Saturday, 26 July 2008

China, on your mark, get ready, SPEND!

The China people need to spend more money!! That was the clear statement from the China government several years back. Or at least that is what I heard. For any right-minded business person this is an invitation of a life time. So we ask,

Why did the government issue this statement? Also, with sales of western products, with the exception of highend, largly falling short of expectation, what can we do different?

The answer to the first question:

  • The average Chinese consumer saves 90% of their earning wage
  • The China economy and their middle class are, arguably, the fastest growing in the world
  • China has the largest population and by logical extention the largest potential consumer market by country
  • The trade imbalance between China and the west is huge and unlikely to be sustainable
  • Growing the Chinese consumer market will help in buffering against a weakening of orders from the west
  • Spending puts more money back into the economy Well hell, spending is just so much more fun than saving!

    (This video was done by a friend of mine, Patrick Carr a film maker in Shanghai, and provides an excellent look into the emerging consumer market in China with an angle on the easier to penetrate highend brand market – please note my interview!)

Question two:

Well all of this sounds pretty easy, if the China consumer is buying then all there is to do is sell. It must be as easy as falling off a barstool. Well, many Western brands have thought that and not succeeded. The solution lies simply in having a better understanding of the Chinese consumer.

Simply put there is no China consumer and therein lies the problem! The China consumer has not had access to consumer goods or freedom to enjoy lifestyle and luxury products. Therefore the problem lies in knowing how, what and why to buy rather than to buy or not.

There is a significant opportunity to provide guidance to the emerging China consumer on shopping behaviour. Providing the confidence to spend their money and showing them how it will enhance their lives is an important first step to energising the China consumer.

Friday, 18 July 2008

From Advertising to Interesting

When I see articles like the one displayed here questioning the vitality of Social Networks as a viable marketing channel I laugh. And not just a giggle either, it is a full on belly laugh – all the way to the bank. Social networks are “social” places. Traditional advertising and cut and paste print advertising does not work and has no place in them. Attempting to use these methods to reach consumers is on par with placing a square peg in a round hole. The term Behavioural Targeting gives me another giggle. Huge amounts on money, brain power and industry effort is put into this exercise. It is the real world equivalent of a dog chasing a car or a moth drawn to a flame. But being the moth is never the same as being the flame. So behavioural targeting will always be a less effective strategy than being the flame or being interesting.

Changing from Advertising to interesting is the only way to fully reach your consumer market in Social Network spaces. Move your content from the side of the page, banner ads, to rich and engaging content in the middle of the page. Not only is it inline with what people expect to see in Social Network spaces but, unlike banner ads, its placement is free. What does this mean? Simply become a content provider that interacts with consumers as they would with each other and do it honestly.

Some easy steps to becoming interesting

  • Think of yourself as a personality not a product
  • Create content that engages consumers (e.g. ask a question)
  • Follow up – one time placement is not much different than spam
  • Is it something you would send to your friends?
  • Evolve over time, that is reveal more and different aspects of yourself
  • Value the relationships you build with consumers

How do you make behavioural targeting work for you? Behavioural targeting is a good predictor of what people want. Rather than using it to place banner ads, use it as a predictive tool to place content they want where they want to see it. Offer more not less to the relationship and it will pay dividends.

Sunday, 13 July 2008

Vive la Revolution!

  • It is timely that on the eve of one of the most famous revolutions ever I write about the greatest revolution ever; the democratisation of the internet. Vive la Revolution! We now live in an age where the individual voice speaks with the same volume as big business and government. I refer to this as the “Me to You” change in communication enable by the internet’s ability to create instant and sustainable dialogue across geography and time. In my Bastille Day analogy, “Me” is represented by the French monarchy that was oblivious, and uninterested, in the screams of discontent coming from the masses, or “You”. However, even though the rich and pampered were not listening, the power of “world of mouth” spread the message throughout Paris’s disenfranchised and all the “You’s” came together to overthrow the ruling order.

    Gloriously, we see that now happening again. User generated content and activities on Social spaces have higher traffic and exert greater influence than on big business branded sites. The influence of the individual is clear. So in this age of revolution how can big business protect their proverbial heads?

    Simply put, listen and engage.
  • Create content that is interesting and valuable to your consumers
  • Do not assume your content is interesting just because it is big and flashy
  • Want and appreciate feedback from your consumers
  • Be glad that they add, share and contribute to your message
  • Respond to their contribution, answer questions, give them more of what they want, change what they do not like
  • Be there for the long haul – no hit and run techniques. Your investment should be to build lasting relationships over time by being consistent

Saturday, 5 July 2008

The Farmer's Tale

Complexity in simplicity, it is amazing how efficiently everything works around us. I find great satisfaction in the natural order of things. Like water finding its natural level, social networks have become the great leveller of hype and propaganda driven by PR and Marketing firms. This large statement is deserving of explanation. Simply put, for as long as can be remembered advertisers have, with great determination, attempted to sway public opinion. This was done with significant success largely due to a monopoly on the channels of communication. That is, all major methods of communicating on a mass scale where controlled by those that could afford it. E.g. newspapers, television, radio and film. Internet revolution! Social Networks come alive! Consumers direct the brand! The rules have changed forever. In the following diagram I will outline in simple terms the new path for business ideas to grow in Social Network spaces.

1. The seed – businesses today have a great opportunity to provide input into the social network spaces. With resources and reach that are beyond most individuals there is a social obligation to foster ideas and provide content for discussion.
2. Fertile soil – when placing content it is important to locate it in areas where it has a chance to take hold. With the ease of finding information and well developed social networks around topics there is little sense in putting all things everywhere. That is, be selective where you seed your information. Placing information in inappropriate places makes it at best irrelevant and possibly seen as spam.
3. Nurture – good content delivered honestly and consistently will allow the conversation to take hold and build an audience that is interested and engaged.
4. Growth – an engaged audience that has good quality content will nurture it. Through word of mouth and adding their own content they can turn a small seed of an idea into an apple orchard of knowledge.
5. Harvest the rewards – Good work delivers good rewards. A properly managed campaign provides benefits to everyone. Consumers are rewarded with an opportunity to add value through their participation and. Businesses benefit by gaining valuable consumer feedback, loyalty and, hopefully, increased revenue.

In the coming weeks this space will provide a deeper understanding on this shift from business driven to consumer driven and how this impacts the way the two interact and respond to each other.