DingDing – a Chinese equivalent of Slack, Microsoft Teams, Zoom or Skype was getting 1-star ratings in Apple and local app stores. Many school children are in lockdown due to the corona virus Covid 2019 and having to use the app as a virtual class room. DingDing was the most downloaded app in the Apple app store on February 5
They weren’t happy and bashed the app across app stores. Some of it was acting out and some was trying to get the app removed from the stores all together.
With its ratings dropping rapidly across app stores. Marketers put out this meme literate video. In it the DingDing mascot cries and begs children not to penalise it. It seems to have worked in terms of stabilising its rating.
Click to expand the video and wait through the short advert (sorry about that). There is an international version of DingDing called DingTalk that is often used by cross-border teams. The iOS and macOS versions are nicely designed. And unlike WeChat it doesn’t send your messages in the clear. But as with any software designed for the great firewall, use with care.
Back when I worked in-house at Yahoo!, Google seemed to get media coverage with ease. The Google Maps campaign around the Oscars reminded me of this. Google Maps collected famous movie locations and showcased them on Google Maps. Trendwatching has a great case study on the campaign.
Chinese brand Yili-owned baby milk formula brand JinLingGuan (JLG) decided to make its own smart speaker for parents. Which I found a bit odd given the amount of voice products available in China. But it seems more like skill-building and product giveaway in conjunction with Xiaomi. It built a parenting skill that featured 1,200 questions.
Key parental insights according to Mindshare:
62.5% of young parents in China worry they are not good enough for their children
70+% of mothers experience postpartum anxiety
Results according to Mindshare
Programme drove over 55 million Q&A sessions, 210% more than expected
Over USD$2.2m (RMB¥15m) in sales and all 10,000 smart speaker gift sets sold out
Coronavirus response benefits Watsons: YouGov | Campaign Asia – Hong Kong tycoon Li Ka Shing, who’s majority-ownership of the Watsons franchise is well-known, pledged HKD$100 million (US$13 million) to combat the coronavirus. All of these responses appear to have been met with popular approval for the brand. Since the start of the year, Watsons’ Current Customer score has risen from 20.2 to 29.0, a rise of +8.8 points. Its Recommend score has risen from 9.9 to 16.9 , an increase of +7 points. Finally, its score on YouGov’s Buzz index has jumped from 8.6 to 25.4, a significant increase of +16.8 points. – Li Ka Shing always comes out of a crisis better than he went in
Coronavirus Test Kits Sent to States Are Flawed, C.D.C. Says – The New York Times – the failure of the kits means that states still have to depend on the C.D.C., which will mean several days’ delay in getting results. The C.D.C. announced last week that it had begun shipping about 200 kits to laboratories in the United States and roughly 200 more to labs in other countries. Each kit can test about 700 to 800 specimens from patients, the agency said. – this is frightening (paywall)
The power of niche | Campaign magazine – Dave Trott on GOOP – The New York Times said: “The weirder GOOP went, the more its readers rejoiced. Every time there was a negative story about her or her company all it did was bring more people to the site.” Paltrow told a class of Harvard students: “What I do is create a cultural firestorm, and I can monetise those eyeballs.” – cultural firestorm or memorable cultural industrial accident? I agree with Trott to a point. But I can’t work out if GOOP is doing ‘good’ outrage like Benetton managed to do with its ad campaigns, or ‘bad’ outrage like Michael O’Leary at Ryanair. Secondly, you might buy GOOP earrings but would you tell anyone where you bought them? Would they be judging you because you’re a GOOP customer. The problem GOOP has is that it’s not causing outrage with the old or conservative per se. It’s more likely to be customer’s peers thinking that as a GOOP customer you buy into bunkum of Palthrow. Brand neighbourhoods are still important and GOOP nestles comfortably in crank corner with David Icke and Uri Geller. More on beauty related stories here.
