Gin company forced to change its labels

By Rebecca Weller contact

- Last updated on GMT

Fok Hing Gin: alluding to profanity?
Fok Hing Gin: alluding to profanity?

Related tags: Gin, Spirits, Drinks, Ofcom, Portman group

The alcohol industry’s independent Complaints Panel has made a precedent changing decision to force Fok Hing Gin to change their labels.

The complaint against Fok Hing Gin, made by a licensing officer who acted in their own capacity, is the first complaint against a drink’s name to be upheld in relation to causing serious or widespread offence.

Incognito Group Limited produced the complaint made in relation to Ofcom rule 3.3, which states a drink’s name, its packaging and any promotional material or activity should not cause serious or widespread offence in the category of strong offensive language or be seen as ‘strong, aggressive and vulgar’. 

The complainant stated ‘The name of the product FOK HING Gin is clearly intended to shock and be pronounced as an offensive term. Marketing comments I’ve seen online include Fokthehaters and those who don’t like the name can FOK OFF, so despite claims this is a Hong Kong language term meaning good luck, it’s obvious the intention is to shock and offend those who find swearing undesirable and unacceptable.’

In response to the complaint, the company stated the name paid tribute to its brand heritage and culture which sought to pay homage to ‘Fuk Hing Lane’, a street located in Causeway Bay Hong Kong and explained the name had been changed from ‘Fuk’ to ‘Fok’ to differentiate it from offensive language used in western culture.

Play on words

The complainant said: “I welcome the fact Incognito Group participated and co-operated with the enquiry; however, I am in no doubt their explanation of both the product name and promotional activity was to an extent fabricated and a cynical cover story prepared in the event of a complaint, they knew exactly what they were doing in naming and promoting the product in the way they did.”

The Panel considered the packaging in the context of its wider marketing activity that appeared on the brand website and noted the brand story was unclear on the packaging, which made little reference to the street that was its namesake.

It also noted some of its marketing was inconsistent with the company’s explanation the name was not intended to be used as a play on words for swearing.

Independent Complaints Panel chair Nicola Williams said: “This is the first time since the addition of the rule on serious or widespread offence, that a product’s name and packaging was considered under the rule in terms of offensive language.

“It is not appropriate for marketing materials to purposefully link a name to profanity and no responsible marketing should cause serious or widespread offence.”

The panel concluded the phonetic pronunciation of ‘Fok Hing’ sounded like profanity and clearly alluded to profanity in the accompanying marketing and had the same potential to cause serious or widespread offence as the word ‘f**k’.

Celebrate culture and heritage 

A spokesperson for Incognito Group Limited aid: “We strive to be a brand that celebrates the language, culture and heritage of Hong Kong.

“We are grateful to our UK consumers who have warmly welcomed us into their gin collection and are delighted to continue serving the market.

“Through consultation with the Portman Group, we have agreed to update the reverse label to be more descriptive of the details that inspired our brand and look forward to introducing our UK fans to a little bit of Hong Kong history whilst they enjoy FOK HING GIN during the forthcoming festive season and beyond."

Related topics: Spirits & Cocktails

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