UK brands must adapt in China

20 January 2014
BEIJING: British Airways has advised British brands seeking to win more business in China that they can promote their national identity with confidence as long as they demonstrate respect for the local culture and make the best use of new media.

Writing in Marketing Magazine, Paul Rogers, BA's marketing manager for the Middle East, Asia and the Pacific, drew on the airline's experience to emphasise how China requires a different approach to communications.

He said the explosive growth of mobile technology meant most of BA's Chinese customers increasingly heard about the company through social media rather than advertising or traditional media.

BA has gained from using Weibo, the Chinese Twitter-style website, to promote editorial content and develop brand recognition while WeChat, an app that supports social networking via shared streaming content, is also being employed.

In the expectation that WeChat and future platforms will take over from email as the main forum for direct communication, Rogers said the company plans to use it to introduce more booking and service information.

While new media and digital technology is vital to success, he also said the company's British identity has helped to build its "brand story".

"Our customers overseas recognise BA as a British brand and often buy our services for this very reason," he said, adding that the British reputation for "doing things right" attracts Chinese consumers.

However, he went on to warn British brands not to take this for granted and advised them to "adapt and adopt" to local needs.

BA flights to China, for example, have Chinese-speaking crews, Chinese menus and Chinese language in-flight entertainment and media. Cabin crew also have iPads with relevant information about the customers on board.

His article comes just days after John Edwards, global brand director for Jaguar Land Rover, told the BBC that "what Chinese consumers are after are true British brands with real integrity and that's where we've got a great opportunity".

Data sourced from Marketing Magazine, BBC; additional content by Warc staff
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