South Korea’s Government Explores Move From Windows To Linux Desktop | Slashdot – The reason for this is simple. It’s to reduce software licensing costs and the government’s reliance on Windows. As Choi Jang-hyuk, the head of the Ministry of Strategy and Finance, said, “We will resolve our dependency on a single company while reducing the budget by introducing an open-source operating system.” – back in the day South Korean online security depended on support for ActiveX, how far things have moved on
Slick Inbox – interesting idea. BUT RSS, VIP section in mail.app are all competitors
How Your Laptop Ruined Your Life | The Atlantic – Earlier this week, a woman managed to find a seat next to me on the train, took out her laptop, and started plugging away at a spreadsheet. The sight filled me with dread, as it does every time I spot a fellow commuter writing code or finessing a PowerPoint while I listen to podcasts. I suddenly became much more aware of the hard, thin edge of my own work computer, digging into my thigh through my tote bag. – Whatever happened to thinking time?
What Happens When a High-Tech Apparel Brand Shares the Same Name as the Company that Backed the Controversial Iowa Caucus App? — The Fashion Law – Not nearly as under-the-radar as ACRONYM, the political organization, ACRONYM, the apparel company, is, nonetheless, situated more behind-the-scenes than the majority of its peers. As writer Adam Wray detailed in 2013, “You’d be forgiven for not knowing much about ACRONYM.” Despite having significant clout when it comes to technologically-advanced apparel and amassing a list of famous fans (think: Kanye West, John Mayer, Jason Statham, best-selling author William Gibson, and mixed martial arts champ Max Holloway, just to name a few), “the company never advertises and with no public relations strategy to speak of, its founders are tough to reach.” Hugh and his co-founder slash business partner Michaela Sachenbacher “prefer to let their designs” – which are heavy on the GORE-TEX technology and utilitarian-focused hacks, and too expensive for most – “speak for themselves.” Yet, “whether you know it or not, [ACRONYM has] been pacing the vanguard of technically-focused fashion for nearly two decades.” – having worked in an office with the unfortunate name of ISIS House, an acronym that it shared with a terrorist organisation I can understand some of the pain for Errolson Hugh and company
精進カップラーメン | zen-foods – vegan friendly instant noodles, I’d be surprised if these don’t start appearing in Whole Foods soon
‘A bit impersonal’: The rise of influencer marketing agencies rankles influencers – Digiday – “When I reach out to brands directly, they tell me to apply for their programs through their affiliated network, which means I lose whatever personal connections I might’ve had and the ability to negotiate,” Groffman said. A company he had worked with for years recently referred him to its influencer network, he added. “Influencer marketing has finally matured as an industry,” explained Kristy Sammis, executive director of the Influencer Marketing Association, in an email. “Brands are now willing to allocate significant budget to strategic influencer programs. This means they need scale, benchmarks, and guarantees. That’s simply not possible with one-on-one influencer relationships.” Currently, influencers lack a standardized set of rates, yet a myriad factors can go into setting a price. That said, a $10 cost per thousand impressions is a baseline for influencers working on Instagram and Instagram Stories, according to Village Marketing founder Vickie Segar. She added that for every 100,000 followers, that rate grants an influencer $1,000 a post. Plus, companies and influencers might additionally negotiate usage rights and exclusivity, which could increase the fee. Terms vary by company, but payment can take from 30 days to 120 days – it’s probably because brands don’t want to have to filter out chancers and assholes themselves. Secondly, algorithms mean influencers are no longer an effective form of reach
The Era of Antisocial Social Media | HBR – saying that after years spent constructing carefully curated online identities and accumulating heaps of online “friends,” they want to be themselves and make real friends based on shared interests. They’re also craving privacy, safety, and a respite from the throngs of people on social platforms — throngs that now usually include their parents. To reach these younger audiences on social, marketers are going to have to re-think their approach. The first step is to understand the distinct characteristics of these more closed, and often more private and interactive online spaces. Since I believe that naming a trend helps provide a framework for understanding it, I have dubbed these spaces “digital campfires.” – to misquote Satre Hell is other people. From a brand perspective digital campfires are more attractive than the digital dumpster fires that channels like Twitter and YouTube often descend into
When China’s Long Game Short Circuits | Echowall – many of the examples of long-term policymaking in China collapse under closer scrutiny, whether in the area of environmental protection, infrastructure or population policy. For example, China’s solar power growth has been driven by government subsidies, resulting in market distortion, huge debt and waste. In the construction of infrastructure, such as the high-speed rail system and local airports, there is lack of coordination and long-term planning – not terribly surprising
Inside Huawei’s first 5G phone: Teardown reveals rush to innovate – Nikkei Asian Review – interesting analysis of the design approach. The design is surprisingly messy. This implies a few things. Huawei had to rush as it was behind. The phone isn’t as ‘premium’ as Huawei would like to believe, its the smartphone equivalent of having Irish travellers tarmac your drive. Huawei is leaving money on the table by not optimising their designs.
