03 November 2016 • As we've all no doubt heard by now, China is retooling its economy. In a case of 'what got you here won't get you there', declining global demand for manufactured goods combined with a desire to climb up the IP food chain has meant that China has hitched its wagon to the innovation train. But how committed are they?
22 June 2016 • Across North Asia, the murky, semi-closeted 2D world of ACG (Animation, Comic, Game - and now also 'N' for short novel) is aggressively taking territory from the 3D world of traditional culture by breaking down the walls that have kept them apart. And it is profoundly changing the way that brands are behaving.
01 June 2016 • Stephen Hawking, among others, has said that artificial intelligence (AI) is the beginning of the end. The end for us, anyway. I must say that I am inclined to agree. Recently, a futurist was telling me that D-Wave, the quantum computing system from Google and NASA, is one million times faster than the fastest computer today. And that IBM's cognitive learning labs are self-learning without any human direction needed. They will be the future of trading and a great many other things.
30 March 2016 • Arguably the most public face of China's e-marketing juggernaut is Singles' Day. One can't help but be in awe of the sheer scale of it: 278 million orders for 30,000 brands offering everything from smartphones to smart-looking underwear were placed in the 24-hour window, resulting in over US$ 14 billion changing hands. And it's speeding up like a rocket. This year's dollar volume was 60% greater than the year before and it was the same the year before that. And given the runaway success of it, e-comm titan Alibaba, which first commercialised this celebration of singledom, plans to use the Singles' Day concept to spearhead Alibaba's globalisation strategy. Within a year or two, this China-born shopping frenzy may become another commercialised global date like Valentine's Day – but on a whole different scale.
11 February 2016 • In mid-2014, this column talked about the troubles of China's sports brands in getting Chinese to put down their smartphones and do a bit of exercise. Whether it be outdoor hiking, swimming, soccer, basketball, while they are all growing, across the board, the incidence of people around China volunteering to exert themselves in the name of for-the-love-of-it sport remains very low. However, we may be witnessing the beginning of China's own jogging revolution, akin to that which took hold of the US in the 1980s. Chinese are now running all over the place. And it is brands' use of mobile media that has provided the necessary inspiration.
02 February 2016 • We just don't trust like we used to, it seems. According to a recent study, two-thirds of the world's countries fall into the 'distruster' category. A separate study from last year indicated that only 3% of Americans, British, Italians, Swedes, French and Italians say that 'business businesses are very honest'.
17 December 2015 • When I was back in Melbourne a couple of weeks ago, I saw a new Victoria Bitter beer ad on TV. Only that it wasn't. It was the exact same idea, music, storyline and voice-over that ran for decades until the 1990s, when new management thought they could do better and messed with the recipe. Despite 20 years of trying with a dozen different directions, they couldn't improve on the magic of the original blue collar anthem and have literally rerun the idea from 40 years ago. Seeing this, I was reminded how much 'consistency' used to matter and how it seems to matter less now. Or is it, as some say, an 'advertising idea' that is no longer relevant?
17 November 2015 • In some respects, the insurance industry in Asia seems to think it is 1976. The industry is dominated by hoards of insurance agents, as it was years ago. Although they knock on your WhatsApp account now rather than your front door, a human army is still the main distribution channel. And the fear-based strategies that defined the industry's communications are still in use. Cringeworthy ads of concerned, but pleasant-looking insurance agents, with clipboards in hand, stand in the hospital room as tearful family members nod appreciatively that their policy will pay up.
03 November 2015 • Last month, China eCommerce giant Alibaba announced that it will invest US$4.5 billion in bricks-and-mortar retail Goliath Suning. Although this seems like a bold offensive, when we see this in the context of the maturing China eCommerce scene, we can see that Alibaba really had no choice.
22 September 2015 • There's a lot of talk about the 'new normal' in China. And with the slowdown now percolating every corner of Chinese life, one is left with a palpable sense that, from consumers, the 'new normal' calls for 'more value'.
28 July 2015 • If you step back from the buzz of the day to day, there is a palpable sense of things 'tightening up' across China. The raging trade in property – the national obsession that has created more wealth in China than any other endeavour – is now bound by regulation. The much-publicised 'war on corruption' is an attempt to close up the back channels that have defined how China used to work.
02 July 2015 • If only young Chinese women had taken to sports with the same enthusiasm as they have for public square dancing, China's sport brands would have saved themselves a lot of heartache and been a lot more successful in inspiring participation. Given the success of Sport England's 'This Girl Can', the question has to be asked 'are China's girls really different from those of the West or are China's sports brands just not getting it?'
18 June 2015 • You have to feel sorry for the big luxury brands. Encouraged by years of explosive growth and projections of China becoming the world's largest luxury market, they expanded like crazy, opening dozens of new outlets every year and ever-larger flagship stores. And then in late 2012, President Xi Jinping launched his much-publicised crackdown on 'excess'. Ever since, China's luxury industry has been in a flat spin, dazed and confused, lacking clear direction. Is this the end of the 'Golden handbag'?
About Edward Bell
Edward Bell is CEO of FCB Greater China. Fluent in Mandarin, he is recognised as one of the region's top strategic and planning experts. He was previously head of strategy and planning at Ogilvy & Mather Group.