China is not one-size-fits-all

China is not one-size-fits-all

9 out of 10 Western brands have Chinese consumers pegged as one homogenous group.

So they often take a “one-size-fits-all” approach to market entry when hyper segmentation gets far better results.

Their approach is flawed for a number of reasons, but even as an anthropology student, I fell prey to it as well.

I came to China to do fieldwork on minorities in Yunnan in 1995. Young, full of hope….and DUMB. I knew nothing, but thought I did.

What my younger self and Western brands have in common is the belief that we could survive and thrive anywhere…without a deeper understanding of our environment.

Needless to say, this approach FAILED and I ended up near death with Typhoid Fever.

China is a big and complicated environment with over 450 minorities and dialects…and countless cultural idiosyncrasies, legacy systems and unique traditions that vary widely from place to place.

Decades later, I still consider myself a student of China. Only this time, a humble and open-minded one…an approach that never fails.

#China #InternationalBusiness #ChinaBusiness #Western #Brands #MarketEntry #Segmentation #NeverStopLearning #Anthropology #Student

China: Back to the Future

I was recently asked by a reporter to predict a post-crisis future for China…something I’m not comfortable doing.

That’s because normal, everyday life often feels like a Bruce Sterling novel come to life…where the near future collapses into the present moment.

Let me explain…

I now live in Hong Kong, a place that is running on solid systems and stack infrastructure from the 80’s. And it is still highly functional in many respects. But anyone who works in China knows that Hong Kong isn’t the future.

Every time I fly to Shanghai I tell people I’m going, “Back to the Future,” because each time I return something big has changed (usually for good.)

In my view, there’s no need to predict the future because it is happening NOW.

New technologies are being introduced and adopted en mass, changing habits and cultural norms on a real-time basis.

In eCommerce, the biggest change we see is everything merging into one seamless experience.
Every functional role facing digital commerce must up-skill and cross pollinate.

It’s become an enormous, ever-expanding ecosystem that is increasingly more nuanced. And it’s filled with tripwires.

That makes it extremely difficult to navigate. To be successful, not only do you have to master ecosystem dynamics, but also be ready to change at a moment’s notice.

#China #HongKong #BackToTheFuture #ChinaBusiness #eCommerce #InternationalBusiness #Change #Adapt

KFD Quoted in South China Morning Post

While COVID-19 outbreaks worsen by the hour in the States, life is returning to normal in China….or at least a NEW normal.

People are beginning to come out of their homes to shop, go to restaurants, and let down their guard. All good signs. But there’s still a long way to a full recovery.

I believe China is on that road, with e-commerce faring much better than traditional retail…but a full rebound may take longer given the ripple effects of a global lockdown.

Although we are through the worst, the rest of the world is just now facing reality.

@Finbarr Bermingham and @Su-Lin Tan at the South China Morning Post just published an interesting article about the ramifications that this could have for China’s economy.


#China #COVID19 #ChinaBusiness #InternationalBusiness #Recovery #Economy #EconomicRecovery

Podcast: Should your brand enter the China market?

Podcast: Should your brand enter the China market?

The crisis of uncertainty gripping the West is artificially freezing budgets when a measured response may well be a real opportunity. China is recovering FAST…23 days in and we are now UP over March 2019.

Is now the right time to make a move…or should you put your plans on hold indefinitely? In the latest episode of The China Marketing Podcast, hosted by Lauren Hallanan, we answer all of your questions…including when “Should your brand enter the China market?”

Listen now:


We’ll be sharing what brands should consider before entering China, how to evaluate if a brand is ready, and tips for a successful China launch strategy.

There are two particularly interesting ideas for China market entry discussed in this episode.

  1. It’s actually easier to activate Chinese consumers outside of China and then enter the mainland China market.
  2. People follow people who follow brands.

In China, the faster you are, the more likely you are to succeed. Agility is extremely important, not only because consumer behaviors and technology are rapidly changing, but also because Chinese domestic brands tend to be very agile and international brands just entering the market are going to struggle to compete if they can’t keep up.

You can also see this podcast featured on these sites:

#China #ChinaBusiness #eCommerce #MarketEntry #Strategy #ChinaLaunch #InternationalBusiness

Our top tools to battle isolation (and stay productive) while working remotely

Our top tools to battle #isolation (and stay productive) while working remotely

No doubt working from home has been quite an adjustment for your team…I know it was for ours.

Even though we have an #international team, the bulk of our operations staff were used to working together in one location. We needed to replicate the whiteboard and maintain accountability.

Most of our ops team are Chinese, so we needed a Chinese UI that could operate without a VPN…

While there are great project management #tools out there, many were just a bit too complicated…

In the end, we were left with Trello, Worktile and Teambition.

Trello is the original visual project management tool that looks like post-it notes on a whiteboard. Our other options most likely got their inspiration from Trello.

Worktile is very much like Trello. Everything flows smoothly and it has all the features to allow visual communication of tasks, their progress and set accountability. It also has slack-like messaging features, which is a plus but we’re not really looking to replace WeChat any time soon.

Teambition is functionally very complete. It does everything Worktile does. The UI looks nice but feels just a bit less intuitive when compared to Worktile.

How are you #stayingconnected while #workingremotely?

To Survive an Economic Crisis – Shift Your Mindset

To Survive an Economic Crisis – Shift Your Mindset

China throws curve balls at you. The key to survival can often be as simple as shifting your mindset from selling to buying…

For example, a struggling retailer may want to think about buying distressed properties (or taking over dead leases) from others who can no longer support them. Post crisis, you can become a retailer with a bigger and better footprint at bargain prices or you can even become a successful landlord.

I’m not advocating for taking advantage of others’ pain, but I think a lot of situational opportunities like this only happen in crisis.

When economic conditions are bad, you have to get on the other side of a trade. Instead of trying to sell to China…what should you be buying right now?

If you’ve ever bought property, even if it was just a home, you make all your money when you BUY, not when you sell. That’s because the timing and terms you get usually stink EXCEPT during a crisis.

Bottom line…if you want to survive, you’ve got to be creative. Change your mindset.

Instead of trying to start a whole new business in a short period of time, look at what businesses and opportunities are already there and start shopping.

#China #EconomicCrisis #InternationalBusiness #CrisisManagement #Adapt