creative branding strategies in China

Podcast transcript #55: Developing creative branding strategies in China

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Find here the China paradigm episode 55. Learn more about Steven Proud’s story developing creative branding strategies in China and find all the details and additional links below.

Full transcript below:

Matthieu David:  Hello, everyone. I’m Matthieu David, the founder of Daxue Consulting Strategy Market Research Company based in China and this podcast, China Paradigm. Today, I am with Steven Proud. You are a global marketing director of Brandigo. Brandigo is a full-service marketing agency specializing in three specific missions, I would say: brand strategy, brand experience, and sales enablement. And most specifically in B2B, which is something very, very interesting because I see a lot of agencies, marketing agencies, branding agencies specializing in luxury, in retail, in beauty, but in B2B it’s much more interesting and I feel that there is so much to do in B2B in the digital industry, and more.

Thank you so much for being with us today, Steven Proud. The first question, as always, is about the size of the company and the history of the company. If you can share how many people, revenues, and the number of clients does Brandigo have today?

Steven Proud:  First of all, good morning, Matthieu David. Thank you for inviting us as well. We’re excited to do this. I love how you’ve said that we’re we are specialists in B2B in China and then just call us a bunch of geeks. That was very kind of you to put it like that, but we wouldn’t have it any other way. We could do the glamorous stuff, but it’s not what makes us happy, it’s not what we enjoy doing. We like to do the B2B side of marketing. Maybe we’ll come back on to that in a second.

There have been 14 years for Brandigo in China. Our company founder, Mike Golden, has been in Shanghai for 16 years. He founded the company as an agency called Adsmith. Then we joined forces with an international agency based in Boston, and that’s how we became Brandigo. We’ve been doing B2B marketing, specializing in B2B in China our entire lifespan, if you like.

We’ve got about 20 people in Shanghai at the moment. We’ve got a full artwork and creative departments. There is the account management team, which is led by our PR director or accounts director, and then there are three of us who are part of the senior leadership team. We’ve got the office in Boston as well which has our American President, Matt Bowen, is over there. He has a smaller team at the moment in Boston. One year ago – it’s our one year anniversary – we opened our Toronto office as well.

We’re also part of what’s called theE3 Network. This is a network of multinational B2B specialist agencies. It’s something that has worked really well for us. For example, we have just started working for a finished paper company called UPM, which is way more exciting. It’s actually really more interesting than the paper company might sound to be. But we started to work with them because they have an agency in Finland, whom they worked with for a very long time, and they needed to do something in China. We know the guys from Finland very well from being part of this network, so they come for us for their brand strategy in China. That happens all over this global network, so it’s something that works really, really well for us.

We’re up to about 20 people, really talented bunch. They are much better than I am – all of the day-to-day technical stuff of Chinese market broadening and the account handling and things like that. So it’s a fun place to be.

Big ambitions for this year? We’ve already picked up some great new business. This year, we’ve been working for UK government accounts in the food and drink space but from a point of B2B in China as well. Maybe that would be relevant to chat about later.

The finished paper company that I’ve mentioned, we’ve been picked up by Costco, they’re launching their first physical chain in China and that’s going to be in Shanghai. I think that opens within the next month but don’t quote me on that.

There are really interesting brands and really interesting projects in China. It’s a good time for developing B2B in China I think.

Matthieu David:  Could you exemplify and make it more tangible – what does it mean to work on brand strategy, brand experience, sales enablement? Is it a powerpoint to deliver when you do brand strategy in China when you do brand experience? Or you execute for them, and you do the PR, you organize events, you also organize the Chinese digital marketing presence. You create a mini-program, H5. Could you describe what you do to serve those three missions?

Steven Proud:  The Holy Grail for us, like our agency, is when we have a client that comes to us for all three of those. So we are starting right at the beginning of their journey with them, and we are doing their brand strategy in China. That is literally as it sounds. You are sitting down with senior members of the organization. The way we like to do it, it’s not just senior members of the organization. You have everybody who has something to do with a brand, and you talk about what they want their brand to be and what they want their brand to mean to people. You are auditing the brand assets that they’ve got, and you are coming up with a sustained plan to help them grow what we would describe as a brand. And that brand is how people who come into contact with your organization feel, think, react to you and what it is that you do.

