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What Should Thailand’s Marketers Know About Working With Chinese Companies?

As China’s economy transforms itself, becoming less export-focused and integrating new fields like electric vehicles, e-commerce, and cashless payments, its footprint in Thailand (and throughout the ASEAN region) continues to expand.

Chinese brands such as Xiaomi, Huawei, Alibaba and the Bank of China have already staked out strong positions in the Thai market, suggesting that marketers in ASEAN companies should take a closer look at the methods they employ.

To get a better understanding of Chinese market behavior, members of Vero’s Bangkok team went to Shanghai and met David Wolf, Managing Director of Allison + Partners’ Global China Practice. The following are our key insights from our workshop with Mr. Wolf:

CHINESE CONSUMERS ARE OVERWHELMED WITH BRANDS

Chinese consumers may be the most sophisticated in the world. A plethora of options, including the world’s largest mobile device market and the most car brands available in any country, mean that Chinese people need to be informed and skilled at choosing where to spend their money.

Chinese consumers expect brands to regularly change their products and add new features. This may be why Apple is less successful in China as other countries, since their infrequent product launches and updates can’t compete with brands like Xiaomi who update their MIUI firmware almost every week. Brands who don’t regularly renew their products or services tend to be forgotten as consumers gain loyalty to those that do.

LinkedIn is prospering in China. This is partly because they localized their service, but it’s especially due to their frequent additions of new and improved features. Successful Chinese online companies like WeChat also make constant effort to tell different stories about their product which appeal to different segments of Chinese consumers. In other words, when doing business in China, companies know they have to earn the consumer’s loyalty every day.

CHINESE BUSINESSES SEE THE WORLD IN THEIR TERMS

“China’s leaders believe it is now their turn to lead the world. [And Chinese companies] truly believe in their own leadership, and will tend to see other countries not always as equals,” Wolf explains.

Perhaps as a side-effect, Chinese companies tend to under-recognize differences between foreign markets and their own. When expanding operations into neighboring countries, they often duplicate the product and/or service that works well in China, changing the language without adding features to meet local needs and preferences. “They treat the business environment, the media, and even the culture as if it were essentially the same as theirs”, said Wolf.

Assumptions that business and media environments work similarly outside of China can lead to PR miscalculations.

In China it is common to pay media figures to promote and attend corporate events, which could cause a scandal if attempted in many other countries. Chinese companies expanding their business into Thailand will need to study the local media landscape and the PR industry’s role in it, a process for which those in the industry can act as valuable guides.

CHINESE COMPANIES KNOW WHY THEY’RE COMING TO THAILAND

Thailand is geographically close and has similar market conditions to China, making it attractive to Chinese companies because their homegrown products are more likely to find success here compared to the US and EU.

“Smart Chinese companies understand that they can benefit from operating in neighboring markets where customers look like their own – young people in Asian cultures who are more prosperous than their parents,” Wolf says. They can more easily identify promising market gaps in ASEAN countries. They also perceive Thais as friendly people who are easy to work with.”

As a result, we can expect a continued influx of Chinese companies into the Thai market in the years to come. Marketers who know how to work with these companies, and act early to build Chinese connections, stand to gain the most. With all this in mind, marketers should keep a close eye on how the economy is going to expand its footprint in the region and play a bigger role in their markets.

*Over 130 different car brands and 952 different cars available on the Chinese market. Forbes, 5 Stunning Facts About The Chinese Car Market You Need To Know, 16 May 2016

This blog was based on a Workshop in Shanghai titled “Winning strategies for working with Chinese audience and Companies” by David Wolf, Managing Director of Allison + Partners’ Global China Practice.

ALEXANDRA DUCROT IS A PR EXECUTIVE AT VERO THAILAND.

DEREK WELLS IS A COPYWRITER FROM THE US, CURRENTLY BASED AT VERO VIETNAM.

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