A distinguished panel shares their experiences in building an effective brand in China and India.
Contributed By Annabelle Low
A panel discussion at the GES summit brought together industry giants Pradeep Pant, President of Kraft Foods Asia Pacific; Ravi Thakran, Group President of LVMH South, South East Asia and Middle East; KK Chua, President of Mary Kay Asia Pacific and Lim Ming Yan, CEO of The Ascott and Deputy Chairman of CapitaLand China Executive Committee, to share their experiences and challenges in breaking into the Chinese and Indian market. Andrew Thomas, Managing Director of Oglivy Public Relations Worldwide, moderated the panel.
City News brings you the highlights and concerns raised in the panel.
BREAKING INTO THE MARKET- A CUSTOMIZED APPROACH
The first thing that all panelists agreed on was that companies must have a customized approach when entering a new market. It is unrealistic to have a fixed, universal marketing strategy and expect it to receive the same amount of success in different markets.
Lim shared how when the CapitaLand Group started their first few residential projects in 1994, they set up showrooms, which were uncommon among Chinese developers at that point. The showrooms achieved such tremendous success that the Chinese developers quickly followed suit. On the other hand, CapitaLand found it advantageous to put the company’s name in front of the project’s name in China, a strategy that did not take off in Singapore.
This served to highlight that a company must approach the China and India market differently. Many businesses have struggled because they failed to consider the opinions of the local consumer. However, Lim stressed that the best practice for every company is to fit to local conditions.
Consumer perception of what one’s brand stands for, along with a thorough and updated knowledge of the consumer market is, vital for success. Apart from customizing your approach to the market, it may also be necessary to customize your product.
Pant recounts the successful rebranding of Oreos in China. Market research revealed that Oreos was perceived to be an American cookie that was too sweet, too expensive and only sold in a few shops at the time. After surveying the market, Kraft began to implement customized changes, such as catering to the consumers’ tastes, reducing the price and widening distribution channels. In addition, it contracted Yao Ming, China’s iconic basketball player, to endorse Oreos.
Although the execution was different, the basic product and the experience with the brand remained the same. Thakran added that for luxury products, the brand promises the same, but the market also influences production. For example, a few years back, the Japanese demand influenced European luxury retail brands to such an extent that it increased the production of smaller handbags.
PUBLIC RELATIONS AND CELEBRITY ENDORSEMENT
Thakran stresses the importance of other platforms of marketing, namely public relations. When it comes to getting celebrities to represent a brand, however, the brand platform should be very consistent with the brand and the company must understand what they want the brand to represent.
Chua emphasizes that what a company wants their brand to represent had to link to a genuine vacuum in the market. For example, the women in China faced the trouble of being expected to be glamorous, while being a full-time mother and a businesswoman at the same time. Mary Kay found a celebrity who was able to exemplify all these qualities and the point was driven home.
LOCAL COMPETITION AND INTELLECTUAL PROPERTY
Regarding the highly price-competitive local industries, the panelists agreed that conducting in-depth market research, making timely use of an opportunity and ensuring that innovation drives propositions are vital to brand building. In addition, the company’s presence must be solid enough to be sustained.
Thakran emphasized that the sanctity of the brand must be protected. LVMH’s strategy was to never put anything on discount or sell anything outside of their stores. Instead, they launched a campaign to change mindsets of the people regarding counterfeit products and enlisted the help of the local authorities to come down hard on violations and infringements.
With over half a million employees, Mary Kay has been consistently ranked among the top 10 employers in China.
Chua stated that retaining employees is part of corporate branding. It is not just about the pay, but the internal brand experience. It is necessary to build the company from the inside out, and company culture is highly pertinent. Chua suggested conducting personality tests and exercises to see if an applicant is aligned to the company’s values, and to put the right person in the right job.
In sum, it is necessary for the company to customize both marketing strategy and the product to the local market, and the product must fulfill a genuine need. One needs to go beyond television advertising and be creative in reaching out to the consumer. To achieve sustainability and longevity, the sanctity of the brand must be protected, and the company’s external and internal brand experiences are equally important.