So the brand strategy side of it is the very beginning of that story. It’s taking a well-thought-out strategic approach to creating a brand.

Matthieu David:  I like to understand better about the brand strategy in China. You mentioned your website and presentation that you are really data-driven. You look at data, you look at the research. Would you mind giving us a specific case for us to understand how you work on the strategy? I feel a lot of people can pretend to be strategists to say, “I have a strategy in mind,” actually, because everyone has ideas, everyone has the opinions. But are ideas and opinions really enough to build a strategy? So could you detail a bit more on the how and the different steps to build a brand strategy in China?

Steven Proud:  A good example is an organization, our Boston office if you don’t mind me talking about the Boston office quickly just for this because it’s a recent one and it’s a good illustration. They were brought in by a large healthcare company in the U.S., which is now called SullivanCotter. Beforehand, I think it was called Sullivan, Cotter, and Associates. Again, they are a company that specializes in how healthcare companies pay their staff, reward bonuses, payment structures, added things for the package, all that kind of thing. They’ve been around for a long time in the states, a successful business, but they felt to move into a kind of a new period of healthcare in the U.S. They needed to redo their brand strategy completely.

We did on their behalf a lot of research into what people within that space are looking for from service providers. You are looking at not just the type of services that they provide, but it’s how that service is presented. It’s that customer experience at every stage of the kind of relationship that you have with those companies.

After doing all of that research and looking at what the market was telling us, there were things they were doing very well. There were parts of the brand that was still very successful because it was well known, it was well trusted, it was well-liked, but perhaps it wasn’t quite as future-proof as it could be. So for we took the step then of distilling the key messages that worked really well for it, but upgrading them for modern healthcare practice in  modern industry.

So part of that was coming up with visual assets for the brand. They actually renamed to SullivanCotter and came up with the new logo to go with that as well. And then we came up with a kind of a campaign that launches that internally because you need everybody within the organization to live and breathe a successful brand before it goes to the outside world. If you don’t believe it yourself, if you don’t live and feel it yourself, then your customers and your clients aren’t going to buy into that either. So that was an important part. Then it’s rolled out to the wider world.

So taking that strategic approach, looking at what the market is doing, looking at what the aims of the objectives of the organization are, looking at the future direction of the industry or the space that the company wants to be in and 10-20 years’ time, all ties into coming up with a strong brand strategy that resonates both within and without the organization. It has been an interesting project.

Matthieu David:  You mentioned the strategy as coming from inside the company. Does it mean that you don’t really look at the competition, the competitor, the benchmark to understand the environment?

Steven Proud:  No, not at all. You absolutely look at that. So when I’m talking about some of the research that we are doing, it’s talking to the customer base. It’s looking at what competitors are doing. It’s looking at what client businesses are doing and the direction that their businesses themselves are going in as well, and making sure that the brand that you create for your client is relevant to the direction of the industry and the direction of their customers. So you’re right to pull me up on that. We are absolutely looking at the wider world, the wider environment that our client is operating in, to make sure that that brand is relevant to where they want to be.

Then coming on from that with the strong brand strategy in China, this is where the brand experience side of it comes in now. When we talk about brand experience – you listed some of the aspects of the brand experience earlier – when you’re talking about PR, digital and social, it could be events, it could be activations, those are what we talk about under the umbrella of brand experience. It’s creating those touchpoints for your customers or consumers or potential customers to experience your brand positively. And that could be via a mini-program or H5 if you’re in China. It could be via a conference on events. I know a piece of small DM marketing still has a place these days. So the experience side of it. 

