Posts for the autodidact

Ending “Marketing gratia Marketing”

Aggressive marketing campaigns are common, thi...
Aggressive marketing campaigns are common, this one features Coco Lee (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Source: From Mini Apps to KOLs: 6 Effective Luxury Marketing Campaigns on WeChat | Jing Daily

Jing Daily, the leading publication covering the business of luxury in China, does regular features spotlighting social media campaigns using WeChat to engage luxury buyers.

One recent example:

4. WeChat x Online to Offline (O2O): Chanel

From April 12 to 24, French luxury powerhouse Chanel opened Coco Café, a pop-up café-themed beauty store, in Shanghai. Visitors to the store could order a cup of coffee and some snacks provided by the brand while browsing beauty products and enjoying customized make-up services. Coco Café has been a huge hit, attracting thousands of visits to the site every day. Chinese social media was filled with photos taken by consumers in the store, who seemed undeterred by the long line snaking around the block. VIP customers could avoid the long lines by reserving a spot on Chanel’s official WeChat account ahead of time.

The campaigns are clever, and the coverage is thought-provoking. What is unclear, and what the article never probes, is whether any of these campaigns do anything to increase market share, drive more sales, increase brand awareness, or drive business goals. And that highlights a larger problem.

There is nothing wrong with using technology to deliver clever campaigns in marketing. But when the technology is being used on tactics and campaigns with vague objectives like “increase engagement with the brand,” “deepen affinity,” or “increase visibility,” something is broken. Each of these phrases is euphemistic shorthand for “conduct activity in order to be seen conducting an activity.” In short, marketing for its own sake. Or worse, marketing for the sake of marketers.

The true promise of technology in marketing is the ability to reduce the size of a target market down to the single individual. I call this “sniper marketing,” the ability to market to each targeted individual personally, using the right pitch, the right channel, at the right time, and in the right place, and do so in a way that makes the entire experience fun and meaningful.

What so much of marketing – even good marketing – remains, especially in China, is spray-and-pray: get in front of a whole lot of people in the hopes that, somewhere in that mass, is a subset of people who want to buy your product. All of the people reached who are not in that subset represent money wasted by the company, time wasted by the consumer inconvenienced with superfluous messages, and credibility wasted by marketers for touting campaigns that deliver anemic returns on the time and money invested.

We should applaud the creativity behind the campaigns on Jing Daily. But we should withhold our cheers, recognizing that these efforts were but a temporary stage in our efforts to do much better. Because companies are not going to put up with this type of activity for much longer.

It is time we evolve past this interim phase in marketing technology set about using the tools we have been given to downscale marketing so that we can conduct a million individually-targeted campaigns for the same money (or less) than it would cost us to conduct a mass campaign aimed at a million people. The result will be orders of magnitude greater effectiveness, measured in the only currency that matters: additional sales and deeper customer loyalty.

Anything less, and we are betraying the trust given us, and marketing will follow farriers and feather merchants into premature obsolescence.

 

An Internet Icon Hints at Big Changes in China Travel

 

Source: Chinese netizens are in love with this female photographer and her life of adventure: Shanghaiist

The popularity of the adventourous model-photographer Xiao Yun Dou (nicknamed “Dou Dou“) among young people in China is a hint at a major change taking place in China’s travel market.

While their parents craved the opportunity to travel, for many young people in China today, the yearning is for much more: it is for adventure, perhaps, but I believe there is something even more prosaic at work here. There is a growing desire in the collective psyche for escape, and escape that is not as part of a herd on a bus or a plane, but for travel and adventure that is deeply personal.

Group travel still dominates the market, but the numbers of independent travelers – and those looking for something unique and out-of-the-ordinary – are growing. One young Chinese man I spoke to the other day was excited about going to Las Vegas for the Consumer Electronics Show. He was not excited about the show, the gadgets, or the gambling in the casino in his hotel, but he was excited about the opportunity to hike in Red Rock Canyon, shoot automatic weapons, and take a side trip to Hoover Dam and the Grand Canyon.

He is by no means typical, but neither is he unique, and his kind of international travel may define the next generation of sojourners from the mainland, inspired by Dou Dou and her rarified ilk.

