China: a land of marketing opportunity for Western brands

PRWeek and BlueFocus convened a high-level discussion with clients, media, tech firms, and agency execs to debate business opportunities for global brands in China and Chinese businesses looking to expand into the West.

Platforms such as Tencent’s mobile text and voice messaging service WeChat represent the next land of opportunity for communications and marketing, according to Procter & Gamble’s VP of global communications Kelly Vanasse.

Vanasse was speaking at a roundtable this week at the Cannes Festival of Creativity, hosted by PRWeek and BlueFocus.

"We were the first CPG company to be asked to advertise on WeChat," added Vanasse. "We achieved engagement rates of three minutes with one of our beauty brands and it became one of the top three hottest items on [Chinese Twitter-style microblogging site] Sina Weibo."

Panelists noted that the beauty of the Chinese digital market is that it is more of an end-to-end environment where social media interactions commonly end up in e-commerce transactions, which makes activity measurable and effective.

"If I love what I see, I can go and buy it," said Vanasse, noting that creativity is still a key component of marketing on the burgeoning Chinese social media environment. "It doesn’t matter what the platform is if you don’t have a great idea."

Dell’s executive director of global communications, Jennifer Davis, said China is the second-biggest market for the computer company after the US. It has a "huge" consumer presence and 80% of global businesses operating in China run on Dell international TechCenters.

Lenovo is the number one PC brand in China, a country that contains one-quarter of the world’s Internet users. Davis echoed Vanasse saying that there is "tons of innovation coming out of China, but that [success] is still all about the idea."

Annabel Lin, head of global agencies and accounts at Google China, which has been in the region for 10 years, noted that her company put an office next to Beijing University because it wants to have the best talent and competition for that talent is fierce.

As well as Vanasse, Davis and Lin, other roundtable panelists included Jay Lauf, president and  publisher of Quartz; Holly Zheng, president, BlueFocus International; Vision7 International and Cossette CEO Brett Marchand; Robin Grant, global MD of We Are Social; Randy Browning, founder and CEO of social intelligence platform Blab; and Jenny Chan, reporter at PRWeek sister brand Campaign-Asia.

A full eBook version of the discussion and a video highlights sizzle reel will be available in July.

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