Matthieu David:  I assume that you have many options. You can use H5, AI, or chatbot. You can use a simple website or brochure. Actually, now the brochure is rare so you can get more visibility. How do you prioritize? I feel the challenge now is to prioritize, to know which one to develop and which one not to develop, not to do. Do you have a framework already, some guides on what to decide what to do? Do you brainstorm with a client? Do you like the word “brainstorming”? I’m using it. I’m not sure that one you would use.

Steven Proud:  Yeah, absolutely. I came from London agencies 20 years ago, so I love brainstorming and collaboration and things like that. It’s an interesting question. Sometimes you have to have a challenging conversation with clients. Now, there is no framework. There’s no one-size-fits-all for each client because no one these clients has the same customers.

A long time ago, I worked in the oil sector. We had a client who came to us – it was an oil major – and they said, “We’ve got loads and loads of money. We want to do all of this cool new digital advertising. We’re going to do some really fun Internet stuff.” My challenge to them was, “Okay, that’s great. We can do some really cool stuff. But half the people that you are targeting with this campaign are at sea for nine months of the year, and they can’t access the Internet (as it was back then). So it is a waste of your time, and it is a waste of effort and resources that could be challenged into something that will be more relevant and more effective as targeting that market.”

We get a lot of particularly some of the more overseas companies who perhaps haven’t been in China or worked in China for a long time, and they don’t understand or they’re not aware yet of some of the subtleties around B2B in China, some of the different characteristics of the social media that you can hear, some of the different idiosyncrasies of the digital space here. So for us, there’s a lot of collaboration. But we’re a consultancy; we’re here to give advice. That’s where we add our value. So I have no qualms going into these meetings and saying to the global marketing director of my client:

“You don’t actually want to do that because that’s not going to ultimately achieve what you want to do here.”

You have to be focused, especially in this day and age when marketing budgets are constantly being squeezed. The chief data officer will tell you now that he’s much more important than your chief marketing officer and things like that. There’s this incredible amount of pressure on our industry, so we have to be consultative, we have to add value, we have to push back sometimes on what clients think or would like to do, and agree with them to what is actually going to add value to their campaign and achieve the results that they want.

Then you mentioned “brochures” earlier. Sometimes that’s absolutely the right thing. It’s the oldest-fashioned thing that we have. But if your campaign is centered around, let’s say three or four big exhibitions around China, and you’re going to have foot flow that has thousands of potential customers coming past your exhibition stand, maybe spend less on some Chinese digital marketing like digital campaign because we’ve all got limited resources and come up with a kick-ass piece of brochure work that goes really well with the stand that everybody’s picking up as they go past. That’s just an example of Chinese marketing broadening. But that’s going to be ultimately much more effective.

I guess it’s kind of a long way of answering your question, but there’s no framework or one-size-fits-all. You have to work in partnership with clients to help them with Chinese market broadening. You have to be consultative. You have to agree on what success looks like. That’s a huge thing that I think a lot of agencies perhaps don’t do as well as they can or they should. You have to be giving regular updates, reports, and evaluations, and demonstrate the value that you’re adding. It’s picking the right tools to get each individual job done. Sometimes there are different tools for different jobs, for different clients as well. It’s complex, but that’s why we love what we do.

Matthieu David:  Talking more specifically about channels to reach out to your clients, I talked to agencies in past episodes about marketing agencies, about how to achieve Chinese market broadening, but it was more B2C than B2B in China perspective. A lot of agencies are disappointed with Baidu, for instance, Baidu SEM, Baidu Search, and so on. But I got a sense during that interview with this agency that Baidu was still relevant for B2B in China specifically when it’s a very specific, very specialized segment.

Could you tell us more about the differences you see specifically in B2C and B2B in China– Baidu being one option but TikTok being the opposite option that you will not see used for B2B right now? One of your colleagues said that TikTok would be the big trend of 2019. If you could give us some direction of what is working in B2B and not working in B2C and vice versa. It would be a very interesting topic.

