Marketing guru Tom Doctoroff left China after two decades. For Mumbrella Asia he explains how doing business with China and the Chinese is different. “China marches to the beat of a very different drum,” he says.
In terms of collaboration though, just how easy is it for global brands to penetrate and work with local brands? And how will the current political climate affect, for example Trump’s relationship with China?
“The Chinese do not play favourites; they will deal with different types of companies fairly. And they are pragmatists. When it comes to doing business, politics doesn’t make a huge difference. The Chinese are always looking to occupy their own piece of the sky. But they are not aggressive; China does not want to take over or conquer. It wants to stand tall on the world stage, shoulder-to-shoulder with the United States.
“But they are focused on their own people, elevating living standards and securing stability. It’s not an expansionist power. So when you look at how commerce and politics intersect, for example the relations between China and Korea, the effects are going to be minimal except in a few specific industries – like travel for example. But Korean brands will remain just fine as the Chinese consumers are pragmatists. Plus Chinese brands are not as cool as Korean brands.”
Given this pragmatism and China’s positioning as major player on the global stage, do you anticipate things becoming easier for businesses to set up in China in the near future?
“It will not become easier because China has a different worldview. It marches to the beat of a very different drum. The relationship between the individual and society is fundamentally different from the West and it impacts everything from the role that brands play in life, the hierarchy of corporations and the way trust is established – which affects contract development and negotiation.
“All these things are challenging for someone who does not open up to a different way of viewing things. If you do not bring your operations, your mentality and your brand into alignment with this worldview then you make many major mistakes, from pricing to rent negotiation. But the Chinese are extremely adept at establishing a strong negotiating position. Although unless people become more open to understanding [China] then it will not get easier than it is today.”
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