What Will It Take to Be a China CMO in 2030?

Author of 'China CMO' Shares Insights From Interviews With 18 Marketing Leaders

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Like you, we were sick of reading China marketing books from so-called "experts." So we interviewed 18 of the smartest CMOs in the market -- from international brands like Coca-Cola and Starbucks to local companies such as the Bank of Communications and Lenovo.

Haiyan Wang at Mondelez, for example, is trying to create a breakthrough biscuit tailored just for China. Rex Wong told us about making Budweiser relevant to a local market. And Simon Millar and Jens Meyer from Adidas talked about the challenges they face when selecting the right celebrity.

While we talked a lot about the current day, however, we also wanted their insights on the future of marketing in China. What will China's CMOs in 2030 be like?

It's scary to think that most of them have already started their careers. These brand assistants are fresh-faced, brought up entirely digital and often bilingual. Their world is totally driven through consumer engagement, collaboration and involvement.

In the future, the "internet of things" means that China CMOs will be able to do "passive crowdsourcing." Your own behavior will be so monitored that you will involuntarily contribute to brand innovation. When more and more devices, experiences and moments like this are connected, innovation can happen by accident -- CMOs merely need to read the data to see the trends.

The biggest area for potential change is the growth of the "global-local" company. The Chinese equivalents of Samsung, Sony and Shangri-la Hotels are proven leaders in Asian markets with global ambitions. Some examples include Haier, Li Ning and Lenovo. We also see strong growth from other firms, such as Tiens, a Tianjin-based company competing with Amway and Mary Kay in the health and beauty business and already distributed by 100 companies around the world. These brands already compete in China with multinationals, but as global firms, they will only become more engaged, more flexible, more savvy and more competitive.

Digital will be at the heart of change in China. Already cities such as Hangzhou have converted to digital TV. The growth of online video sites like Youku and Tudou at the expense of TV viewership is only going to continue. And right now, all the leading electronics manufacturers in the world, from Apple and Samsung down to China's Haier, Huawei and TCL, are trying to create cloud-based Smart TVs that will enable you to watch anything anytime anywhere.

But there will be plenty of difficulties -- like the challenges already in dealing with the online payment system Alipay, fast becoming a currency in China in its own right and defeating all other payment options. And June Bu of Johnson & Johnson is asking for a structured scorecard for digital to better measure not just clicks and followers, but changes in brand equity and ultimately sales.

So what of the future when it comes to growth? Will China eventually "max-out" its own opportunity? A recent McKinsey study told a key story: Beyond the top hundred cities in China, the next 300 are small today but by 2020 will command 30% of the GDP -- and this amount will only increase over time. Chinese marketing is going to become hyper-local, demanding talent that can handle this dynamic.

China's marketing talent of the future will be coming back from Harvard and Stanford, constantly curious and constantly wanting to learn more. It's hard to say how this will affect turnover, but we can envision ways to cut down rampant job-hopping. We see a future of a combination of LinkedIn and Glassdoor -- where salaries become more transparent and the intangible benefits of training, that companies like Coke are investing in, become obvious advantages.

The CMO of 2030 China will be global citizens wearing multiple hats -- bending their deep knowledge of how consumers think toward a far more digital customer journey than has ever existed before.

Greg Paull is principal at R3, an independent consultancy focused on improving the effectiveness and efficiency of marketers and their agencies. "China CMO," written by Mr. Paull and Goh Shu Fen and published by Whirlwind Publishing in Hong Kong, comes out this week.
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