Steven Proud:  I think what you’ve got to appreciate when you’re doing a B2B campaign in China is a lot of what you’re trying to convey or all of what you’re trying to convey is about people’s jobs. It’s the career, and it’s their focus. You’re not necessarily trying to get them to buy more cans of a soft drink. You’re not necessarily always trying to aspire to a certain lifestyle, although the B2B does have its place for that these days. What you’re trying to show are ways that people can achieve their career range or do that job better with what your clients have to offer.

For example, we did a really interesting campaign for an American company called National Instruments. They make these as they sound. They are instruments that go into manufacturing plants and chemical plants, and it helps people to monitor what the plant is doing. So there are safety elements, there are efficiency and productivity that they tap into.

Nobody sits at home watching TV or surfing on their phone, thinking about what the best instruments to measure this widget or this pressure or whatever it is coming through. But if they sat at work and they’ve got a challenge, and they’re researching that challenge, some of the platforms that you mentioned earlier, they’re more likely to spend some more considered time on. So if we can use that, be involved in that conversation and use their time for them, help them use their time, then it’s more effective for us than perhaps a big blanket campaign that a consumer organization might have.

The other thing about B2B in China, there’s a lot of what we do – and coming back to that National Instruments example as well – we are, by nature, a lot more niched. One of the hot trends around B2B marketing at the moment is called ABM (account-based marketing). All that really means is you are dedicating all of your marketing resources onto a very narrow target market.

So, National Instruments came into China. At first, they think that there are X billion people that we can go for and sell loads of stuff to, and it’s going to be great. Well, maybe not. Maybe there are only about 3,000 people who are actually using your products or would be interested in using your products. So rather than covering everywhere, let’s think about how we can narrow things down and use relevant platforms, relevant channels, relevant content that is going to resonate with that very specific audience and change the behavior in the way that you want it to, which is in the end, use National Instruments to incorporate into their operations.

So it’s slightly different for us geeky in B2B in China. We don’t need to have the kind of mass-market approach. We’re not looking necessarily to reach millions of people all in one go. So we have to be more focused, we have to be more targeted. For example, if we are looking at a bunch of engineers, and we know that they’re using Baidu to come up with their solution in Chinese market broadening, then our campaign has to involve Baidu because that’s what they’re doing for their work and that’s where we need to be when they’re thinking about their work.

Matthieu David:  I believe that there’s a very specific website talking about a specific industry. Or even magazines. You may be more in touch with magazines.

Steven Proud:  It ties into some of the interesting conversations at the moment about influencer marketing in China as well. Again, influencer marketing is a hot topic now. We’ve done stuff in campaigns of B2B in China with an academic influencer who didn’t even know they were an influencer.

Matthieu David:  Could you give an example?

Steven Proud:  Again, National Instruments. We had an academic who was in an engineering space and he had about 500 followers. He didn’t even know that he was an influencer in influencer marketing in China. But these 500 followers are making purchasing decisions on factories and engineering plants, and it’s exactly the type of people whom National Instruments wanted to reach in influencer marketing in China.

So rather than spending huge amounts of money on celebrity influencers, we go and work with a specific academic. He’s not necessarily in it for a monetary reward, so you have to make sure it’s something that he/she is interested in or is interested in and wants to speak about. And you’re reaching 500-1,000 people via that medium, who are actually more likely to make high-end purchasing decisions based on your client’s objectives. So even something like influencer marketing in China, we have to be more niched, we have to be more targeted than some of the other types of marketing, the B2C you mentioned earlier.

Matthieu David:  It reminds me of when I was a student, actually. We had a lot of tools for free to use, or databases and so on. Actually, that was like influencer marketing to use the school in order to be in our brain, so that when we begin working, we’re asking, “Oh, we need this database. We need this software. We have learned how to use it. We have explored and we know about it. We know the name.” So it’s very interesting to see actually those results of influencer marketing in China. We were not defined as influences in the past.

What do you see as the most frequent missing parts among the leads or clients you get when you begin to work with them in B2B in China? I can get a sense that a lot of them may not be used to do that much Chinese digital marketing, all to think about sales enablement or brand experience – especially the brand experience, I believe. What’s missing most? Is it that they don’t know their story? Is it that they don’t know their clients? Is it that they don’t have a clear direction?