How Real is Apple’s China Research?

Apple is opening a 300 million yuan ($45 million) research and development center in Beijing, its first ever in China.

Source: Apple opening a $45 million research hub in China to develop hardware, ‘advanced’ tech

On the surface, the idea of Apple opening an R&D center in China sounds logical, and possibly a really good call. If China is not Apple’s largest market it is certainly in the top three, and there are enough cultural and behavioral differences between China and, say, California that it would make sense to have a lab designed to make Apple products more “China-friendly.”

Adding a more urgent impetus would be the growing power of local electronics manufacturers like Huawei, Lenovo, and especially Xiaomi. In contrast with Apple’s “One Device to Rule Them All” strategy, the local players offer features and tweaks developed to match the lifestyles and wishes of China’s consumers. Xiaomi in particular has built a vast business by honing the ease-of-use of Google’s Android operating system to within a hair of iOS, and then adding thousands of enhancements suggested by fans. These tweaks, combined with slowing innovation from Cupertino, have helped locals eat into the iPhone’s former market dominance.

What is more, a series of government-backed measures over the past three years, ranging from attacks by state-owned media to the government-ordered shutdown of Apple’s iBooks store, are provoking speculation that Beijing may have it in for the company.

Against all of this, an R&D center seating 500 would seem to be a smart move.

What will dog Apple’s effort, though, is a justifiable degree of cynicism among both government and consumers in Beijing about whether this R&D center will do substantive research and development work, or whether it is so much window dressing. If all the center does is localization work, not only will Apple waste the opportunity to fully tap China’s pool of engineering talent, audiences in China will dismiss the center as so much PR.

The onus is thus on Apple. Unless the company offers frequent and convincing examples of genuinely innovative work being done exclusively in the China location, it will give local challengers a ready-made opportunity to discredit the iPhone maker with both the government and consumers. Rather than helping the company, it would serve to grease the rails in Apple’s decline in a strategic market.

Anbang Quits Starwood I – Run From the Light

China’s Anbang Insurance Group Co said on Thursday it has abandoned its $14 billion bid for Starwood Hotels & Resorts Worldwide Inc (HOT.N), paving the way for Marriott International Inc (MAR.O) to buy the Sheraton and Westin hotels operator.

Source: China’s Anbang abandons $14 billion bid to buy Starwood Hotels | Reuters

I have a longer post about this in the works, but it will take me most of the weekend to compile it from this stack of research. In the meantime, a thought, based on the possibility that Anbang was too afraid to untie its kimono to continue the process:

We say in my business that sunlight is the best disinfectant. What most of my colleagues outside of China rarely have cause to contemplate is this: what happens when the company in question is itself one giant festering bacteria culture?

Beware ye who shaketh hands with a well-heeled investor from afar: due diligence should always work two ways.

South China Morning Post: 1903-2015

Some question how The South China Morning Post, based in Hong Kong, can stay editorially independent if its new owners explicitly seek to improve China’s image.

Source: By Buying Paper, Alibaba Seeks To Polish China’s Image – The New York Times

Worrying about the editorial independence of the SCMP after its acquisition by Alibaba is much like fixing the fence after the horses have bolted. Those of us who have read the paper for thirty years or more know it to be a journalistic zombie.

The Post’s halcyon years ended with Rupert Murdoch’s privatization of the paper in 1987, and its subsequent stewardship by a Malaysian Chinese family known to be pro-Beijing has only hastened the end of editorial independence at the paper. The departures of journalists like Danny Gittings, Jasper Becker, Willy Lam, Nury Vittachi, Larry Feign, and Paul Mooney stand as mute testament to a newsroom increasingly constrained by the China apologetics of its owners.

Once the South China Morning Post and The Far East Economic Review offered between two covers the kind of insight and focus that we all need about the region. Today, all we can do to re-create what once landed on our doorsteps each morning is seek from across the web the sharp China coverage of a shrinking rank of publications willing to hire and pay for insightful and knowledgeable journalism on China.

Update: Edited Paul Mooney’s name for spelling.

Marketing in China

In China:

Average marketers drive awareness.

Good marketers drive sales.

Great marketers transform companies by the sheer force of their research, their data-driven insight, and their instinctive feel for what all stakeholders want from their company.

