I’ve been keeping an eagle’s eye out in the chaos and confusion of moving through Beijing for marketing impressions from Western Brands and comparing them to how Chinese brands represent themselves. To keep the discussion simple, I’ll first look at outdoor advertising and then in a second essay, look at online.
Outdoor advertising — and by this I mean bus shelters to buses, billboards to storefronts — really should be separated into nighttime and daytime effects. Nighttime is a battle of neon. Not a lot of it, saturated Vegas style, but islands of it that really stick out. Daytime is a war for space. The Baidaling Expressway, which runs north out of Beijing up to the Great Wall, has its share of billboards, but only once one gets inside of the fourth ring road (Beijing is defined by concentric circles of ring roads, like Washington D.C.’s Beltway). Then things get interesting. No Western brands appear until one gets into the heart of the city, and the most effective ones are actually building brands — IBM, Ericsson, Microsoft — which interestingly enough are not out in the main technology park in the Shandi district where Lenovo is based and one can see Western companies like Peoplesoft and Nordisk.
Once in the city proper, the advertising starts going nuts.
Here’s a few photos:
Then, one starts to notice some familiar brands, but still competing for attention:
And right around the corner ….
The situation in the stores is even more chaotic, according to my colleagues who visited a tech mall last night (which I need to do before the week is over.) Lots of machines competing for attention — like your average 42nd St. electronic store in NYC.
Bus shelters and sidewalk displays seem focused on mobile phones. Lots and lots of Lenovo impressions for our handheld business. This one is for a Lenovo PC.
And finally, my favorite impression of the day. From lunch:
Next up, online advertising for PCs in China. This is mindblowing stuff.
“Notebook makers are going to need to step up to the plate and differentiate their machines on their own. Some are already working on this. The best example I can think of is a ThinkPad ad that creates an image of ThinkPad as being a tough platform that protects data. This is a tremendous start but I hope Lenovo goes farther and creates messaging highlighting how emerging features are based on valuable DNA that’s still a part of the product line.”
Jim Forbes once again proves why he is one of the smartest guys observing the notebook market.
I spent the morning with Xiaoxin Chen, CFO of Oak Pacific Interactive, one of the largest interactive networks in China. Mindblowing discussion about the Internet in China, the explosion of wireless, file sharing, consumer willingness to buy online, Google, Baidu, and his hot company — one of the top ten in terms of traffic with 30 million visits per day and about 15 million registered visitors.
Mop.com — which translates into “cat rushing forward” — is primarily a site aimed at the younger market. This is a MySpace type of model for China. All Ajaxy and Web 2.0-ish but more.
You register and basically get your own place, your social network, your file sharing network, etc. This is where the two viral sensations of China — the guys in Yao Ming shirts lip synching (who have since been signed to corporate sponsorships) — got their start before they viralled over to Youtube.
Mop is a broadband network, and their TV site — itv.mop.com — is total video, from movie trailers to user uploaded content. The model is advertising based — I counted a dozen impressions on the home page, the design is crazed — and there is a premium model where users can buy more space, and services.
Chen, a Stanford MBA, is riding a tiger. An hour with him and you want to move to China and set up shop. This is Wild West stuff, volumes of users and ad dollars that no SOMA or Silicon Alley dot.com could have dreamed of in the late 90s. His partner, the founder, Joseph Chen, a Stanford classmate, sold his first company to Sohu, hung around for a while, left, went optical before that bubble burst, then got back into interactive media with ChinaInteractiveCorp — which is now Oak Pacific Interactive, a network which includes pcast, dudu.com, uume, and DoNews.
I need a month here. Too much to absorb in a week.