Steven Proud:  It is not necessarily because it’s multinational companies that we’re working with a lot of the time. Now, I don’t mean “multinational” as big global entities. I mean multinational companies that have a footprint in several countries. So we’re not talking about a company that has an office in every single country in the world like Google or Microsoft would, but companies that operate internationally and are looking to now get a foothold into the China market.

One of the things that we as an agency have to be aware of is the challenges that the client is under. They’ve probably had somebody in the executive suite who has said to them, “We must be doing more stuff in China. That’s your job, go and do it.” And they may have never been here for a start. All they know is they have to sell more units, more widgets, and they have to go back to the executive suites at the annual meeting in 12 months’ time and say, “This is what we did after you told us to conduct Chinese market broadening.”

So we have to work with them, rather than just saying, “We want to be in China,” it’s really distilling what that means, what that looks like, and how that’s going to be successful for them. It’s beneficial for us because we need a clear brief, and we’ll work with the client to come up with that brief. But it’s actually giving them a clear understanding of what it involves to be successful for them here and what that success might ultimately look like, and then how they communicate it back to their home organization.

In the agency world, there are some interesting threats, not just for B2B in China but for agencies all over. One of the big threats is actually management consultancies thinking that they can do a lot of the Chinese digital marketing that marketing agencies can. They’ve already got the ear of the CEO because they’ve done all the great strategy projects and things like that, and now they’re saying, “We can do your marketing as well.” That puts a lot of pressure on agencies and marketers and internal marketing staff as well.

It’s like I said, if you don’t have that clarity, you’re not going to make anybody happy. It’s making sure that they come to China with that clarity of purpose, with a very clear picture of what success looks like and how we’re going to help them achieve Chinese market broadening, and also how we’re going to communicate that success back to their home office, their boss, or their chief executive, to show that it has been successful what we’ve done.

Matthieu David:  We just mentioned how B2B companies could be in terms of marketing and what’s missing. On the opposite, I see two segments of yours among the five you listed on your PPT to segment your clients. One is medical, chemical, manufacturing auto – it can be a lot of B2B. But two of the segments are both B2C and B2B. Would you be able to explain what you did for companies like Samsung, LG, Animoto, Life, and GHA? Because it’s mainly known as B2C, what do you do for that in B2B in China? Do you do marketing towards a distributor? Do you do Chinese marketing broadening towards their partners in China? Could you explain more some of those cases?

Steven Proud:  A more recent example I think that might be of interest to you and your listeners was something that we’ve just finished for the UK government. At the moment, with the disaster that is Brexit – and that is my opinion, not necessarily the opinion of the agency but my personal opinion – there are opportunities for the UK government to grow international trade. The Department for International Trade and Defra (Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs) are doing what is called the Great Britain Campaign. They are taking aspects of British engineering, British fashion, and British entertainment around the world.

Now they brought us into work on the Food Is Great Campaign. They selected what they called hero products that they think can use to help with the Chinese market broadening of British food. There were some dairy products, there were some seafood products, and the interesting one was gin. Now, gin is really trendy and popular around the world at the moment.

The campaign that we came up with them very much blurred the lines between the B2C and the B2B in China as you mentioned. We were pushing the key messages to the distributors, to the F&B directors around China, and we were coming up with a series of events, activations, and experiences, all centered around premium craft British gins. Now we’re pushing it on to the trade and the industry, which is the B2B side, but there are also elements of that campaign like WeChat, mini-programs and H5s, and things like that, which creates a pull. So we can’t control that to just the B2B audience, but we’re getting what we saw that as consumers then seeing the content and seeing the campaign and going into the restaurants, the bars, and hotels, and rather than saying, “I’d like a gin and tonic,” they might say, “I would like this British brand gin and tonic please,” because they’ve seen some really cool piece of content and they want to try it. Or we did some influencer marketing in China and they saw the influencer drinking the latest British gin cocktail, and so they wanted to try it.

