Well, I’ll be. A couple days ago I pick up on the meme that China bloggers are underrepresented if not completely uncounted in Technorati — making the syllogism that if I couldn’t get to Technorati inside of China then how could Technorati get to Chinese blogs.
Wrong. This is wild. Now comes the news that it ain’t Boing Boing on the top of the charts any longer, but now it is Xu Jing Lei. From the numbers quoted to me last week by Sina and Sohu — the blog counts in China are insanely off the charts. Here you go world, this is the face of the blogosphere and it ain’t the usual “A-List” cross linking to each other either:
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.
Yesterday was an eye-opener in terms of getting a different vantage point on the same goal.
I spent the day working with my Chinese colleagues — not a new thing, I’ve collaborated with them via email, and in person in North Carolina since the middle of January. But being here, in their offices, watching how they work, and hearing first-hand their perspectives on what it means to be a Chinese company seeking to become a global company is an entirely different thing than making assumptions from North Carolina trying to help them realize that goal.
The entire vibe is one of intense and keen interest in figuring out the best way to build a true global company — not an integration of a Chinese and an American one. Having spent last week in Singapore with colleagues from all of the Asia Pacific region, instant messaging with the United Kingdom, organizing operations in Buenos Aries — this is head spinning to say the least.
While IT is the backbone, what’s more apparent to me is the necessity for the old cliche from the early days of online community, lessons learned on the docks of Sausalito by the first denizens of the W.E.L.L., by the Geeks on the Beach at Reel-Time — that face to face time is the most precious commodity of all. Flat worlds, fiber pipes, IM, SMS, global wireless … all expedite the collaboration, but nothing can ever replace the intense bandwidth of sharing a lunch with a colleague 13 time zones away from one’s home. I blogged early on global governance and management, now I’m living it, and it is apparent we’re on the threshold of something massive coming, the early stages of a new world that will demand new thinking.
The friction is — essentially –airplanes and jet lag. Language is a pain, but even so, seat me next to someone over a bowl of fishhead soup and I’ll gain a better understanding than I would from a 7 am conference calls and a hundred emails.
Things are too chaotic on the morning of day two to compose a reasoned essay on what the situation is regarding computing, Internet, mobile telephony, and branding opportunities in China. and I need to get outside and explore more on one of my precious days off in the country before a week of meetings.
So here’s a random list:
Right off the bat I saw a Yahoo ad on a bus. I love bus ads. CNET used them to great effect in Manhattan in the mid-90s. Yahoo was the only U.S. internet brand to make an impression yesterday and this one was sighted outside of the northern entrance to the Forbidden City.
Internet access in the two hotels I’ve visited is hardwired and fairly fast. I moved a ton of images up to Flickr without any problem. I’ve been googling with no hiccups and have seen no examples of censorship. There may be different “zones” for hotel access, but I can’t say I have seen any blocked messages or sites.Wikipedia is not loading, but running a politically sensitive search on Google permitted click throughs to sites critical of the government. I have not looked for any porn or other objectionable content. In no way have I felt that any online activities are being delayed, blocked or impeded in the four hours I’ve spent online.
There aren’t a lot of American brands in evidence. Microsoft has a large office building with their logo on it. But it seems to be European brands such as Lufthansa, Nestle, Volkswagen, Audi, and Mercedes in the highest abundance. This history plaque in the Forbidden City was sponsored by American Express. And on every plaque carrying this, there appeared to be smears of mud or clay where someone tried to obscure the tagline.
I have seen no Internet cafes yet.
Wireless phones tend to be either local brands, Nokia, or Motorolas. People use them incessantly. My step-sister, who is a film executive, has one glued to her head at all times. No one appears to be using them for email (I have not seen a Blackberry in use) and I don’t see many people texting SMS nor any advertising calls to action that use SMS codes.
I saw the word “Mashup” on a poster at this Beijing art gallery. The art here is amazing and the gallery district in a former factory in the 7-9-8 district is right out of San Francisco’s SOMA.
Blogging is big. I am going to meet some bloggers later this week, but I understand from my step-sister that a lot of business people blog here in Beijing. My China blogroll only now holds:
Virtual China: “Virtual China is an exploration of virtual experiences and environments in and about China. The topic is also the primary research area for the Institute for the Future’s Asia Focus Program in 2006. IFTF is an independent, nonprofit strategic research group with more than 35 years of forecasting experience based in Palo Alto, CA.”
There is a Starbucks inside the Forbidden City. Of course. The other big American brand is, of course, McDonald’s. While eating gyoza in an awesome little cafe, the family at the table next to us was tucking into a great meal while Junior ate a Big Mac and fried from the Golden Arches. The world isn’t flat, but it sure will be fat.
Chinese “OOH” — Marketing lingo for Out Of Home — billboards to you and me, is big. Like really big. The stuff is huge. It screams. We whisper. I’ll get some pictures of how we advertise Lenovo here. I got tons of Lenovo impressions yesterday. Big billboards at a convention/tech center and those mechanical rolling ads. All such brands are in English and Chinese.
The entire city is under construction. The locals blame a lot of the dust and air quality problems on construction. Apparently a construction moratorium is going into effect along with a coal ban inside of the third ring road to try to clean things up in time for the Olympics. Tons of Olympic branding everywhere and a big countdown clock of the days remaining before they open in ’08 at Tianamen Square.
That’s all for now. Time to lace on the hiking shoes and start exploring after a congee breakfast.