I started thinking about ‘brand winter’ when I read about TBWA Hong Kong and their ‘Brave Bear Pack’ offering. Campaign Asia describes as a new product focusing on growth hacking and cost efficient tools for surviving the financial winter brought on by Hong Kong’s anti-ELAB protests.
I thought financial winter was an interesting metaphor to use in Hong Kong. I get the analogue of the ‘bear market’. But the winter in Hong Kong is very dry (rather than humid), cool and exceptionally pleasant for the most part.
They probably feel that the ‘Brave Bear Pack’ opportunity has been amplified by the late 2019 novel Corona Virus outbreak.
According to TBWA the services they are bundling in this are:
Demand mapping – which seems to be database / CRM / social marketing data. Looking at market size and going after niches or pockets of the market not previously addressed? A B2B analogue would be ABM (account based planning)
Acquisition System Architecture – seems to be marketing automation based on the descriptor
Efficient Content Production – presumably to provide the content for the Acquisition System Architecture?
Affordable Big Format Film Production – crowdsourced film a la Mofilm, with what I presume is a TBWA mark-up. Again I suspect that the primary role of this is to provide content for the Acquisition System Architecture?
Chatbot marketing (on Facebook and WeChat respectively) which is so two years ago
Crisis management – TBWA seem to be white labelling Ketchum to do planning and execution- pretty standard stuff in the PR world. A quick look at LinkedIn indicates that Ketchum’s Hong Kong office has a very small, junior team to handle any crisis that might come up
I found it a depressing read. The tactics focus on the bare minimum to harvest sales from existing brand equity and and realised that we’re entering a brand winter. This is down to two factors acting as a catalyst: technology and economic decline.
What do I mean by a brand winter? It’s a time when marketers focus on performance marketing exclusively. The most obvious influence in terminology was the financial winter analogue used in media coverage. I guess it also resonated past discussions I’d had about the circular funding cycle that artificial intelligence has gone through. Decades like now of massive investment, followed by funding droughts or ‘AI winters’.
Technology factors for a brand winter
During the last couple of economic recessions, after the dot com bust and the 2008 bank crisis new performance marketing platforms have come to the fore.
The dot com bust heralded the rise of Google’s search advertising. The 2008 bank crisis saw Facebook and YouTube shake up online display advertising.
What all of them had in common is their ability to drive an action (like a sale), but weren’t so good in building distinctive memorable brands.
The second aspect, was that they could be very targeted using data. The idea is that the more targeted the message and the audience that its shown to; the more effective that it would be. Sounds like common sense doesn’t it? The actual results are counterintuitive. TakeMahabis the slipper brand that tried to build itself just on online media went into administration. Uber has tried to build a brand on price and online growth hacking still hasn’t made a profit.
But this pivot has resulted in the creative side of the advertising industry being gutted.
This presents four problems for marketers:
Effective marketing campaigns have found by research to consist of roughly 70 percent brand building and 30 percent performance marketing across both B2B and B2C marketing. Brand building’s full impact can be measured over decades or longer. According to qualitative research by Kings College London on China; Swiss and Japanese watch brands were sought after by post cultural revolution consumers. Brand equity endured despite the worst excesses of Chairman Mao and his red guards.