You’re right in that some of the work that we do blurs the line between B2C, but we’re still focusing on the B2B elements, which is using consumers to create a bit of a pull as well as the push, if you like. Does that make sense?

Matthieu David:  You mentioned in some of the articles, one was the 10-year challenge. When you were duplicating the 10-year challenge on Instagram, the people were putting a picture of 10 years ago and now. You did a 10-year challenge for Chinese digital marketing. It’s very funny to see that we don’t even remember that 10 years ago, there are many websites that had disappeared now. And we talked mainly about WeChat. What are its uses do you see for B2B companies? Would you mind sharing some specific cases of leveraging Chinese WeChat for B2B in China?

creative branding strategies in China

Steven Proud:  The thing about WeChat, as we all know, if you’ve spent any time in China, it’s ubiquitous. It’s everywhere, and it’s everything. So even though we’re doing B2B in China, you are missing too many tricks if you are not focusing a lot of your resources on WeChat. If I come back to that National Instruments example I spoke about earlier, and you can’t get a more effective campaign of B2B in China than that.

But WeChat was essential because it’s the tool that the people we’re trying to reach has in their hand the whole time. For example, we talked about we did some work with an academic influencer. But the way that we presented that work was via WeChat and an H5. We also had some kind of interactive mini-programs, and then we had a way to communicate directly with people who could answer. If you had a business problem, you could go into the WeChat for the National Instruments, and you could communicate with somebody, and they would address that problem. So it was a quick real-time tool that the potential customers could use as well.

It’s not necessarily the channel; the channel has to be included. It’s getting the tone of voice right. This isn’t when you’re on your phone on the train, and it’s fun. This is when you’re on your phone at work and you’ve got a problem that you need to solve. WeChat can be both. And I think the users, the people who own the phones, they absolutely know that.

I’m still old-fashioned. Sometimes one of our young designers will send me on WeChat the latest bit of creative. And I’d say, “That’s fantastic! Can you e-mail it to me, please?” and they just laugh at me because I’m old-fashioned. But they’re using it in a work environment all the time, and I suspect most people do. I suspect I’m a minority.  

So it’s not necessarily the channel; the channel has to be included. The platform has to be involved. But it’s the content and the tone of voice and the timing that is the most important from a B2B in China point of view. People aren’t going to waste their time on something. So if you can make that useful to their job and what they’re trying to achieve, as well as making it a positive brand experience for the client that you’re working with that achieves their goals, then you’ve got that channel right, in my opinion.

Matthieu David:  In the prediction for 2019, you mentioned specifically data silo and sharing data among the company. It would be interesting also to have some specific examples of difficulties or challenges you see because of not sharing data within the company, within the team, or not maybe leveraging existing data, issue-specific cases in China.

Steven Proud:  I think my colleague, Christian, actually put it better in a recent blog that he did. When I made that prediction, the thing that strikes me now is that we all know that there’s an incredible amount of data that flows through all organizations, but it’s making sure that that data flows now and is useful – and it links to the customer experience. So these days, organizations and their customers have more touchpoints than we’ve ever had before. There are more ways for your customers to contact you. There are more ways for them to see something that you have done in Chinese market broadening. There are more ways for them to discuss with other people some things that you are doing or have done or they would like you to do. The customer experience now is incredibly broad.

The point I was trying to make there is that if you’ve got somebody in your contact center, for example, who is having customers ring up and complain about an aspect of your product that could easily be fixed by tech support, but that data, their tech support might not know or haven’t been told that 50 people have rung up in the last three days to say this is the problem of our product. So they don’t know to act on that because that data silo is building up.

Customer service has all this awesome intelligence that maybe in 12 months time when they have their big meeting, they will share and present to everybody else, but you’ve lost those 50 customers by then. Whereas, if that data flows quicker and is understood by everybody, it’s not you’ve got the team who can fix the problem almost in real-time, knowing there’s a problem and fixing it, and that infinitely improves your customer experience. They see that their issues have been addressed, they know that there’s another department within the organization that is solving their issue, and it just means everybody’s happy.

