Train travel in developing areas affords a perspective that's hard to come by in the US and the EU. You get to see the interstitial parts of a country, the hard living, quasi-developed farms and villages, the agrarian economies of scale, the landfills next to fields of cabbage and the buildings that look anything but optimistic. And train travel always makes me think about the pace of development. Probably because trains go slow. We've been talking a lot about our observations like how brand names mean nothing in China. Absolutely nothing. They hold no consumer appeal or status, they're not indicators of quality, they're just visual nostalgia or maybe aspiration. I saw a guy at the station who had a Ferrari hand bag. It was plastic. He also had no shoes on and it's really cold here. The age of the impotent brand isn't new to me since I spent a lot of my time thinking about the impact really well developed brands have on consumers, who are, well, really developed. We're trained by the brands themselves to value certain attributes and qualities that are evident in the products. That relationship doesn't exist in China. And we'll see about Vietnam. So what happens when a billion people start buying stuff en masse? If I was an American or European brand I'd be really scared right now because quality and status are the only two levers brands have to ensure consumer loyalty. When neither quality nor status really matter, how do you retain customers?
I know it's really screwed up that I'm thinking so much about what I USED to do on our VACATION blog but China is really really bonkers at this particular moment in history. Maybe it's also because a lot of my colleagues have traveled to Guangzhou for work because all those western brands that we work for have factories here. I bet you guys never thought about going to Guangzhou for vaca did you?
Also, all the train travel has given me lots of downtime to draw. Finally.