Alon Lian, head of TCL's brand strategy, accepted an exclusive interview with WARC to share how TCL vigorously promotes industries that are closely related to sustainable development in its own business, and how the current trade frictions and the impact of the epidemic have increased uncertainty. Adhere to the "globalization" road under the environment, and make full use of its own advantages to cope with the pressure of the supply chain; Facing new platforms, new technologies, and new consumer groups, TCL has built its own media management model - "Snow Mountain Model" to optimize management Marketing strategy.

Alon Lian

Alon Lian, Head of Brand Strategy, TCL

WARC: No matter from the national strategy level, corporate level or consumer choice level, the issue of sustainable development is getting more and more attention globally. So how does TCL understand it and how to implement it at the current stage?

Lian Zilong: TCL can be understood as China's Samsung. This group includes many entities, about 100 companies, which are merged into three major industry entities: one is smart terminals, including white appliances, black appliances, mobile phones, and us. VR glasses, which are relatively national-level smart devices; the other two are 2B business TCL Zhonghuan and TCL CSOT. These three major industrial entities jointly support the entire TCL Group.

TCL Central is the world's leading new energy company, using photovoltaic new energy. After noticing the "double carbon" incident in 2021, we have made a difference in green factories and clean energy. Relying on TCL Zhonghuan, we have also developed photovoltaic clean power stations in the business field.

Each enterprise in TCL will make its own strategic planning instructions from the highest level of the company to guide the overall operation and development in the next 3-5 years or 5-10 years. In 2022, TCL will list the theme of "dual carbon" in the highest-level strategy of the entire company, and TCL's COO will personally lead the team to promote the comprehensive penetration and improvement of the "dual carbon" business within the company.

We hope that part of our business can give a strong boost to "double carbon", and in the process of corresponding resource replacement and prosperity promotion with the external society, we can also use the theme of double carbon to promote it.

In fact, in terms of sustainable development, TCL has been doing it for many years. It has a dedicated TCL environmental protection company, and cooperates with local governments and NGOs in the entire industrial chain and ecological chain to deal with waste and sewage. Turn waste into treasure. TCL didn't start thinking about "sustainable development" after everyone mentioned it, but it was laid out many years ago.

In addition, our TCLGreen project belongs to the "green" part. In 2022, we will cooperate with Discovery (Discovery Channel) and cooperate with some artists around the world to make green installation transformations, such as transforming discarded TV circuit boards into green and sustainable air The purification system is placed in different places and exhibited as an art installation.

Using upcycled waste electronic circuit boards as cladding materials to make a device in the form of grass blades

Image source: TCL micro-responsibility official account

TCL Group has gone through 41 years by 2022, and has gone through the life cycles of many industries. Starting from telephones and televisions, the company has experienced prosperity and recession, and almost died during the shock process. on the way to internationalization. Therefore, another very important theme of sustainable development besides being related to society is the sustainable development of the enterprise itself, that is, to find the second development curve of the enterprise itself in order to extend its own life cycle. What aspects of the layout. This may start with the model of the entire value chain, from supply chain, production line to business form, how to coordinate resources and reuse functions in the middle, TCL has already thought about these very clearly within the entire group.

WARC: Different companies in China may have different understandings of sustainable development. Some companies may think that sustainable development is an extension of corporate social responsibility, and may do more things like public welfare. Has TCL also been involved in this aspect?

Lian Zilong: Charity itself is relatively down-to-earth, allowing us to do some very down-to-earth things. This year marks the 10th anniversary of TCL's public welfare. We have also made some social expressions to let everyone know that we have done a lot in the past 10 years, such as the Candlelight Award for rural teachers. In fact, we did it earlier than Ali.

There is also TCLforHer, for example, which is aimed at the sustainable development of women in society. It has been working on it for two or three years and will continue to do so. In this project, we have become the official partner of the FIBA Women's Basketball World Cup in 2022, and the Chinese team has achieved a good second place in this competition. At the level of public welfare, we have made a series of efforts together with the Women's Public Welfare Foundation for the future health of female basketball players and their development in sports.

Image source: TCL Zhixiang Life Weibo

WARC: TCL is a global company. Are there any differences between domestic and foreign countries in the implementation of sustainable development strategies?

