Three things to keep in mind when expanding to China
Allen Adamson
Chairman, North America,
based in Landor New York

Introducing a new brand to the marketplace is a challenge. Introducing an existing brand to a new marketplace is a challenge. Introducing an existing brand to a marketplace whose culture is poles apart from that of its home turf is an even greater challenge, still. How do you take what you’ve learned from a successful brand launch in one country and adapt this information to meet the needs, tastes, and buying habits of another country? And, what if this country is China, an arena for business that is growing not incrementally, but exponentially? Suffice it to say, challenging.

Beijing

It was about this topic that I spoke to Lance Friedmann, senior vice president of Mondelēz International, and Fei Che, vice president of corporate and government affairs for Mondelēz China. For those who missed the trades a year or two back, Mondelēz International comprises the global snack and food brands of the former Kraft Foods. The name, adopted in 2012, came from the input of Kraft employees, Monde being French for world, and delēz to connote the notion of delicious. Among its products are Oreos, along with other long-standing favorites including Chips Ahoy, Cadbury chocolate, and Triscuit and Ritz crackers. The intent of my conversation with the team from Mondelēz International was to find out what those coming to China from the United States in a brand leadership role should consider to be critical factors in the quest for success. Here is a part of our discussion:

Allen Adamson: Lance, you’ve been at Mondelēz China for about eight months. What, in your opinion, is absolutely essential to keep in mind when building or managing a brand in China versus what you’ve experienced in the United States?

Lance Friedmann: There are three things that really jump out. To begin with, the rate of innovation expected by consumers in China is higher than in many other markets. They really are always looking for something new and they’re eager to check it out and give it a try. I was skeptical of this, at first, because you hear this being the case with many markets. But, having seen this in action, it’s true.

AA: Do you have any thoughts as to why China is more comfortable with rapid change, as opposed to say, America, where an automobile model may be altered by a mere feature or two from year to year? Do you think it might be because the gap between how your parents lived and how you live is not as dramatic in America as it is in China?

LF: Your point is a good one. The degree of change that people in China have seen, even those under thirty years old, is incredible. I believe this has acclimated them to seeing what is new, what is possible, and what is different. The reality that incomes are rising so rapidly also plays a critical role. People can afford things they never thought possible. Buying the next new thing has become an adventure, exciting and totally acceptable to them.

AA: Wherein our country something new is not necessarily assumed to be better; there are long-established traditions. Do you think that there is a sense by the Chinese consumer that new is, in fact, better?

LF: Quality still has to be an integral part of the equation. There is a respect for the fundamentals of good brand management, meaning innovation must still deliver fresh and desirable benefits. It’s just that there’s a greater appetite and willingness for trying new things.

AA: In addition to this desire for things that are new and innovative, what are the other two factors you consider to be different in the Chinese market than in the U.S. market?

LF: Without a doubt, one of them is localization. If you cut and paste a strategic plan, or assume just because consumers like something in one country they’ll like it in another, you’re bound to have issues. Finally, there’s the extraordinary weight of digital media in the Chinese peoples’ lives and, therefore, the need to incorporate this into marketing plans. It blew me away to see how connected to digital and, specifically social media, people of all ages are in China. It’s a way of life to hundreds of millions of people. The more you can plug into this dynamic, the more successful your brand will be. People in the U. S. may share things that delight them, and this is certainly a boon to marketers. When this happens in China, the scale is mind-blowing.

AA: Is there a story you can share that makes for a good example of all three of these factors, the rate of innovation, localization, and the absolute requirement for a digital strategy?

Fei Che: We did a wonderful campaign for Oreo called  Twist Open the Bonding Magic in 2013, tied to the idea of family bonding and sharing. It involved parents, especially the fathers, creating their own videos showing how their families connected because of Oreos. That, in essence, is what Oreos are all about—family connections. We partnered with one of China’s greatest film directors, Feng Xiaogang, to assist us with the initiative, which we called “ Oreo—Bonding Magic in China.” He worked with us to put together a micro movie that was distributed over the Internet, showing mostly fathers interacting with their children. The key insight for this campaign was that, in China, you see mothers taking children to classes or to playgrounds and shops over the weekend, and grandparents often take care of them during the week days, but you rarely see fathers in a bonding mode as they are often at work or off working in other cities.

LF: The power of this story was incredible. In terms of new experiences, this Oreo initiative opened up a completely new world, and a new way to look at how fathers and children are interacting. And, talk about digital scale, in other markets if you get 10,000 or 20,000 people sending in entries, you’d be happy. We got three and a half million stories. And of the six that were chosen for the online video, there were 143 million views.

