Later this week, I’ll be in China for our second annual customer meeting. One of the things that makes this event special is we didn’t try to export the US version to China but rather built an event ground up for China. For example, there is no rock band closing the event on celebration night; instead, we have a series of ‘lucky draws’.
If you haven’t spent much time in China, the change might seem odd. How could a simple game of chance be a reasonable substitute for a Sting concert? This is emblematic of the confusion most Westerners have towards China. As they gain affluence, we expect Chinese consumers to act like ourselves and are puzzled when they don’t. It’s why Western marketing efforts often fall short in China.
Tom Doctoroff, head of advertising giant J. Walter Thompson’s China operations, has just published a book called ‘What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism and China’s Modern Consumer.’ A Westerner trying to characterize 1.5B people is a tough challenge, but Doctoroff has the right pedigree; he was a recipient of the Magnolia Government Award, the highest honor given by the Shanghai government to expatriates.
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