Lian Zilong: There will be. Because our headquarters is in China, some of the things we do in China will be more closely related to the strategy of the headquarters, and the sustainability of the OEM factory, manufacturing, products, packaging, and subsequent marketing actions will be more closely related. Some.

In some overseas regions, if you want to truly achieve sustainable development, there is no way to do what the headquarters asks you to do. You must fully respect the local culture and form. For example, in India, women's issues, children's education issues, and water resource issues may be more important propositions in the field of sustainable development than the Chinese market cares about them.

The US market is a different story, and the degree of sustainable development is also different. The founder of Patagonia, an American outdoor sports brand, donated his entire company to the earth. Everyone will think that he has devoted his life to the field of sustainable development. The entire company is going all out for this. This is a characteristic of European and American companies. The North American market also belongs to TCL's important global layout. Here we do some sustainable development work, just like a "little brother" who wants to join everyone and do what we can and should do as much as possible. . This is determined by local characteristics, and the progress of sustainable development and the measures taken are different.

WARC: How does the sustainable development strategy advance from the level of brand communication to the impact on consumers?

Lian Zilong: I think the entire industry needs to reorganize the content that consumers can perceive. At first, we promoted product packaging, promotional slogans, and event marketing. Consumers have a strong perception of these aspects and pay for environmental protection. But today's consumers are research-oriented. You say you are marketing for good reasons, but consumers may think that you are marketing without good causes. A typical example is that every time you drink a bottle of water of a certain brand, you can donate a penny to the children in the disaster area. People will think why not donate money directly, but mobilize social emotions to pay for your marketing.

What Patagonia does for sustainable development has nothing to do with consumers, but its own choice, but the model it uses is to attract like-minded consumers to join its business-consumers can buy its related products and recycle waste Plastic is donated to it to be recycled. This model is the complete opposite of the good cause marketing mentioned above, and there is no doubt that Patagonia has done a very good job.

Apple has done a good job. It has achieved carbon neutrality at the operational level of its own company. It will continue to do related things in the future, such as cooperating with TCL Central to build wind and solar power generation in places with green mountains and green waters. station to help the local area to make sustainable development transformation. This approach is more like using B-end industry solutions to package and disseminate the C-end. This is also a point that I am very concerned about when I do brand marketing.

Therefore, in guiding consumers, the first thing is to generate brand facts, and make it an industry-level case through creative packaging, so that everyone has a better perception and forms word-of-mouth communication. Apple has done a very good demonstration in this regard.

Second, it is best to have some interactive participation, so that consumers feel that this is a common cause between them and the company in the process.

Thirdly, the more advanced is that the enterprise forms its own concept of sustainable development. This concept is a kind of spiritual guidance, and on the basis of brand facts, it becomes an evangelist, telling everyone what value we do bring. .

WARC: The trend of "de-globalization" brought about by trade frictions and the impact of the epidemic has led to increasingly fierce local competition in China. How do you view the related impacts and challenges?

Lian Zilong: Challenges must outweigh opportunities. First of all, from the perspective of the general environment, companies are forced to return to the domestic market from overseas markets. It is conceivable that the entire Chinese market has shown a very serious involution; automobiles, returning to the perspective of the company itself, for TCL, domestic The demand cannot digest our supply. Enterprises like ours in the upstream of the supply chain must eventually export their production capacity to the world. This is why we still insist on globalization, which makes us face more difficulties than ever before. There are many.

TCL Appears at IFA 2022 in Berlin, Germany

Image source: TCL Smart Life

Tariff barriers, disruption of global supply chains, exclusion of Chinese companies by Western economies, and the transition from "Made in China" to "Made in India" and "Made in Vietnam" in terms of production are all real impacts we are facing. It is equally difficult for a globalized enterprise whether it chooses to "roll" in the domestic market or wants to get a share of the overseas market.

WARC: Supply chain issues are particularly prominent under the influence of "de-globalization". How do you think we can deal with them?

