In past years, Chinese companies have established a reputation for growing by focusing relentlessly on short-term sales, rather than on marketing, branding and public relations. What companies fail to realize is that investing in these three aspects is critical in order to build and manage their international reputation. The challenges that Chinese companies face when they attempt to communicate their values abroad were voiced at LocWorld27 Shanghai in a panel entitled “Ali-blah-blah-blah: Speaking the language of China.”
“The future for the Chinese economy is further integration into the world economy”
“This topic is very poignant for China at this time,” noted panelist Huang Youyi, vice president of the Translators Association of China. “Ali is well, and the rest are just blah blah blah. Other Chinese companies are not speaking the way Ali is.”
Huang was referring to China’s largest online retailer, Alibaba. Rather than jumping straight into foreign markets, the company is taking calculated steps. They first worked on their brand visibility—producing high-quality videos, articles and a wide variety of online and offline content—thus promoting their company and creating a connection with Western audiences. Through this method, they are positioning themselves as a global company with a track record no less impressive than that of their well-known, more established multinational competitors such as Amazon and eBay.
A prominent problem faced by many companies when going global is that consumers have strong loyalties to particular products of already existing, established brands. Chinese companies operate at a double disadvantage: they enter domestic markets as outsiders, and because of this outsider status, they have no history to leverage with wary consumers. However, there are steps that Chinese companies can immediately take to begin establishing global credibility. The first step is to improve the quality of their products and to abide by international industry standards.
Huawei, which has successfully made the jump from a domestic technology company to an international one, highlights the process required to be a successful, globally integrated firm. When it first began crossing borders in the 1990s, Huawei executives developed their own product designs. The process took a long time; quality control and system bugs plagued early mobile models. However, Huawei soon began working with an international, strategic partner in order to produce content consistent with global standards.
“Because we were working with consultants from all around the world, language and culture were serious barriers,” says Bill Chen, founder and director of the Translation Service Center at Huawei. “Our translators bridged the gap between our employees and consultants from over 150 countries.”
Today the investment has paid off and over a third of the world’s population are now using Huawei’s technology. Huawei outpaces Google and Microsoft in R&D spending per annum, ensuring that its products remain innovative and original compared to its competitors in mobile technology. Moreover, Huawei has created a broad repository of internal knowledge regarding each step of the product development and production process.
Huawei is, however, the exception to the general trend in China. While international technology brands are known for releasing highly anticipated new products each year, Chinese brands are still best known for pirating and improving upon pre-existing designs. Chinese owned companies will have to confront customer attachments and loyalties to more well-established brands in North America and Europe. Overcoming this challenge is not simple; Chinese companies will not only have to combat resilient stereotypes of low-quality Chinese products, but also persuade consumers that their products are fashionable and cool.
The time has come for China and its 1.4 billion people to integrate into the world economy and share and translate their ideas for the remaining 5.7 billion in the world to see.
Localization is Everything
Regardless of the industry, cracking competitive sectors in new markets is tough in a globalized world. Ultimately, a product can’t be very competitive when it is not embraced by the local market. Because of this, working alongside a localization partner has fast become a more significant, if not crucial, part of going global.
“Companies that invest in localization are the ones that will be successful,” says Ron Myers, corporate vice president of Corporate Marketing at AMD. “As we go East or West and that formula changes, the companies that do will successfully penetrate those markets.”
As global citizens of the sharing economy, we are now more connected than ever. In this age, you cannot build a global brand if you don’t have strong international connectivity. Localization is now vital to the success of communicating a global message. Perhaps the time has truly come for China and its 1.4 billion people to integrate into the world economy and to share their ideas for the other 5.7 billion people to see.