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Saturday, May 21, 2011

Hot Blooded Cycling Around Taiwan: Tea, Cycling and Imagined Communities

Check out this brilliant piece of marketing that taps several Taiwanese cultural memes to reach the consumer.

The advertisement is titles Hot Blooded Cycling Around Taiwan, for the Tongyi brand of fresh Taiwanese tea that is packaged and sold by the carton. The term hot blooded does not translate very well into English as the term can be confused with being "easily angered" or "horny". In Taiwan the term "hot blooded" means "enthusiastic and motivated by something". Sorry to all you Foreigner fans out there.

The drinks are sold in black, green and oolong varieties, with the green tea providing a sugar free option.

The advertisement shows a group of young, hip Taiwanese on a bicycle tour around Taiwan, an activity that is particularly popular with college students. Circling Taiwan by bike has become regarded as an informal rite of passage in recent years.

The script for the ad might be translated as follows:

Taiwan... We're coming!

Now is the time!

Ooh Ahhh!

Oh so cool.

If you don't do it. It doesn't hurt. If you do it, you'll make a difference.

When it's fresh, it's original.

Try It! Tongyi Chun Chi Cha (Pure Drinking Tea)

The marketing department used several images to associate the product with various memes that are closely associated with the Taiwanese cultural and national identities. Although the marketing department may not be out to make a political statement (I assume they are doing what marketing departments do and trying to better sell products), by taking a semiotic look at this little ad it is possible to understand the salience of these images in contemporary Taiwan. It is no accident the bicycle plays a major role as the symbol of the Taiwanese identity... even if these images are being exploited in the name of Mammon.

First, the ad explicitly screams "Taiwan", which is not only the common name for the country, but also a demonstration of how Taiwanese imagine their community.

The ad also focuses on youth, which has also been a major focus demographic for political actors as they try to appeal to all Taiwanese, but youth will represent change this year as they are increasingly dissatisfied with the number of opportunities available after graduation.

Next, the ad focuses on the activity of circling Taiwan, which is seen as an essential part of learning and knowing (and imaging) that community. Circling helps denote the important borders of the inner and the outer.

Lastly, the advertisement uses the bicycle, which, for many Taiwanese, has come to symbolize Taiwanese culture and achievement as Taiwan is known as one of the world's largest producers of bicycles and bicycle components. The bicycle also symbolizes the values of freedom and mobility. It is also synonymous with a youthful, hip activity. There has been a recent sentiment of longing for change and a yearning for a fresh start--a breath of fresh air.

Although this is only a short ad, The marketing strategy betrays powerful sentiments of identity and the aspirations of more than just a few Taiwanese.



  1. "Circling Taiwan by bike has become regarded as an informal rite of passage in recent years."

    Each area seems to have a rite of passage -cycling-wise. For super-duper / tenacious Canadian riders, it's cycling across Canada --over 5,000 kms. 1 way. Which I've never done (but my partner has done it twice).

    But glad to hear that this route serves as some sort of goal for some folks on the bike. Every country could have such rite of passage bike routes. :)

  2. The Round-Taiwan-Tour sort of spontaneously sprang up as a symbol. It really touches people.