Lian Zilong: In the current state of "de-globalization", at least enterprises must reserve all raw materials in advance and make a more scientific ratio. Going back to the essential logic, it is impossible for a company to do everything well. It is necessary to summarize its own success factors, find its own differentiated characteristics, and adopt different strategies to gain the ability to resist the cold winter. For example, why TCL built its own factory line is because it needs to be able to digest it in the supply chain.

Although it is difficult for enterprises to grasp all the details in the entire supply chain strategy, the general direction must not be wrong. The supply of raw materials is easy to cut off. The strategy is nothing more than buying more in advance, but this will take up the company's supply chain funds. It may also be due to model iterations that the purchased spare parts are no longer suitable for the next generation of products. This is very obvious in the chip field. Mobile phone chips are iterated every year. Now that 5G is available, who will use 4G chips?

TCL has production capacity, and 30~50% of it serves itself, and the rest can also serve other enterprises. A better way for us is to hoard more in the current state, and then build production lines to digest the hoarded materials, and then quickly "vomit" them out through our distribution system, and relieve the pressure on the supply chain through rapid circulation.

To deal with supply chain problems, the core is for each company to find its own capabilities and advantages, and then match different strategies and models.

WARC: At the same time, in order to cope with the current changing environment, will TCL make corresponding adjustments in the talent structure of the marketing strategy team?

Lian Zilong: TCL's personnel is relatively compact, the overall brand organization is stable, the brand's future description is clear, and the current performance is also good, so it is a safer and better state for everyone.

But now that the entire industry is in a conservative marketing environment, restraint is needed. We found that some big companies, including Apple, have also reduced their marketing actions. Therefore, I think the demand for creative and innovative talents in the whole industry has dropped sharply. These talents have no "useful place". But the real use should be whether you can complete a project from beginning to end, whether you can meet the needs of reducing costs and increasing efficiency at this stage, and whether you can do a good job in progress management and management in this more uncertain situation. Risk Management. Here are some observations and thoughts of my own.

WARC: In fact, we also found that TCL entered the "2022 Kantar BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese Brands" in 2022. For such an old national brand, how does it reshape its brand value in the current environment?

Lian Zilong: During the period of turbulence that TCL experienced before, many things could not be done. If some social hotspots were absent, the brand power would naturally be weak. And after we have stabilized the entire brand lineup, we should let the brand do some growth. The first step is to do brand restoration.

As an old brand of more than 40 years, TCL has a certain degree of national recognition, but new consumers do not know what TCL is, and old users will think it is a brand from the previous era. But in fact, TCL Huaxing and TCL Zhonghuan on the B-side are already the top two brands in China and the top five brands in the world. You will find that TCL has quietly made the B-side like this. Looking at the C-end, the Thunderbird TV brand is also owned by TCL. In all kinds of ways, you will find that TCL has also done a lot of things, but people outside don't know it.

Well, on the one hand, we will explain clearly to BrandZ, because there is a statistical algorithm of assets in the list, and the capital valuation of TCL in 2021 should be 20 billion; Knowing that China Star and Zhonghuan belong to TCL, although from the perspective of business management, it needs to be divided into industries, but as a brand, it needs to be cohesive.

You can't imagine that TCL has been absent from the Spring Festival marketing for nearly 10 years, and it never existed at such an important moment to make the whole people feel good about the brand. So after we did the Spring Festival communication project, everyone suddenly found that TCL was back. And we came back with a kind of temperature, such as in the track of youth imagination. We need to expose or reintroduce TCL to today's consumer group.

Our brand restoration also includes cooperation with CCTV's "Big Country Brand" column. TCL will cooperate with leading directors in the industry, hoping to make something refreshing; and, in 2022, TCL's investment in the Douyin platform is the same as in previous years. Behind this is a series of renewals such as the brand's content and style of play.

WARC: We found that some of the contents of the official account "TCL Imagination" are very interesting. What is the idea of making this account?

Lian Zilong: The "TCL Imagination" official account itself and the IP-based content released here are a big IP that TCL wants to continue to create. We hope that when "imagination" is mentioned, everyone will think of TCL. The three letters of TCL themselves do not have any special meaning, so we have to give it a special meaning by doing this.

