Sunday, October 20, 2013

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Taiwan's Yakult culture

10/20/2013 Taiwan Explorer
A little while ago my wife and I went to a tea shop, and I saw this photo of Yakult accompanied with the Chinese characters 多多 (duō duō), which literally mean "a lot a lot." I was baffled a little, and asked my wife how come it's named this way. She explained to me that it's a short form of the Chinese version 養樂多 (Yǎng lè duō), which literally means "nutritious and happy a lot." Yakult was first developed in the 1930s by the Japanese scientist Minoru Shirota, and Taiwan was the first overseas market that Yakult was introduced. In 1964 Yakult Co., Ltd. Taiwan was established. Next year Yakult will celebrate its 50th year in Taiwan, and they surely have reason to pop a few champagnes, Yakult feels as native in Taiwan as it feels in Japan. It's added to tea, it's part of lunch box sets, and it's found in almost every convenience store all over the country.

What is also interesting is how well and how often the drink is advertised. The ad above used to run a few years ago, and really boosted Yakult sales says my wife. The girl in the advertisement above is Vivian, she's a "多多妹" (a duo duo girl), and she's bi-racial (her father is British). Taiwanese believe babies of White and Han Chinese descent are especially cute, hence they are often appearing in advertisements. Let's go back to the Chinese name: Why Duo Duo? In Chinese language abbreviations with doubling of one character are considered cute. Here some other examples related to babies:

milk 牛奶 (niú nǎi) becomes ㄋㄟㄋㄟ (nēi nēi)

to bath 洗澡 (xǐ zǎo) becomes 洗澎澎 (xǐ péng péng) or 洗香香 (xǐ xiāng xiāng)

to poop 大便 (dà biàn) becomes 嗯嗯 (ēn ēn)

to wee 小便 (xiǎo biàn) becomes 噓噓 (xū xū)

to sleep 睡覺 (shuì jiào) 睡稿稿 (shuì gǎo gǎo)

The same is often applied to girls' names, they get doubled to sound cute.

I don't like Yakult

I wasn't paid by Yakult to write this article, I just find the product interesting from a branding perspective, and how it became part of culture here. In fact my stomach and Yakult don't get along very well, so I don't drink it. And I won't give it to my daughter any time soon despite the cute "多多妹" making it very tempting.