Digital marketing isn’t as effective as one would believe. Digital marketing is only as good as its data and its measures have been defined largely by the media platforms themselves. TV advertising is several orders of magnitude cheaper in terms of reach. Ad fraud is rampant and major brands pushed for better standards led by P&G and Unilever.
The plethora of channels has meant that many brands have spread their creative like a thin smear of peanut butter across toast. Again research indicates that this approach is counter-productive. Yet brands have adopted big production capability in-house to feed social channels and online advertising formats. This work is often done at the expense of creativity and ideas
Over targeting is counter productive according to research done by the Ehrensberg Bass Institute and captured in Sharp’s How Brands Grow. Instead the authors recommend a ‘smart mass approach’
Marketers have given digital a greater amount of latitude than it deserves due to C-suite level concerns about digital disruption, stoked by their management consultants. When economic head-winds are met shorttermist thinking fit nicely with this performance marketing bias despite the issues outlined.
Economic factors for a brand winter
I won’t go into the background of the 2019 Hong Kong protests as that has been well-documented elsewhere. What I am interested for this post in is the economic impact.
The 2019-2020 Hong Kong protests seemed to impact a number of sectors:
The FT talked about the serious downturn in life insurance policy sales. Life insurance policies are used by mainland Chinese to build up assets outside of China in dollar-denominated investments
Data released last year indicated that for the month of October 2019, retail sales were down 24%
Chow Tai Fook Jewellery Group is looking to close 15 out of 91 stores in Hong Kong
The leisure sector is down on earnings and Ocean Park is in serious financial trouble
Occupancy levels in Mandarin Oriental hotels went from 71% to 49%
Products and services that are aimed at the mainland Chinese market have taken the brunt of the damage.
Learning from the successes of the past
I wanted to draw lessons from two events.
The first was the Great Depression and how it profoundly affected FMCG brand marketing
The second event is the 1967 Hong Kong riots
The Great Depression
The Great Depression has slipped from popular consciousness as the silent generation that lived through it have left us. The Wall Street Crash, the New Deal and the Jarrow march are far away from our collective experience.
You may as well be talking about the Wild West or Victorian child labourers climbing up chimneys to clean them.
In reality the Great Depression lasted from 1929 until World War 2. Global GDP dropped by 15 percent. Many countries looked to austerity policies to see themselves through. It didn’t work out that well as it depressed demand. And it was a similar case for companies, they cut back on marketing and a demand drop followed.
By comparison Procter & Gamble (P&G) took a contrarian approach. P&G had been founded almost a century earlier. It hit its stride during the late 1850s as the American civil war raged. By 1911 its Crisco vegetable based shortening was launched. P&G were quick to realise the potential of the nescient radio stations springing up in the US and around the world.
They were instrumental in coming up with a new brand marketing format of sponsored programming based around a long running drama called soap operas. Consumers may have been struggling to make ends meet; but soap operas allowed them to develop increased brand affinity.
P&G also used the Great Depression to expand internationally by buying a UK-based soap maker. Because of this contra-cycle investment and spending in brand, P&G became one of the world’s largest companies with operations pretty much everywhere apart from Cuba and North Korea.
In a mirror of this strategy, P&G are now investing in creating content for streaming television services which have emerged over the past few years, in a similar manner to the way radio grew a century earlier.
The takeaway from P&G is that contra-cyclical investing for larger brands can pay dividends as the media landscape has less competition in terms of brand building communications. Secondly, adoption of technology makes sense IF the media can aid long term brand building activities.
1967 Hong Kong riots
In 1967, Hong Kong was a British colony on the edge of China. China had just entered the cultural revolution and ideological fervour was in full swing.
Hong Kong was a hodge podge of identities, and that’s not even including ethnic minorities (Nepalis, caucasian people of different nationalities and south Asians who came across the British Empire).
Native Hong Kongers
Middle class, business owners and entertainers who fled places Shanghai towards the end of the civil war
Former nationalist soldiers who settled in Hong Kong (like their compatriots who ended up in Taiwan and Burma)
Mainland Chinese who left China during the hardships and famine due to the Great Leap Forwards. They entered the territory illegally, often swimming across the Sham Chun river or even the Hau Hoi Wan estuary.
