It's no surprise why marketers and their agencies -- large and small -- are eager to get their brands into China. In 2011, the country was responsible for some 30% of the world's economic growth. Its middle class is 400-million strong.
Moreover, Julian Boulding, president of Network One, told attendees at Ad Age's Small Agency Conference in Minneapolis today that China currently accounts for 6% of the world's consumer spending -- a number that increases almost daily.
Given that growth, Mr. Boulding, whose company helps independent and non-holding-company-aligned agencies win and manage international business, offered tips and strategies for agencies and their clients to keep in mind when considering entering the China market. Here are a few key takeaways.
Read up, but get the right list
Don't bother reading popular political books about China, said Mr. Boulding. Instead, read "The Scramble for China: Foreign Devils in the Qing Empire, 1832-1914" by Robert Vickers, which he said explains why and how Chinese were exploited by the West. Also, be sure to pick up "Poorly Made in China: An Insider's Account of the Tactics Behind China's Production Game" by Paul Midler; "When China Rules the World: The End of the Western World and the Birth of a New Global Order" by Martin Jacques; and "Eclipse: Living in the Shadow of China's Economic Dominance" by Arvind Subramanian.
Do business the Chinese way: Pay as you go
"Avoid the huge, expensive mistakes," like going into China with a massive marketing budget, said Mr. Boulding. Instead, he suggests, take it little by little, which is how Chinese marketers go about their marketing budgets. Go into China with a small budget and experiment. And even though Mr. Boulding was referring to China, marketers and agencies can use his advice -- knowing how a market works -- and apply it to any market.
Authenticity is key
Mr. Boulding said that when it comes to marketing in China, the most key factors are authenticity and experience. Brands that have a long and rich history have the potential to do well in China, because they come off as authentic and appear to offer consumers a unique experience. "If your brand has a history, it's what the Chinese want to hear about," he said. Brands that use social media to talk about their heritage could resonate particularly well with Chinese consumers, too.