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Marketing: Western Perceptions, Chinese Realities

By Joanne Jacobs

When we look at the massive Chinese economy, we see big numbers. We hear the “B-word” – billions. We think this automatically equates to huge market opportunities. But these perceptions mask the much harder realities of marketing in China.

China is a market where the opportunity to tap into a mass market is exciting and intoxicating. Yet behind the mouth-watering statistics, the reality is that success in China requires more than just replicating western marketing methods.

I recently presented at the Australia China Business Council forum hosted by King & Wood Mallesons, sharing some insight and experience from my years of working with global brands across Asia Pacific. Joining me were:

Despite our range of backgrounds and different focuses, each of the speakers returned to key themes over and over again:

  • Treating China as one big market can waste time and money
  • Knowing exactly who you’re selling to, and what drives them, is critical
  • Consumer insights and segmentation are your most valuable tool
  • Western marketing won’t always work with Chinese consumers
  • Opinion and testimonials are worth their weight in gold
  • Protecting your point of difference is vital.

But one of the key lessons was that to do business in China, you need to BE in China. After all, reality trumps perception every time.

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