A music video rewriting Taiwan’s brand image

Brand Perception

Charles Chen Liao Ting

Time was when any mention of Taiwan would perhaps have conjured up images of computers, mobile phones and bicycles or the like, but the country is now enjoying entirely new associations thanks to Jolin Tsai’s music video “Play”, a dazzling cultural phenomenon combining cheeky self-expression, innovative social commentary and wicked satire. Although the video was premiered in 2014, its global popularity has remained undiminished ever since.


Google “Jolin Tsai” and “Play” and you will find no less than 24.6 million and 0.42 million hits respectively; this dance music sensation has proved immensely popular in Greater China and far further afield, with people playlisting the song for parties and dance competitions across continents. The video’s outstanding visual elements went on to win it a Red Dot Award for Communication Design in 2015 and a Berlin Music Video Award nomination in 2016, demonstrating to the world the impressive cultural soft power wielded by Taiwan’s pop music.

Impressions of Taiwan have hitherto mostly revolved around computers, mobile phones and bicycles, but “Play” has changed all that. The song denounces present-day obsessions with money, plastic surgery and media attention using playful and sarcastic images that strike a strong chord with viewers. Social media platforms have helped the “Play” music video to lead the field in establishing a Chinese pop music brand for Taiwan.

Charles Chen, Managing Partner and Brand Consultant at Process Brand Evolution’s Taipei office, has suggested that, from a brand perception perspective, the range of emotions elicited in viewers of the music video would also have a beneficial effect as far as Taiwan itself was concerned; in other words, anything connected with Taiwan that was subsequently encountered by viewers would conjure up images from the music video and the pleasant memories associated with it. The effect is to make Taiwan’s brand image clearer and more distinctive, thus increasing both its recognition factor and its competitiveness.

“Brand is a kind of experience. On the customer journey, the brand value and the meaning of a product or service cannot be effectively delivered without concise, consistent, and sustainable communication and design.”

Charles Chen

Maximising competitiveness through a brand that appeals to feelings

Every professional knows that even the best quality products and services are not enough – a powerful brand is essential if you want to stay in business. Charles emphasizes that brand design is not only an intrinsic element of the product or packaging, it must also feature in every one of the customer’s touchpoints, ensuring that the brand value is fully delivered and helping the “company’s brand” to become the “customer’s brand”.

It is often said that you can sell an ordinary product at a higher price if you slap a world-famous label on it, and having a prestigious logo is indeed one of the most direct and effective methods of brand communication. The real reasons the customer feels touched (and thus recognizes the brand) are in fact the company’s philosophy and the brand essence behind the logo – and these also provide the powerful intuitive momentum that makes customers loyal followers of brands. As Charles has indicated, we need to know that “brand is a kind of experience” for the brand value to be revealed from the logo. On the customer journey, the brand value and the meaning of a product or service cannot be effectively delivered without concise, consistent, and sustainable communication and design.

The “Play” music video has thus become a touchpoint for “Taiwan the brand” for the entire international community, in a way that recalls the Korean government’s efforts to manage its brand image to the world through pop music and drama; the difference, however, is that Taiwan passively acknowledges its brand image while Korea continually and proactively reinforces theirs. Companies must have an active approach to brand-building: systematic analysis, strategy and design concept development combined with proactive implementation of brand management will enable companies to deliver the messages they want to customers at every touchpoint.

Want to make your product or service more competitive? We suggest you think about your branding.