The word "imagination" is chosen because technology is always led by imagination in the process of development. We often say that if the IP of "TCL Imagination" has a spokesperson, we hope it will be Da Vinci. Leonardo da Vinci proposed the use of solar energy hundreds of years ago, and TCL Central has realized it today. This is the imagination spanning hundreds of years and creating today's value.

Imagination is also what Chinese technology companies lack the most. We are always catching up with others, copying others, and lacking creativity. Therefore, we hope to build an IP, so that TCL's brand, products and resources will continue to intersect with "imagination", so as to better influence the company's interior, and also hope to attract more imaginative people and things from outside. and resources, come and develop together with us.

Under this IP, we will deeply cultivate three tracks: Listens, Looks and Links.

Listens focuses on the youth track, listens to the voices of young people, sees their imaginations, inspires each other, and projects more light and heat for their future, the revitalization of the country, and the development of the world's scientific and technological fields. We have established the "Youth Imagination Fund" and will launch TCL Vision Talk, a platform for dialogue and co-creation with young people in the future.

Looks look at the science track. Now is an era of traffic, but what we hope this society sees is "the traffic of the times", that is, those scientific workers who are promoting the progress of this society. Here we have done some things with the TCL Public Welfare Fund, such as sponsoring South China University of Technology, hoping to support the advancement of their scientific career.

Links is actually in line with the theme of sustainable development. It talks about how to use TCL's capabilities and form solutions to solve some social problems, such as whether our glasses or screens can be more friendly to color-blind people so that they can enjoy "Screen Equality".

To sum up, we hope that "TCL Imagination" will be a long-term and sustainable IP that can not only sell things for TCL, but also bring mental cognition.

Image source: TCL Imagination Public Account

WARC: Now many companies are actively embracing private domain or interest e-commerce. What is special about TCL in utilizing various channels?

Lian Zilong: Originally, our market media expenses were mainly placed on TV and outdoors, but in 2021 we reorganized the plan. In the actual delivery in 2022, digital media has already accounted for more than 1/3 of the entire media delivery. For emerging media and new technologies, we all consider doing it. Moreover, TCL has independently created a media management model "Snow Mountain Model", in which we digest our annual media innovation and core themes to be expressed.

The model is divided into 3 layers:

The bottom layer is visibility. For example, doing SEO, this is a defensive layout to ensure visibility when being searched. So we're going to spread the volume and improve visibility. Through analysis, we will determine where the emerging users who need to communicate are, and then go to where to make the core and underlying visibility layout.

The second layer advocates "breaking the circle" on the circle level. It is also controversial to call it "breaking the circle". Sometimes we do not have the ability to break the circle, so it is good to manage the inside of the circle first. For example, in sports marketing, we will conduct a round of deep cultivation on Huya or some e-sports live broadcast platforms; if it is youth-oriented content, we will focus on Bilibili to try some new interactive content, including creative solicitations initiated by brands To inspire young people to participate in content creation. This is to grasp new user demand trends, and to make some different developments in media combination forms and new content ideas. The core idea is to use simple power to respect consumers instead of marketing consumers, and the effect will naturally be good.

The third layer is to make some textured content. We intend to cooperate with media such as "GQ", "Esquire", Tencent Video, and iQiyi, but the logic is not to follow whatever is popular, but to use these media to express our brand philosophy. For example, we cooperated with "Mr. Esquire" to "let young people's imaginations be more free". "Imagination" is the key word of our common core, and we interpret and express it better through more heavy fashion media.

Image source: TCL Imagination Weibo

WARC: In terms of new technologies, which ones will be applied in marketing in the future? For example, Metaverse, have you seen some good application cases?

Lian Zilong: In terms of metaverse, virtual people, VR, and AR, I don’t think there is a good space that I can imagine to do real brand practice, and it’s more of a gimmick. There are no particularly good cases so far.

A good case is bound to the gene. For example, a game company or an AR company is bound to its innate business gene to make this thing. Another example is the virtual person, Bilibili has done a good job, because the two-dimensional world itself has the point of virtual person idols, and there are better scenes to combine. But virtual human idols are still built according to an IP, which is the same as creating other IPs. Don’t make a virtual human without meaning, otherwise the value is really not great. For example, the brand side shoots a short video with a virtual idol, which is essentially a cartoon and has nothing to do with Metaverse.