I’ll agree, this is not rocket science. It’s just something I put in front of me to look at every day as a goal, and I thought I’d share.

No China Experts

Hutong West
In search of macro-fauna
1241 hrs.

I have said this in other fora, and as my book Public Relations in China goes to bookstores I am getting questions from media and others that have caused me to lay out the following disclaimer:

  1. I am not a “China expert.”

  2. There is no such thing as a “China expert.”

  3. Anyone who comes to you claiming to be a “China expert” is either deluded (and thus to be pitied), lying (and thus suspect), or out to separate you from your money (and thus to be avoided.)

  4. You don’t have to believe me. Dr. Fan Gang, the head of China’s National Economic Research Institute and the Secretary-General of the China Reform Foundation (among many other titles), once said as much to a reporter when she asked Dr. Fan and I whether, “as China experts,” we saw China’s economy improving or in decline in coming years. He denied being a China expert, told the reporter that he knew I agreed, and questioned the very existence of anyone who could claim the title of a China experts.

  5. China is too large, too old, and too complex to be sufficiently understood by a single individual. At the very most, we can be “specialists.” We can never be “experts.”

When doing business in China, you thus cannot rely on the counsel of a single individual, regardless of how experienced, well-connected or erudite. Instead, seek and genuinely consider the advice of a range of people of different backgrounds, and in so doing form your own view based on a synthesis of their views.

China “experts” will only get you into trouble.

The Cost of a Revolving Door

In the Hutong
Watching Fall Arrive
1223 hrs.

Sitting in the lobby of my hotel in Beijing, I watched over an hour on a Saturday morning as several groups of tourists negotiated an automatic door. One group overfilled it, jamming the door and compelling doormen to come to the rescue.

Two other families (who came in separately) did not get the idea of an automatic revolving door, and pushed the glass partition as they believed that this was what was causing the door to turn. A third family let their kids play in the door, causing several jams and frustrating groups of other guests, one almost to distraction.

The hotel, as a result, posts a doorman nearby to help tourists negotiate issues with the door that was installed in order to eliminate the need for a doorman; and a cleaning lady was hired to clean the door that was installed to minimize the cleaning of the lobby.

All of this serves as another fun reminder that the most prosaic things can have unintended consequences and unexpected costs in a Chinese enterprise.

China Marketing: Silos and Timid Marketers

For a variety of reasons, cross-platform alignment occurs too infrequently. First, marketers have become disorientated, even intimated, by the emergence of quantitative technologies that promise algorithmic salvation. Second, advertising agencies have yet to identify models of collaboration that pair conceptual distillers – that is, “storytellers” — with systemic thinkers, the latter capable of devising innovative transactions. Finally, many organizations have siloed operational structures. This is particularly true in China where sales departments wield control over marketing. To boot, online and offline units function independently.

via Digital Commerce in China: Cheap Tricks or Deep Love? | Tom Doctoroff | LinkedIn.

Event: Internet Governance and China

If you’re in or near Shanghai and interested at all in the issues raised in my post on China’s evolving approach to Internet governance, you definitely want to catch “Who Controls China’s Internet,” a talk being given by Professor Mark Grabowski of New York’s Adelphi University on Monday, August 11 at 7pm at C3 Cafe. Grabowski, who has focused on the Internet and media, is working to help frame a viable scheme of Internet governance that would head off the possibility of fragmentation – a path towards which China’s policymakers appear to be treading. Go if you can. huang pi south road 700, building A, room 105 上海黄浦区黄陂南路700号A105(过 合肥路)
Shanghai (map)

Fredrik Öqvist does some interesting reading of the VIE tea-leaves. The Ministry of Commerce, he suggests, doesn’t like VIEs very much, but they are less likely to outlaw them outright than slowly squeeze them so the structure becomes more headache than benefit.

Further Reading:

VIEs: The Long Resolution (siliconhutong.com)

Asia and the Need to Re-engineer Research

Hutong West
Wonking
1200 hrs. local

Fair warning: I’m about to get a little wonkish, so if you don’t care about market or academic research, skip on down to my last post.