When I talk about those data silos, that’s kind of an illustration of how that can work. It has that feedback from the customer at some point in the organization not flowing freely to somewhere else where it could be useful.

You asked about a specific example and maybe a specific example of a brand strategy in China. I think this is a global problem for a lot of organizations at the moment. I don’t think it’s something that’s just specific to China per se. I think there are Chinese companies that don’t do this very well. I think there’s British, I think there’s French, I think there’s American. Everybody’s getting used to the fact.

Everybody thinks it’s really cool to have all of these new ways of collecting data and analyzing data but if you’re not sharing those results and communicating them clearly, then it might be helping your Chinese market broadening, but you’re missing out on so many other aspects that that smart use of data can help your business to do. And that one thing could be to completely revolutionize your customer experience across the entire organization.

Then you’ve come up with a business model that is really compelling and that really stands out from everybody else, and can truly say that we’re a customer-centric organization because nobody in that organization would feel that “Interacting with a customer isn’t my job.” That’s kind of what you have when you have these silos. We don’t hear from customers, and we don’t relate to customers. So the customer isn’t our problem, isn’t our job. And as marketers, we need to be breaking down those walls and sharing data to enable people to change that mindset and break down those walls.

Matthieu David:  My last question would be about what sectors do you see in the B2B segment that have to consider Chinese market broadening which is from the West, those which have to consider China as one of the big momenta? Do you see some specific sectors in China? I mentioned the five sectors in which you are in. Maybe those are some of the sectors where you see momentum but do you see beyond those five? Do you see others which have to do Chinese market broadening and do something in China?

Steven Proud:  Again, I think it comes down to the size of your home market. If you’re in a country like the UK and you see some of the challenges that the UK faces, I think almost all manufacturing sectors within the UK should be looking to leverage what they can move in China in a spirit of partnership, innovation, and working together.

It’s hard actually to pinpoint specific sectors. I would have said automotive until very recently, but automotive in China is going through some trials and tribulations at the moment. Some of the Chinese OAMs are producing some incredibly good products in that space at the moment. And same with the tech, there are many Chinese tech companies that are increasingly leading the world as well.

In terms of B2B, I still think there’s going to be space for things like the higher end consultancy and project management businesses. I think marketing and the type of things that we do is going to have other opportunities still. I think for us as an organization we’re still seeing lots of companies wanting to do Chinese market broadening. I would like, and I would hope that we would see some Chinese companies broadening how they market overseas now. And it doesn’t have to be the big players. I think we might see some of the more mid-market sized companies looking to grow international footprints, and that gives us an opportunity.

I didn’t really answer your question. The reason that I kind of skirted around it a little bit is, for me that’s a really hard one to do. Things change so fast here. It’s one of the beauties of living here, it’s one of the challenges. I think we’re in a state of flux at the moment, geopolitically with what’s happening with the tariffs in the U.S., with what’s happening with the UK and the EU. This is one of the big challenges for businesses everywhere is this uncertainty.

If you ask me to pick a sector which I think the next big sectors would be, I would say maybe some of the life sciences sectors. I would say within the food and drink industry again because one aspect of Chinese market broadening could be Chinese taste, they’re becoming more experimental in what they want to consume. That’s not to say that we’re going to really revolutionize the Chinese diet – that will never happen – but they are willing to try new things, and they are becoming incredibly more health-concious. So companies within that kind of industry will have the biggest opportunities. But it’s a hard one to pick without sounding pessimistic.

Matthieu David:  Thanks, Steven Proud, for your time. Thanks for sharing the experience of Brandigo in China, your experience in China. It’s very useful to understand more about B2B marketing and differences we see in other types of marketing. Thanks very much. Thanks, everyone, for listening.


China paradigm is a China business podcast sponsored by Daxue Consulting where we interview successful entrepreneurs about their businesses in China. You can access all available episodes from the China paradigm Youtube page.

Do not hesitate to reach out our project managers at dx@daxue-consulting.com to get all answers to your questions

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