With a population of around 1.4billion, over 21 times that of the UK, China offers incredible potential for any successful British business seeking to spread its wings internationally. And as business begins to confront the reality of Brexit, many businesses are looking further afield to export their products and services. China is a fascinating opportunity, possibly very rewarding but with significant cultural challenges. At Fruit, we have some experience of marketing in China and taking Western brands into the world’s biggest marketplace and working with Chinese offices.
Before even considering entering China, it is critical to nail down your intellectual property, your value lies in your brand and your credibility. If you have not secured it – or worse still an opportunist in China has already trademarked it – then you could be in for an uphill struggle. The good news if that British brands are held in high esteem – if pitched as a premium offering. Britain has luxurious connotations for the Chinese consumer. Remarkably, some British brands have had success selling tea to China. Far from being a mess of red tape, as some perceive, the barriers are not as big as you might initially fear.
However, what works in the UK and other Western markets will not simply translate to China. Indeed, translation itself is misleading. Forget translation, think localisation. Simply translating a brand can lead to clunky, misleading representations of the brand.
Instead, it needs to be adapted. One of the worst pieces of advice we ever received was to translate a brand’s marketing collateral in Hong Kong. “The gateway to China” we were advised. The result was poorly executed work in Cantonese, rather the national language of Mandarin. With such mistakes, brand can waste money and tank their brand before its even got going.
In localisation, it is also important to build themed marketing activity around prominent Chinese festivals such as Chinese New Year, Lantern Festival, Summer Holiday, and Golden Week to connect with the Chinese consumer. To go into business in China is also virtually impossible without WeChat, the ubiquitous platform that is a unique amalgamation of features we might recognise from Facebook, WhatsApp, Spotify, Uber, Tinder, Apple Pay and others. It is where the Chinese find entertainment, message friends, buy goods and even book a doctor’s appointment. It is integral to Chinese life.
If it is a move you are considering or need some trusted advice on the way for your Chinese venture, please contact us. We are even open on Chinese New Year.