In an otherwise superb review of Doh Chull Shin’s Confucianism and Democratization in East Asia, in Foreign Affairs, (“Confucius and the Ballot Box“, July/August 2012) Andrew Nathan digresses from his eloquent explanation of why “Asian Values” and democracy are not incompatible to defend Shin’s methodology.

Critics view the survey-based study of culture as flawed in three ways. First, if culture is something shared by all members of a society, treating it as a distribution of values and attitudes among individuals ignores the way it works as a shared experience. Second, by reducing culture to a series of questionnaire items, the survey method oversimplifies complex, multilayered attitudes. Third, the questionnaire format forces respondents to choose among rigid response categories that cannot adequately reflect their beliefs.

For all that, the survey method remains indispensable. No other approach does as good a job of finding out what large numbers of people actually believe. And it is less reductive than the older method of gesturing in the direction of an entire nation and claiming that all its members share some vaguely defined set of norms.

This all may seem like a shot in an esoteric battle of academic nit-picking, but it is telling that Nathan feels compelled to conduct this preemptive defense in a review written for a mainstream (rather than purely academic) journal. Dr. Nathan protests overmuch, and in so doing gives us a view to his fear that while they may be one of the few methods available to make the social sciences as scientific as possible, surveys have some innate flaws that call for some extra scrutiny on Shin’s thesis specifically, and the conduct of research in Asia in general.

My first concern is general: does the survey method travel well? The survey method was developed in the West by sociologists who were operating in a specific culture and political environment, one in which people feel relatively comfortable about voicing their honest opinions without worrying about political reprisals or pleasing the person doing the survey. This is important because if you stop to think about it, the value of any answer to a survey absolutely depends on those two conditions.

Yet common sense and a passing knowledge of Asian cultures call into question whether these conditions exist to the same degree in Asia as the West, and, equally important, whether they exist to the same degree among Asian cultures. Indians, for example, might be very ready to answer frankly and at length. Would Koreans be as willing? Would Singaporeans? Would Japanese? Would there not be differences between how Americans would answer and how any Asians would answer?

I would be less concerned if Shin had conducted his survey in the context of a single culture, because he could have designed an survey and delivery method that compensate for the variances between that country’s culture and the outspoken West. One firm I know in China, for example, has learned how to compensate for cultural factors by making the interviewer someone who is known and trusted by the interviewee, and focuses on interviewer training to work the variances out of the responses.

But Shin’s survey cuts across sixteen different cultures and nationalities, and this brings me to my second concern. By using the survey method across a range of cultures and polities where there are likely to be huge variances in the willingness to speak out and the cultural desire to please, is it even possible to wind up with comparable results?

I have no answers that I can prove scientifically, but the questions need to be addressed before we accept Shin’s findings or those of any survey in Asia – whether academic of for business research. If we are genuinely interested in defensible research, we need to question our implicit assumption that the tools created in one culture work just as well in any other, and then test our answers.

I would feel a lot better about Dr. Shin’s book if either Shin – or Dr. Nathan, whom I admire greatly – had hinted that they had even considered whether the survey method is culturally appropriate outside of America at all, and whether and how it can be meaningfully administered across cultures.

They did not, and I believe that they did not because they cannot. The minute they start questioning the precious few tools on which their peer-reviewed research rests, they lose the ability to conduct the kind of research their professions and employers expect them to conduct. When our best scholars are shackled to weak tools, what can we expect but debatable outcomes?

Without more substantive answers, I’m led to the conclusion that for the sake of marketers, academics, and policymakers, we need to re-engineer research. The realities of globalization demand new tools. It is time to create them.

 

There are a lot of things that can push living in China to the edge of bearability, but in-your-face nationalism and xenophobia is not one of them. If there is one thing that has made living in China these past 17 years so wonderful, it has been the people I meet.
It never seems to get lost in a conversation that there is a difference between an individual and a government. Even at the height of anger over the Belgrade Embassy bombing, the vitriol was never personal: it was about a government’s mistake, not the mistake of a nation.
At the same time, it’s incumbent on every one of us living as a guest on this soil to behave as a guest should, and not as an entitled drunken teenager on Grad Night at Disneyland.
By the way, if you don’t read Sinostand regularly, you should. Great stuff.