The other is the virtual space, and looking at it now, it is actually an upgraded version of Happy Farm. And if you look at it from the perspective of advertising media, it is a different form of advertising space, and it can be done. But there must be a business philosophy of the user community. If a series of supporting facilities cannot be used to form an ecology, then the experience will be very poor. Just like the movie "Ready Player One", which describes the future human beings indulging in the virtual world, to do a series of things in it, the sense of experience must be complete. But now we don't see such a thing.

So in my opinion, Apple is the smartest company. It always throws away its ideas first, and only enters when the product can be implemented. At this time, it means that the industry has truly entered a mature stage, and it is not a gimmick.

I think technology has two directions, one is industry, looking at the stars and the sea, a bit like Musk, exploring technology in the real world around people, and discovering their past and future for human beings; the other is to let everyone walk into the metaverse In this virtual world, some people can better realize the second identity transformation, but this is a chaotic state. As far as my personal values are concerned, I will be more inclined to industry, the road of exploring from the real world to the stars and the sea.

WARC: Sports marketing has also become a hot topic again because of the Football World Cup at the end of 2022. TCL also takes sports marketing as a focus, so how does it create its own differentiated sports marketing in this field?

Lian Zilong: Generally speaking, sports marketing is more concerned by the top decision-makers of enterprises, because most private entrepreneurs in China hope to serve the country through industry, so in addition to improving their own industrial form and product services, another very important point is, China has "small balls but no big balls" in sports, and the spirit of sports competition is a common language all over the world, so many entrepreneurs usually choose to continue to do sports marketing as long as they have the ability.

In this era, different companies have different choices. Alibaba chose the women's football team, vivo chose the NBA, and TCL chose the CBA, the Chinese Men's Basketball Professional League. This choice will have a certain degree of continuity, and it will not be said to do this today and do that tomorrow.

We have been in CBA for 10 years, and we must have taken a fancy to its exposure at the beginning, which is the original intention of making a brand. Derived from the CBA, we have established a good cooperative relationship with the player Yi Jianlian, and we have the "Yi Jianlian Cup".

In the field of sports, we also pay attention to the resonance and communication with today's young consumers. In 2021, we sponsored the EDG e-sports team, which is also long-term.

Image source: TCL Zhixiang Life Weibo

TCL also has different considerations from other brands. For example, we do not do official sponsorship of the World Cup, because we do not think that sponsoring the World Cup can bring anything to our country. Although the World Cup has high exposure, it has no continuity. Relatively speaking, we cooperated with the FIBA women's basketball team because we saw Chinese girls being shortlisted and hoped to do something for them. It just so happens that the theme of women is also what we continue to pay attention to.

WARC: Under the trend of Guochao, Chinese consumers seem to be more willing to trust local brands. Do you have any relevant observations? Will this bring more opportunities for TCL in the domestic market? Have you considered using national trend or local culture marketing?

Lian Zilong: No consideration. Although some opportunities will indeed be seen, the national tide was born under the cultural confidence, and the content under the national tide is more combined with traditional culture. But I think under all the gimmicks is a revival of classical culture. The ancestors have many good things, but the combination of many brand products with it is very limited. In 2021, I also reviewed some marketing cases, and I felt that the works were lackluster. There are some bright spots, but the bright spots are too small to be an important driving factor for the development of a brand. Of course, I believe that it will go further to fission, and some new forms and trends may appear in the future.

In addition, back to our technology plus industry industry. I think that technology is the best fashion product. The essence of everyone's interest in technology brands lies in the fashion and leadership of technology. If technological products do not do enough in these two aspects, using other things to bring them will highlight their lack of self-confidence. Instead of doing this, it's better to really dig out and magnify your own good things. It's useless to rub others.

In all industries, not everyone thinks it is something that is popular, we have to follow it, but it can be combined with cultural confidence. For example, when everyone discusses the color "terracotta warriors and horses blue" in the ancient state of Qin, then combined with this topic, our TV screens have a very high definition and can restore "terracotta warriors and horses blue". As long as the core demonstrates our technical advantages and realizes a certain value in a topic of public concern, it is fine.