Hong Kong was a tinder box. Work was plentiful but life was hard for the blue collar workers who struggled to make ends meet. What happened next depends on who you believe.
Trouble was brewing, there had been unrest across a number of sectors:
The previous year there had been riots protesting a rise in ticket prices on the Star Ferry.
At the time Hong Kong was a centre of plastics production, textiles and light industry. Much of the light industry started off literally as cottage industries. Plastic flowers were assembled from parts at home and workers were paid by piece work. In the 1950s, the government got rid of these low rise low quality housing. They built high-rise public housing and multi-storey public factories that rented units to light industries.
The start of the riots was down to an industrial dispute at a plastic flower manufacturer based at the San Po Kong Factory Estate in Kowloon. The factory was owned by a local industrialist called Duncan Tong (唐鼎康). Tong had a number of manufacturing businesses including the Playart die cast car brand which competed with Hot Wheels and is still popular with collectors.
On May 6, picketing workers clashed with members of the management. It got sufficiently violent that the riot police were called. When the police arrived they were pelted with cans and glass bottles by picketing workers and their peers in other neighbouring factory units. The police arrested 21 demonstrators who were represented by the Hong Kong Federation of Trade Unions (HKFTU). The HKFTU is a Beijing-aligned group of trade unions.
Many more were injured in the violence. Local union officials went to the police stations to protest the arrests and ended up being arrested themselves.
Leftist protestors with strong sympathies towards Beijing protested in solidarity with the arrested workers the following day.
Over 100 protestors were arrested and a curfew was imposed by the authorities. This then sparked a low level insurgency. Over 1,100 bombs were planted, 51 people were killed, over 800 people were injured. Almost 5,000 people were arrested and over 1,900 of them were successfully prosecuted. It was only the intervention of the Chinese premier who finally put an end to the violence in December that year.
Business leaders like Li Ka-shing and Harilela invested in property when the 1967 riots depressed prices. They then went on to replace British taipans as the main drivers of Hong Kong commerce.
The takeaway is that chaos has consistently provided opportunities for businesses with enough capital to take advantage of them. But what’s needed more than money is the eye for opportunity.
What does the solution for a brand winter look like?
In the case of Hong Kong, if we look at FMCG brands, there has never been a better time to build a local brand. Advertising inventory in out of home spaces or on streaming media are going to be cheaper due to the lack of demand.
Both ‘yellow and blue’ orientated media offer opportunities if handled in an even handed way. Investing during the contra-cycle in brand offers businesses an opportunity to capture long term profits rather than short term sales.
German think-tank MERICS China Forecast 2020 is interesting watching if you can spare the time. It’s long, but some of the smartest content that I’ve seen recently, from a European perspective. The Americans seem to have done a better job on Sinology; for instance the likes of Bill Bishop or Kuo and Goldstein at Sinica. MERICS China Forecast 2020 was a collaboration between Mercator Institute for China Studies (MERICS) and Handelsblatt. More China-focused content here.
Global Web Index have done an interesting analysis of Subway’s new product set aimed at tapping into the move towards plant-based diets. Subway – ‘Beyond Meatball Sub’ – GlobalWebIndex – was pitched at flexitarians rather than true vegans.
Iris put together this work Every name’s a story for Starbucks UK. It won the Channel 4 Diversity Award 2019. It taps into the challenge of gender and identity. But also the primeval power of a name. I thought of Ursula Le Guin’s A Wizard of Earthsea which explored the power of names as it was seen by different cultures. Just five or ten years ago this ad would have brought out sufficient protests for the likes of Starbucks to shy away from. It illustrates the complexity of values in modern Britain: conservative nationalism and cosmopolitanism.
Kraft is running a promotional contest for its new Kraft Macaroni & Cheese Big Bowls that targets parents of young children on Valentine’s Day. It’s interesting how Kraft are interpreting their product as what Scott Galloway calls a ‘time machine’. A product or service that allows people to get time from an activity where it otherwise would have been wasted. For instance, the telemedicine aspects of the Babylon Health app.