11 Jan 2006
Functional And Fun(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 01,2006)
Zanif Advertising & Promotion Ltd
The company - whose name plays on the word "zenith" and suggests that the designers aim high - has created more than 100 watch and clock, household, stationery, novelty and lighting items for the kitchen, bathroom and desktop.
Whimsical shapes, cheerful colours and ingenious ideas are hallmarks of Zanif's Hand-in-Hand Collection, one of the company's best-known products that consists of flat interlocking figures which can be joined together like puzzle pieces.
"The hands interlock so that you can create a whole series of shapes," Wong explains. "Customers like the hand-in-hand idea because it suggests cooperation and harmony."
The popular line includes coasters, trivets, wine stoppers, baking trays, ice cube trays, mood lights and mousepads that can, depending on a company's requirements, be made out of fine-grade silicone rubber, EVA or PVC.
The Hand-in-Hand series is typical of the company's two brands - Zan's and Do (for Design Originated) - that explore new concepts in household and stationery goods, lighting, watches and clocks and novelty items. "Zan's is more basic while do is more imaginative, but it's not so important for us to have clear-cut distinctions," Wong says.
Trendy items include a soft silicone rubber teaspoon that serves as a tea infuser, a silicone rubber lid or a Magic Cup Cap that forms a suction seal over cup rims to keep beverages hot, and a Spiral Luggage Tag that keeps an individual's personal details private until the tag is unrolled.
The company is the brainchild of Wong and Winnif Pang, both industrial design graduates of Hong Kong Polytechnic University. "We weren't really businesspeople when we started out," Wong recalls. "But we had a strong dream and we wanted to use our design knowledge to solve problems and make products which would please people."
The two friends have built the company into a manufacturing operation that turns out about 100,000 pieces per month from its factory in Dongguan on the Chinese mainland.
Although Europe is the company's biggest export market, Zanif's far-flung domain stretches across much of Asia. "We are always looking to expand our markets," Wong adds.
About half of Zanif's business consists of OEM/ODM customers, with the remainder equally divided between the company's two brands and orders for premiums and promotional items.
The company's biggest challenge, other than having to generate a continual flow of creative ideas, relates to the piracy of its original designs. "Some of our customers from Taiwan, Singapore and Holland have told us they have seen copies of our products," she says, adding that Zanif takes legal action to thwart copying.
Despite the plagiarism, the company's success has led the founding partners to consider creating two new entities, each developing new brands and new approaches to the way products are marketed.
In recent years, Zanif has also begun shifting to exclusive agents to represent its products in different countries. "This allows us to standardise our distribution and have better control over our products, prices and image," Wong says.
Both designers also hope to create higher-value brands that have a stronger in-store identity. "In the past, our products were mixed with other brands in retail outlets," Wong believes. "We're currently thinking of having separate displays to make our products stand out, or selling only in certain locations."
However, the company's future appears bright given that Zanif has won several design awards in 2005, including the Hong Kong Designer Association Design Award for 10 designs and Germany's IF Design Award for its silicone rubber ice stirrers.
"We keep growing with experience, so I feel very confident that by focusing on complementary markets we can double the size of our current business in the next few years," Wong predicts. "We like designing and making products and dealing with challenges."
WRITTEN BY ANDREA PAWLYNA
Zanif Advertising & Promotion Ltd