How Can You Connect with 1.2 Billion People? Try Pop Culture

ADAGECHINA: Motorola Exec Uses Entertainment to Boost Brand in China

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HONG KONG ( -- Since Ian Chapman-Banks joined Motorola in May 2005 as Beijing-based general manager of marketing and business development-mobile devices, North Asia, the company's market share in China has doubled to 22% and Motorola's phones have been transformed from stodgy devices into an arbiter of popular culture. AdAgeChina Editor Normandy Madden caught up with Mr. Chapman-Banks last week in Shanghai, where he was a keynote speaker at Ad:tech Shanghai, to talk about Motorola's MotoMusic platform, Chinese youth and why the Japanese still have the best cellphones.

Where did you start in revitalizing Motorola's image in China?

I said "no" to conformity and lack of consistency. What I said "yes" to is that we have to be completely consistent in every retail store, in every city in every market, because as an international mobile brand, we are essentially selling to global tribes, who tend to have the same aspirations and goals. Why would you run different campaigns in Shanghai, Beijing, Chengdu, Hong Kong or Taipei? So I decided on entertainment, fashion and music.

You visited Japan nine times in the past nine weeks. How far ahead is Japan?

Japan is the boom that keeps on booming. From an infrastructure point of view, Japan has high-speed, 3G networks. When I look at what's happening on phones in Japan, it's amazing. They are booking holidays and train tickets, checking the weather, checking when the next train is leaving Tokyo to outlying cities and actually buying the train tickets online. People in Japan do everything on a mobile phone that people do on a PC in the rest of the world. Japanese are now so accustomed to that.

When do you think China will get there?

It will get there in a different way. Social networking will probably evolve differently here in China. We're already developing applications in our phones so you can start to make purchases with them, and MotoMusic will hopefully develop into an e-commerce site at some point.

Motorola's MotoMusic has songs not available elsewhere preloaded on phones and the brand appears in music videos made by Jay Chou, a Motorola-sponsored Asian pop star. Will other advertisers become part of this environment?

I don't make a penny out of MotoMusic. In fact, we lose money. We give all the proceeds to the artists. My philosophy was to kick-start the whole music community in China, and my goal is to make MotoMusic sticky enough to fund it with relevant advertising, because it's difficult to have a business model when you're only charging two or three RMB (about 25›) per track. That basically covers fixed costs. But at some point, as we get 20 or 30 or 40 million people signed up, and we're at about 4 [million] to 5 million at the moment, it would be an interesting proposition to get some advertising.

What's your biggest challenge in China?

What I really strive for is brand preference, and I want to stick to fashion, entertainment and music. We want every phone we ship to offer a music experience. Even my phone, a V3i model, has an MP3 player that can carry 400 or 500 songs.

But even before we get to that, it's about coverage. How do you reach 1.2 billion people? It's tough. Outdoor and print media really don't exist here outside of tier-one and tier-two cities. [But] even in smaller cites, all young people are online in internet cafes. We don't know where the market is going, but we want to make sure we're pretty close to current trends.

Chinese aren't buying phones every day; the cycle for decision-making is three or four months. We have to make sure consumers are engaging with Motorola at each level in the decision-making process, especially in this market, where a phone can cost the equivalent of a month's salary. That's a big challenge.
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