AA: Because you showed such a deep understanding of the Chinese family and the inherent relationships, you were able to unlock this insight in a unique and powerful way. You gave families a way to express themselves, show their connectivity to each other.

FC: The insight and degree of focus on the fathers was fresh and touching, and highlighted the core emotion of how difficult it is for fathers who are working so hard to see their children. Many fathers have anxiety about the need to support their families and get their families to a better financial place, but they are also very loving to their children.

LF: Another important aspect of this story, and particularly relevant to the importance of localizing a product, is that when we initially launched Oreos in China in 1990s, we found that the taste was too sweet for the Chinese palate, and the price too high. This led to a reformulation of the ingredients, as well as new formats, including a cookie stick, versus a wafer. Understanding cultural differences and adapting products to meet them was critical to success.

AA: On a final note, marketing folks are used to looking at things in the rearview mirror. You look back and try to project the future. It’s a much trickier game now. You really have to be more agile, nimble, and responsive as a brand builder. But this notion of speed and agility is at a whole new level in China than in more mature markets.

LF: It’s a big deal. When people come to work in Asia, in China, they’re immediately struck by how volatile and how quickly demand patterns can change. It might be a cliché, but speed is the currency of doing business in the 21st century. And, if you can’t play at the speed that’s required in China, you’re going to miss out.

 

Orginally published on Forbes.com.
Image courtesy of Flickr and McKay Savage.  

 

Category: Brand strategy & positioning

Gems of Austin

August 06, 2014
Landor Cincinnati’s favorite places from a recent trip to Austin
Heather Ingram
Designer,
based in Landor Cincinnati

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Our team recently took a trip to Austin, Texas for a photoshoot with editorial and commercial photographer, Tosca Radigonda. Her photography is simply stunning. Through the use of breathtaking lightning, she captures the astonishment, joy, and tenderness of children, in both still photography and in motion.  You can view Tosca’s work at http://toscaradigonda.com. 

While in Austin, we were inspired by the life and the city itself. The incredible restaurants, the never-ending nightlife, and the friendliness of everyone we met really captured our attention. The culture in Austin is on the upswing, supported by the SXSW music festival and a vibrant art scene. There is art everywhere—on the side of buildings, in almost every restaurant, and in every shop you walk into. We’ve catalogued some of the most inspiring shops, restaurants, and dives we visited in our short time there:

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Lambert’s is an authentic upscale Texas BBQ restaurant set in a carefully restored historic building in the 2nd Street District of downtown Austin. We enjoyed our “fancy” BBQ that included brisket prepared with a brown sugar and coffee rub, brown butter Brussels sprouts, and mashed potatoes with crème fraiche. Make sure you make a reservation—the wait can be very long on all nights of the week.

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Photo credit: Jody Horton

Across the street from Lambert’s, is La Condesa, a James Beard-nominated contemporary Mexican restaurant. It’s the perfect place to start the evening with craft cocktails and small plates, such as the guacamole sampler. Exotic ingredients such as agave nectar, cactus lemongrass-infused salt, and vanilla-infused brandy give the drinks a delightful twist. The atmosphere at La Condesa is whimsical and artful, with various sculptures and one-of-a-kind lighting that makes for the perfect dining experience.

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If you’re looking for something more casual with a great happy hour and inexpensive food, look no further than The Jackalope on Austin’s famous 6th Street. There’s a dive bar atmosphere and Texas-sized drinks and burgers that will satisfy your appetite, such as the buffalo blue cheeseburger and the Helldorado (a ridiculously large fruity martini). You’re sure to meet some interesting folks at this Austin institution, and you can get your picture taken with the giant Jackalope (but you must have a drink in your hand to do so)!

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Luxe Apothetique is a full service salon, spa, and boutique that’s carefully curated to provide the perfect shopping experience. Those looking for apparel can pick from brands like Marc by Marc Jacobs, Citizens of Humanity, and Spendid. The apothecary includes high-end skincare brands like Art of Shaving, Lollia, and Caudalie, as well as luxury fragrances from Library of Flowers, Toyko Milk, and many more. It’s the perfect place to find a unique gift, a great outfit, or a trend-inspired Texas souvenir.

 

Susan Bauer, senior client manager in the Cincinnati office of Landor, also contributed to this post. 

Category: Customer experience

Fine art meets free-for-all

August 01, 2014
How will a partnership with eBay affect the Sotheby’s brand?
Karen Attyah
Strategy Director,
based in Landor Cape Town

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A June headline in the New York Times recently caught my attention: “ A Warhol with your moose head? Sotheby’s teams with eBay.” At first glance this seemed like an unlikely marriage. But then again, today it’s expected that brands are nimble, quick to market, and entrepreneurial if they want to survive. At second glance, pedigreed Sotheby’s teaming up with the nouveau riche eBay seems quite logical.

