Articles about Letv sometimes referred to it as "China's Netflix." But since the Chinese company supersized its ambitions, it's gotten much trickier to sum up.
It debuted a smartphone range, which it called "Le Superphone;" it advertised those handsets with a much-discussed ad that simultaneously bashed Apple and paid it homage. Its film division is partnering on an upcoming epic called "The Great Wall" starring Matt Damon, the biggest-ever co-production between China and Hollywood. It struck a deal to develop electric cars with Aston Martin, the preferred brand of James Bond.
All that happened over the past year.
The name Letv didn't fit anymore; the tech-to-entertainment company rebranded itself a few weeks back as "LeEco." "Le" is Chinese for "happy," and "Eco" stands for ecosystem, to account for the company's various businesses. WPP's Brand Union helped with a new colorful geometric logo to replace the old one of simple red text.
The goal is that consumers see the "Le" brand asset and recognize it on businesses from Le Sports, which just acquired Major League Baseball streaming rights for China, to LeMall, an e-commerce platform for the company's tech products, said Monica Lee, Brand Union's CEO for North Asia.
"Their brief was very simple; their business is evolving, and they want to make sure their brand is universal and is going to be seen as a worldwide brand," Ms. Lee said.
The company is targeting consumers in India and also in the U.S. with products from smart TVs to headphones. (LeEco's founder Jia Yueting is also backing Los Angeles electric car startup Faraday Future, which plans a $1 billion investment in a Nevada factory.)
Ad Age talked with LeEco's chief marketing officer, Peng Gang, about the rebrand and the company's strategy in the U.S. -- a well-developed market where Chinese brands generally tread cautiously.
Ad Age: Why wasn't the old name working?
Mr. Peng: "Since 'TV' was part of the name Letv, many people would think it's a TV station instead of a hardware manufacturer. The first edition of our mobile phones had 'Letv' on the back of them, so many people would think it was a mobile phone made and sold by a TV station … We want our users to understand clearly that we are an ecosystem spanning the internet, content, art, technology and green cars."
Ad Age: In November in the U.S., you soft-launched a platform to sell your hardware, LeMall.com. What are you doing to promote it or advertise it?
Mr. Peng: "In the future we hope our China office and U.S. office are equal, and in the long run we would like the U.S. office to be our global headquarters. Plus with the new name and logo, we don't want Americans to think of this as a company started in China, but as a local company. Therefore we are recruiting local talents instead of sending Chinese staff overseas. Our publicity and marketing will be based on local situations, but one thing will be the same as the China market -- we will fully make use of online instead of traditional media. We will make our users interact with our marketing team and enable them to be involved in our product development."
Ad Age: Can you give some more specifics on how you're promoting LeMall in the U.S.?
Mr. Peng: "We won't focus on offering cheap prices, as many other e-businesses are doing. We actually invite people who are interested in our products to try them first. And then we will modify or adjust our products based on their experiences. We will listen to their suggestions and ideas and meanwhile, they could enlarge our influence. Many other brands may have a series of ads, commercials or media releases at important moments, but we do it subtly."
Ad Age: Who do you see as your target audience in the U.S., and your top products there?
Mr. Peng: "Our main competitor would be Samsung and its smart products. Their target audiences will be ours too, people who have certain spending power and spend quite a lot on tech products … I think our TV and mobile phones, especially our TV, can break through in the U.S.
Ad Age: How will the Aston Martin partnership play out, in marketing and branding terms?
Mr. Peng: "We will speed the 'internetization' of a historic brand. We will start from customers' needs first. I think marketing is the step afterwards. We will still invite some users to be involved in our product design. Traditionally, a car brand will first manufacture cars and then do a series of promotions and marketing … but we might do it in reverse, we might start selling them before they have been manufactured."