On October 13, Porsche Design unveiled a “standard China knife” — a one-piece, stainless steel cleaver-esque design costing $240 (1,726 RMB). The knives quickly sold out on the U.S. website. On Weibo, the hashtag phrase “Porsche’s China standard kitchen knife sells for over 1,700 RMB” has gained over 170 million views.
Many intrigued Chinese netizens are asking how this kitchen knife, which doesn’t have a user-friendly handle, can be so expensive. Another popular question is whether the Porsche knife can smash garlic cloves, a common Chinese cooking technique — after all, China takes cooking very seriously.
The buzz around the Porsche China Knife is also reminiscent of another knife-related controversy this July when a complaint against Chinese premium kitchen brand Zhang Xiaoquan went viral after a customer’s knife broke off from its handle when smashing garlic. In the wake of the incident, the general manager of Zhang Xiaoquan had to apologize for his earlier remarks that stated Zhang Xiaoquan knives seek to correct Chinese people’s “mistakes” in cutting food. According to subsequent news reports, Porsche Design confirmed that their knife can indeed be used to smash garlic.
The unexpected attention that Porsche Design has given to a ubiquitous, ordinary Chinese kitchen item surprised many netizens. Many found it interesting that Porsche, a name associated with luxury sports cars, would offer items meant for daily use at home. For instance, one popular post states, “It is no longer just a knife, but a collectible item for displaying at home.”
For Porsche Design, the viral item exposes its brand to a much larger consumer base, gives a nod to Chinese culture, and shows that it doesn’t solely focus on the mega-rich while still preserving the social status that Porsche conveys. This could be a lesson for other luxury brands, that culturally-specific items showing insider market knowledge are still much appreciated in China and could lead to small, unexpected wins.