction of Ding How instant noodle brand has dominated headlines recently. Many Hongkongers took to social platforms to defend the “heritage” brand after the manufacturer said on ViuTV's programme that it might be ultimately replaced.  

Established in the 1960s, the Ding How instant noodle was widely used in local restaurants back in the old days. Interestingly, the reintroduction of the noodle brand has triggered heated discussion on social media. During an interview with ViuTV, a representative from Kam Yuen Food Company, the distributor of Ding How, said around 80% of Hong Kong's cha chaan tengs used Ding How instant noodles during peak times back in the old days.

Don't miss: Ding How introduces availability of noodle packages amid heated discussion on social

The programme also compared Ding How with Nissin noodles and other instant noodle brands from China, which revealed that Ding How noodles have a less greasy surface and the colour of the noodles appears to be brighter. 

Media intelligence firm CARMA saw over 4,000 mentions over the past seven days, with 21% positive and 29.4% negative sentiments. Positive mentions were made by netizens who supported ViuTV's promotion of local Hong Kong culture through this programme, said CARMA's HK general manager Charles Cheung.  

“Many found it fascinating to learn about the origins of the Ding How instant noodle and believed it to be a shared memory among Hongkongers, Cheung added.  

Meanwhile, negative mentions originated from netizens who expressed indifference towards various instant noodle brands, citing the inability to discern taste differences between them, according to Cheung. “Some even went so far as to criticise those who blindly supported 'made in Hong Kong' products, particularly when they were not familiar with this brand prior to the ViuTV programme,” Cheung said. 

In response to citizens' requests, the brand unveiled the list of restaurants where citizens can purchase the noodle package on its Facebook. It also updates the locations regularly. MARKETING-INTERACTIVE has reached out to Ding How for more information. 

Why the reintroduction of Ding How draws mixed reactions

In recent years, there have been quite a few local “heritage” brands and institutional neighbourhood restaurants closing down. For example, back in June 2022, the sinking of Jumbo Floating Restaurant saw many in Hong Kong upset over the loss of the city icon, with many commenting that it was a pity that the iconic seafood boat is gone for good.

With these uncertainties in consumers’ eyes, they tend to look for nostalgic experiences, according to Tim Ho, founder of Constant. “The reintroduction of Ding How noodle could be a small but relevant topic that triggers memories and discussions about the city’s past and future.” 

In fact, Hong Kong doesn’t manufacture many things these days and the “Made in Hong Kong” label carries a special spot in locals’ hearts where it pays tribute to Hong Kong’s past as a manufacturing hub, said Virginia Ngai, associate partner, Prophet.  

“This is especially true after the US implemented the rule where all Hong Kong exports to be labelled as ‘Made in China’. Similar to China’s Guochao trend, Hongkongers take pride in products that celebrate our heritage,” she added. 

The reintroduction of Ding How taps into a blooming nostalgia and shared emotions towards the city and its culture. The buzz on social media can be attributed to the desire to support local businesses as a means of strengthening the social fabric, according to Jacopo Pesavento, CEO; Kate Chang, senior copywriter, Branding Records.

"In a world where globalisation dominates, many individuals across different markets started to recognise the importance of supporting local economies as a way to foster a sense of community, preserve the fruit of local culture, and express their love for the city."

Apart from Ding How, there are quite a number of local food brands that need to be preserved, such as Hong Kong-based bakery The Garden and bean curd brand Pak Fook, said Celine Cheung, account director, RSVP Communications.  

“I personally think Hongkongers are not that attached to the local culture as many prefer travelling to Japan or overseas. When a heritage brand is starting to lose its presence, then everyone will start to mourn over it.” 

Authenticity is key 

The public call for preserving these local heritage brands emphasises the value of the “Made in Hong Kong” tag, which also highlights the importance of authenticity when it comes to branding strategies.  

For many cities around the world, consumption has become more than just buying products, but a form of voting for or against the ethics of the businesses, said Constant’s Ho. “Many modern consumers choose authenticity and transparency over the quality of products alone to align with their own lifestyles and values.” 

Meanwhile, David Ko, managing director, RFI Asia, said the preservation of Hong Kong’s unique heritage, represented by Hongkongers’ collective memories of iconic made-in-HK brands such as Ding Ho, should be actively encouraged.  

Brands that can successfully marry their history with innovation and meet the needs of their customers are more likely to thrive. “There will always be a place for local brands, even if increased competition from mainland or overseas brands erodes their sales,” he added. 

For brands with a rich history, being authentic means standing firmly for who they are and evolving with time - the “fix and flex”, according to Doris Wu, senior strategy of Design Bridge & Partner Hong Kong.

"This fix entails reconnecting with your brand roots, which often drive from the place or city where the brand was born. The flex enables the brand to connect with audiences and trends and foster innovation," she added.

With a greater ambition, authenticity enables the world to understand what “Made in Hong Kong” truly stands for, for example, brands from Germany embody professionalism and good quality, and brands from Japan tend to be humanity and respond to every aspect of consumers' lives, she added.

In some cases, brands can strategically flip the concept of "non-availability" into an opportunity, said Branding Records' Pesavento and Chang. "The limited access of Ding How now represents a sense of exclusivity in the eyes of consumers, which elevates its image as a sought-after luxury in the instant noodle world."

Despite authenticity being essential to foster a genuine connection between the brand and the consumer, Ding How shouldn’t rely simply on its provenance to attract consumers, said Prophet’s Ngai.  

“That is not enough. To successfully drive growth, brands need to consider its purpose, promise and principles that serve as the North Star to everything from product development, customer experience, brand expression, internal culture, amongst others,” she added. 

Related articles:

What led to the PR debacle around Jumbo capsizing?
Sinking Jumbo Floating Restaurant sees many in HK upset over loss of city icon

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