Reflections from a 3 week visit.

By Luke Sklar

Yes, it has become cliché to declare that China will lead the 21st Century.  But I encourage all of our readers to see this juggernaut for themselves.  Of course a three week trip and a few books is hardly enough time to peek properly beneath the propaganda but let’s start with seven facts:

1. At 1.4 Billion, China has a billion+ more people than the USA.  In spite of the one child policy, this will continue to grow.

2. Conservatively, China’s middle class (and their resulting purchasing power) will double in the next 10 years.

3. You can’t stop youth and the internet.  China’s new 10 year government is overtly promising  new openness and corruption confronting measures (we shall see).  (NOTE: It is no coincidence that the new government will be announced on November 8th.  While odd numbers are considered good luck, the number 8 connotes “wealth.”)

There is no fact #4.  This is a very bad number in China (don’t make this mistake)

5. Forget the yellow star.  The crane – and I mean the equipment, not the bird, should be the national symbol of China.  The pace of building is awe inspiring.  (The picture you see of Shanghai was a rice field 20 years ago).

6. China embraces capitalism.  They are hungry and prepared to work hard for the finer things in life.  They work harder than North Americans (Just ask the “Tiger Mothers”).

7. The Chinese have many talents but could not market their way out of a paper bag.  Can you think of one meaningful Chinese global brand (with the possible exception of Lenovo)?  They throw people and bad slogans at growth opportunities.  (“Shanghai: Better City, Better Life”, “Hong Kong: One Country, Two Systems”).  Consistent quality and the nuances of brand connection are not yet part of China’s arsenal.

So what for marketers?

  • The power of youth to force change is a global phenomenon.  They are the ambassadors for new technologies, new styles and new thinking. How do youth relate to your brand?
  • North America will be a challenger brand within the next 20 years.  Our continent has to win on brains more than scale.
  • Spend to strength.  We must be smarter, faster and entrepreneurial.  We must leverage our ability to understand and connect with consumers.
  • And, (we hate to break it to you) we must be prepared to dial up the work ethic.  At minimum, we need to work way smarter if not harder.

China Rising is unstoppable.  What an opportunity for smart marketers!