The Warc Blog

Chinnovation

Posted by: Edward Bell, CEO, FCB Greater China

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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?

Regardless of what is to come, some large strides in this direction have been made already. Where intercity travel used to take days in old rattlers, China today has the world's most extensive high-speed rail network. Today's China produces 100 million graduates a year who are unfamiliar with the hardships of their parents. The so-called 'workshop to the world' now submits more patent applications than any other country, has committed 2.5% of GDP to science and innovation and RMB 6.5 billion purely for student entrepreneurship, as a counter to the Silicon Valley effect.

03 November 2016, 15:07
The rise of ACGN culture

Posted by: Edward Bell, CEO, FCB Greater China

Blog author

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.

The world of cosplay - anime that originated from Japan - is not new. Living in Shanghai as I do, from time to time I see adult elves and fantasy warriors somewhat self-consciously waiting in line for taxis and trains. But it was always a subculture, operating below the glow of the big-business billboards and the massive malls that set the pace of mainstream consumerism in the major cities of China and North Asia.

22 June 2016, 14:51
AI and WeChat

Posted by: Edward Bell, CEO, FCB Greater China

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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.

But it was when I saw a video of a robot, designed by Boston Dynamics, running through the snow with no trailing cables that The Terminator became a little bit too real. Knowing all this, our minds then go to China. What are they doing? And of course, China is designing all these kinds of things too, and much of this is happening behind closed doors with the military. But before we get too concerned, China's WeChat shows us a whole new side of AI – one that is cute, playful, even flirty.

01 June 2016, 15:37
Is Singles' Day good for brands?

Posted by: Edward Bell, CEO, FCB Greater China

Blog author

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.

But what is interesting about all of the commentary about Singles' Day is that it tends to be from Alibaba's perspective -the retailer. But what does it mean for the brands? Are they as happy as Alibaba seems to be? Is Singles' Day a happy marriage for both the retailer and the brand?

30 March 2016, 15:25
Point of view: China's running race

Posted by: Edward Bell, CEO, FCB Greater China

Blog author

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.

How things have changed. When I worked at Adidas several years ago, in order to create the impression that the Shanghai Marathon was popular, the Shanghai authorities had to call on the army and Communist Youth League to 'fortify' the number of runners participating. Tellingly, their heart wasn't in it, as most of them dropped out after the first 5K.

11 February 2016, 17:11
Point of view: Trust and social media

Posted by: Edward Bell, CEO, FCB Greater China

Blog author

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'. In Germany, the number was 1%, and that was before VW's Dieselgate (perhaps they knew something we didn't). But the most recent report from a multi-year study called New Realities shows how, when it comes to 'trust' or the lack of it, China 'leads' the way. For China, in just the past two years, the percentage of people who don't trust information from manufacturers has increased a staggering 240%, well ahead of India, Brazil, the US, Russia and the UK. Why the sudden spike in China? And in the information age, what does it mean for our assumptions about the role of information and trust-building in marketing?

One reason would be the brand safety scandals, so commonplace in China they have become a kind of rhythm of life. The melamine milk scandal, the Fonterra botulism scandal, the carcinogenic Bawang shampoo scandal, the dead pigs in the Shanghai river scandal, the KFC expired chicken scandal. And more. Each of these scandals hits twice; the first blow is the breaking news itself and the second is the inevitable evasion of the news by the brand's PR team. A dual action grinding down the brand's hard-earned equity.

02 February 2016, 10:01
Does consistency matter?

Posted by: Edward Bell, CEO, FCB Greater China

Blog author

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?

Asia has always struggled with consistency. Li-Ning, the only Chinese sports brand that owes its origins to an actual sportsperson, has dithered terribly over the years. It has had eight different taglines in ten years since it 'got serious about branding' in 2002. Tsingtao is another very conspicuous missed opportunity. Revolving doors in marketing management have not had an enduring, anchoring idea to channel each leader's new vision. As a result, Tsingtao is not much more than a bland, but familiar, face in China, and outside of China, is little more than a cliché for sale in Chinese restaurants. Thinking about Asia's own biggest brands – Panasonic, Canon, LG, Samsung – with the exception of Sony, you're really pressed to attach any idea or sense of self to any of them.

17 December 2015, 14:57
Emotional insurance

Posted by: Edward Bell, CEO, FCB Greater China

Blog author

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.

Well, things seem to be changing. Some new brands have entered the market with a direct attack on the establishment. In Singapore, NTUC, a local brand, is trying to drive a wedge between it and the large multinationals with its 'Simple, Honest, Different' positioning. And, in an interesting move that seems to borrow from online dating, they offer a system where you can 'choose your agent' via their online app, where you can view their profile picture and other important digits.

17 November 2015, 09:38
eCommerce wars

Posted by: Edward Bell, CEO, FCB Greater China

Blog author

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.

It's fair to say that all anyone wants to talk about in China these days – in marketing circles – is eCommerce. The explosive growth, the emergence of 'Singles' Day' as the 'one hyper buying day to rule them all' and the huge IPO of Alibaba have propelled China eCommerce into something of a celebrity topic. But the honeypot attracts the bears. And we now have massive China-sized bears all frantically clawing at the continually evolving eCommerce culture. Now they are forming e-alliances and are e-ttacking each other.

03 November 2015, 10:45
The 'new normal'

Posted by: Edward Bell, CEO, FCB Greater China

Blog author

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'.

There was a time, several years ago amid the double-digit growth era, when the deep frugality of Chineseness almost gave way to financial flippancy. People were so confident of the future that the cost of things was rendered not unimportant, but less relevant. When everything is going up, what matters is what it will be worth, not what it costs now.

22 September 2015, 08:59
 

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