Traditionally, the fine art world evokes exclusivity, secrecy, and over-the-top wealth. It was about storied masterpieces trading hands among moneyed families with heritage and pedigree. And while this still may be true for some of the most sought-after pieces, overall the dynamic is shifting. Sotheby’s now understands that as a brand it needs to be more agile if it is to remain relevant and competitive and continue to provide returns to shareholders. Through its eBay partnership, Sotheby’s aims to reach new targets that would be willing to part with $5,000 to $100,000 online for a piece of fine art (the “mid-market”).

From a business perspective, the company sees the middle market as necessary. From a brand perspective, some see this marriage with eBay as risky. According to the same New York Times article: “As the 270-year-old Sotheby’s moves to broaden its customer base, some analysts say it risks tarnishing its storied image.”

The choice to move online is a no-brainer. The reality is that wealth is unavoidably passing into the hands of the digital savvy. Purchasing luxury items of all kinds online, even in the five-, six-, and seven-digit price range, is common. The success of Gilt demonstrates that consumers aren’t scared to drop $20,000 on a Cartier watch, sight unseen, through one click. Though rare, even on eBay, paintings have been sold online above the million dollar range.

Aware of this, both Christie’s and Sotheby’s stream select auctions and allow online bidding. But for Sotheby’s, this practice is limited, catering more to international customers in remote locations than to the general population. This is where eBay comes in.

By partnering with eBay, Sotheby’s fast-tracks its access to consumers who are at ease with purchasing, sometimes luxury items, online. While the majority of purchases on eBay are quite small, there are enough people considering parting with sums up to four or five digits without blinking an eye. As of writing this sentence, there are currently 96 people watching a $9,000 rare coin and 56 people watching a $21,000 French dining table—both items firmly in what Sotheby’s terms the “middle-market price range.”

Perhaps Sotheby’s would not, through its own streaming auction site, attract these same people as quickly as eBay. Given Sotheby’s highly exclusive and exceedingly high-end image, it’s probable that not everyone in this same group would consider Sotheby’s “for me.”

From a brand perspective, what does Sotheby’s risk?

One could say that eBay is too down-market given that its sellers auction some pretty tacky things. Others could counter that some notable pieces, including Ferraris and super yachts, have changed hands on the site. Whatever the argument, it’s important to remember that eBay isn’t a curator or a seller; it’s a platform that enables access, choice, transparency, and reliability. Out of the gate, Sotheby’s needs to clearly indicate this and build on these eBay attributes. But for the Sotheby’s brand to truly excel in the online environment, it needs to reaffirm, while modernizing, its heritage by:

1. Reinforcing what made the Sotheby’s brand famous; namely its heritage of selecting authentic fine art that has intrinsic aesthetic and investment value. Whether online or offline, this is of utmost importance.

2. Reinterpreting how it curates and presents items for auction in a purely online environment, independent of live streaming or its famed catalogues. Unlike luxury items purchased on sites like Gilt in which the brands themselves have broad distribution and exposure offline and online, fine art doesn’t always have the same public recognition. Additionally, each piece is nuanced and has its own story. Given that many consumers attracted to the Sotheby’s storefront may be less savvy, or even novices in the art world, how information and stories are presented becomes critical.

3. Creating an online storefront that is distinctly Sotheby’s in attitude but very forward-looking. The experience must have the same Sotheby’s gravitas but with a sense of engagement and dynamism that is relevant to a new generation of online Sotheby’s customers who don’t have reason to visit the auction hall.

Image courtesy of Flickr and the Financial Times

 

Category: Brand strategy & positioning
Millennials believe brands have the power to change society.
Mike Flynn
Senior Director, Brand Strategy,
based in Landor San Francisco

The marketing world tends to run through buzzwords like the fashion world runs through styles—each year it’s something new. But just as every new generation recycles fashions from the past, this year’s Cannes marketers were recycling a term: brand purpose. 

Among the themes that spanned the content at this year’s Cannes International Festival of Creativity was that to succeed in today’s millennial-centric world, brands need to be purpose driven. 

