An interview with Mike Golden of Brandigo China, the branding agency behind Costco’s first warehouse launch in China. Click here to listen to the PodCast.

James Eron: We’re talking today with Mike Golden, President of Brandigo, China. Mike, thanks for joining.

Mike Golden: Happy to join. Thank you.

James Eron: It’s been a incredibly busy week, this past week for you doing the media for launching the Costco warehouse in mainland China. This is their first mainland China warehouse, is that correct?

Mike Golden: Yes, That’s right.

James Eron: We’ve been chatting about how successful that’s been, but walk us through like how did Costco nail the China market?

Mike Golden: First of all, Costco has a great a brand name and great products, and the level of (awareness) made our job very easy. The key was figuring out exactly how to reach the target audience. They already had really good brand recognition with Chinese returnees and expats. Part of that was due to the Kirkland Signature Nuts. This used to be a big gifting item that people would bring back from their trip to the US or elsewhere.

They also had their Tmall store up and running for the past several years, so they knew what products would be successful. As part of that, we leveraged Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs), PR launch events, their WeChat channel, Little Red Book, and other channels that were really focused on that target audience. Because of that we really got through (to their target audience) and used part of their messaging, which is really about having great products at a great price.

James Eron: You did the full campaign for their (physical warehouse) launch in China. Is that correct?

Mike Golden: Yes, that’s correct. So everything leading up for about six months from before the warehouse opening.

James Eron: I saw some of the press reports and the pictures and it was just really amazing. What actually happened on the launch day?

Mike Golden: It was very crowded and traffic was backed up for hours. So it really went nuts on that day, I would say. We closed the store early just to make sure that the members would have a great experience. So we tweaked some of the operations on the back end. But from a membership side we had pre-sold more than 100,000 membership cards, which was a worldwide record. So already from day one, it was a MASSIVE success. And now we’re seeing customers enjoying a fantastic experience at the store.

James Eron: That’s great. Now Costco, of course, is a winning case for you. But other brands out there have not done so well. So what are brands doing wrong?

“A lot of brands have it backwards. They try to start with the channel and often that channel is WeChat.”

Mike Golden: I think there’s a few things. One is that a lot of brands have it backwards. They try to start with the channel and often that channel is WeChat. They come in and they say they want to have a WeChat experience, but that’s actually backwards. The problem is that they haven’t started with the basic homework, which is what we boil down to five things:

  1. Target audience – One is knowing your target audience and really understanding their preferences and their channels and what’s going to resonate with them.
  2. Message – The second is tweaking your message so that you can really make something that appeals to them and attracts them and connects it to your brand and your product.
  3. Channels – Finding the right channels that will get to them. And these channels change all the time. So it might not be WeChat, it might be something else.
  4. Content – Create appealing content, especially if you’re running in long campaigns, you need good content that’s going to be sustainable and you’ll be able to use for a long time. And then also to have, you know, a good product mix.
  5.  Product – Figuring out which product and if you have to adjust your product for the local market.

So it’s really all of those things. So before we even think about the channel, you should step back and think about, you know, where do we start with the target audience and our products.

James Eron: I think that is great advice and you know, we do see, especially with all the conferences that are going on now and pushing WeChat or other specifically other channels and a lot of brands are missing just a fundamental point of who are your customers, what is the message that you should be sending, etc.

So I think it’s very helpful. Mike, how can we get in touch with you?

Mike Golden: You can come to our website and you can send a message through email or fill out the form. It’s probably the best way. You can also find us on LinkedIn. We’re publishing different articles and blogs about different things around brands in China and tactics. So we’d love it if you came and followed us on LinkedIn as well.

James Eron: Perfect. Mike, thanks so much for your time today.

Mike Golden: Great. Thank you very much.

About James Eron

James Eron has over 20 years of consulting and industry experience in China, Japan, and the US. As a Partner at Kung Fu Data, James is a China market entry expert bringing quality brands into China and executing strategic turnarounds for brands struggling in the world’s most competitive eCommerce market. His work makes extensive use of China eCommerce data to identify and capture market opportunities. Clients include a wide range of B2C brands from apparel, cosmetics, and luxury to pet food and consumables. James is a frequent writer on China eCommerce topics and is regularly invited to speak at events surrounding China’s e-commerce sector.

About Kung Fu Data

With offices in Beijing, Shanghai, Hong Kong, San Francisco, New York, and Rome, Kung Fu Data is an independent data firm and market maker possessing a rare combination of authentic understanding of the West and China in-depth local know-how. Since 2010, we have used proprietary data and optimization technology to help foreign brands enter and thrive in China’s largest e-marketplaces. Our sole mission is to bring brand owners a level of strategy and data transparency they never thought possible.

#marketing #china #ecommerce #WeChat