By Dave Avran
Aug 7, 2017
SINGAPORE’S National Day is on August 9, and to commemorate it, popular sushi restaurant chain Maki San launched a special chicken char siew sushi roll for the country’s 52nd birthday, calling it the Maki Kita.
The name is a play on the lyrics of Singapore’s National Anthem, in which the first two words are “Mari kita”. Now, puns are great, and as a journalist working in the creative field, you’ve got to love a good pun. Puns can be creative and hilarious.
Puns can also go so wrong, especially on digital media when they just don’t turn out the way you had hoped they would. Maki-San is a restaurant that allows its patrons to design their own sushi and Japanese-inspired salad, but it has been shoved into the spotlight for a pun which unfortunately didn’t sit well with the public
The “Maki-Kita” sushi roll was part of a collaboration with Spectra Secondary School and was meant to reflect the “cheeky and playful side” of Maki-San and was a “tongue-in-cheek” social media campaign based on the first two words of their national anthem.
While there were good intentions behind the pun, netizens quickly pointed out that the phrase “Maki Kita” means “Curse us” in Malay. In an Instagram post that has since been deleted, some netizens jokingly cursed the restaurant while others ridiculed the error. There were some who called out Maki-San for its lack of cultural diversity in their administrative office.
The sushi chain acknowledged the kerfuffle and announced in a Facebook post seven hours later that it was changing the name to Harmony Maki. Since then the restaurant has apologised sincerely for any offence caused on Facebook and Instagram, and changed the name of the sushi roll from “Maki-Kita” to “Harmony Kita” to be “more sensitive to the culture of its Malay consumers.
In another Facebook post, the chain explained that the name aimed to reflect “the cheeky and playful side” of the company, and means “Our sushi”.
It wrote: “We do acknowledge the diversity of culture of our consumers and the people living in Singapore.”
In response to “insights” from customers, the chain decided to change the name “to be more sensitive to the culture of our Malay consumers”. Maki-San outlets are certified halal.
“While we only meant well for this, our deepest respect goes to all our friends. We sincerely apologise if this has offended any of you.”
The National Day-themed rolls are filled with chicken char siew, egg, cucumber, fried shallots and coriander mayonnaise and the now infamous rolls are on sale at 11 outlets until Aug 3
Maki-San is not the only brand to have found itself in a sticky situation. Giordano also recently drew flak for the lack of ethnic representation in its National Day advertisement. The ad features a family with two Caucasian adults, a Caucasian boy and an Asian girl. The reaction to the shirts online were negative, with netizens criticising the ad for not only the lack of ethnic representation, but also the poor use of photoshop effects.
I’ve said my piece – what do you think of Maki-San’s marketing campaign?