While we heard it come to life through presentations from small agencies like the Manifesto Project all the way to big corporations like P&G, I thought it was summed up best in the seminar “Brand Purpose, Millennials, and the Epic Creative That Engages Them.” Here, a panel of top marketers from across the corporate, agency, and media landscape laid out the new expectations of brands from this powerful generation:

  • Millennials believe brands have the power to unite and inspire people, and even to change society. This is a significant shift from previous generations and forces the bar to be raised to a higher emotional ground. 
  • Millennials are rewarding purpose-driven brands that mirror their own values. Brands from Patagonia to Pantene to Honey Maid have found common ground with millennials, over which they’ve created deeper connections. 
  • Millennials seek interaction that allows them to self-express. It’s not enough just to have a point of view that drives a conversation. Brands must be open to inviting their audience in, even if it means they relinquish some control.

The panel went on to talk about some of the key principles inherent in creating a solid brand purpose:

  • A good purpose is about them, not you. A purpose should be developed not around what the brand owners think is important, but rather around what the audience they seek thinks is important. Ultimately, you should be asking, “Would anyone really care?”
  • A good purpose should have the potential to cause a stir. Brands should aim to create a point of view that does nothing less than spark a global conversation, ingraining them into the cultural landscape.

However, brands need to understand what they have the right to champion. They need to be cognizant of trying to take advantage of values about which people do not believe they have a “right” to have an opinion. A brand’s purpose doesn’t have to change the world, but it must change your world.

Like all generations, millennials are tribal people at their core. It’s why they seek to be part of things that are bigger than themselves. They choose their tribes based on the values they see reflected in them. So make clear your purpose, and chances are you’ll build your tribe.

Category: Brand purpose & sustainabilityTags: Millennials

World Cup branding

July 08, 2014
The beautiful game is now the branded game. But while mass commercialization has swept the sport, the magic of football is as enduring as ever.
Dominic Twyford
Country Director,
based in Landor Kuala Lumpur

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The World Cup is under way, and for five weeks, whatever the time of day, a global audience will be tuning in to watch the best national teams compete for the ultimate footballing prize. 

Football was once the working man’s game, but now it is a big business. It has global appeal—more than 3.2 billion people are expected to watch at least part of the tournament live on TV. Not surprisingly, given its global reach, the FIFA World Cup is now a brand in its own right, a brand that corporations want to be aligned with.

Money: The most influential football supporter

Estimates are that the 22 official sponsors and partners of the tournament have each spent between US$14 million and US$200 million to tie their brands to the World Cup. Interestingly, this outlay does not guarantee official sponsors the halo effect that one would automatically expect. Research released by Global Language Monitor this week shows that four of the five brands most associated with the 2014 World Cup are not actually official sponsors.1 

More troubling is the fact that the unofficial four are direct competitors of official sponsors. Beats by Dre has ambushed Sony, KFC has ambushed McDonalds, Nike has ambushed Adidas, and while Continental tops the chart as the brand most linked with the World Cup, Bridgestone, their unofficial challenger, sits just three places behind them.

Beats appear to be the big winner of this World Cup. To try to protect Sony’s sponsorship investment, FIFA banned Beats headphones from the World Cup. Despite this, the likes of Brazil’s Neymar and Italy’s Mario Balotelli were seen wearing them during training sessions. Beats’ film, The Game Before the Game, now has nearly 21 million views on YouTube and has received extensive media coverage. Beats has been successful because of its raw communications. Unlike the superslick, corporate feel of many sponsors’ communications, Beats has captured the intensity of the game and provided an insight into the minds of football players by telling the story of how the match starts in the changing room. In short, the brand has generated relevance with player and public alike.

Brand football still engages the masses

Despite the money that pours into football and concerns about football’s governance, ethics, and transparency, the game endures.

While the business of football may be tarnished, in its purest sense the sport still has the ability to connect with the masses and generate unrivaled levels of passion. Although brands have fallen over themselves to be associated with the sport, arguably the strongest brands at this year’s World Cup are those of the competing nations.

Consider team Brazil as a brand for a moment. It is more than a football team; it has a unique personality and represents a clear set of values and beliefs. It has global appeal. For decades, Brazil has produced the most talented players and entertained football fans. Its consumer audience, the Brazilian public, demands a certain style of play—success on the pitch isn’t enough; winning with stylish football is the prerequisite. These “brand” associations appeal to all fans of the game and transcend nationality.

The winning brands of the World Cup—whether product, player, or team—will be the ones that strip back the game to its fundamental components of raw emotion and passion. Capture these emotions and you can capture a global audience.

 

This article was first published as “The branding of football #worldcup2014,” in Marketing.

Image courtesy of Flickr and Paulisson Miura

 

1. “Beats tops Sony in first Ambush Marketing rankings World Cup 2014,” Global Language Monitor (23 June 2014), languagemonitor.com/analysis/beats-tops-sony-in-first-ambush-marketing-rankings-world-cup-2014/. 

Category: Brand strategy & positioning
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