The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]


Solutions Are Everything, Even If They’re Questionable Solutions …
May 5, 2011, 6:10 am
Filed under: Comment

So I live in China – a land of rich history, culture and learning.

I love the place.

I love it’s complexity, madness and paradox.

I love it’s ambition, attitude and acceleration.

I love how they’ve embraced a strategy of ‘creative practicality’.

Creative practicality?

What I mean, is that they have an ability to understand problems and opportunities better than almost anyone else in the World … and can develop solutions that strip away all the extraneous detail and get straight to the point.

Now of course, one persons ‘creative practicality; is another persons ‘copyright infringement’ and in no way am I endorsing that – however it has to be said, Chinese companies ability to seize and grasp problems/opportunities and turn turn them into commercial solutions is a sight to behold.

Whereas other countries/companies seem to embrace a never ending line of brainstorm and branding meetings until they feel they have identified the ‘ultimate’ solution, many in China simply ‘get on with it’ and learn from their mistakes.

It’s contrived branding process versus cumulative branding process.


Want to make your apartment look classy?
Put in an ornate, spiral staircase that leads to nowhere.

However, as impressive as this is, one of the biggest problems facing Chinese brands is their reputation.

You see in their quest to maximise opportunity, there is a prevailing attitude – at least in modern business – that ‘good enough’ is good enough.

That might be OK for companies wishing to make a quick buck from an emerging trend – and to be honest, quite a lot of Western brands seem to embrace the same attitude – however in terms of Chinese brands who aspire to global domination, it means they may have to undergo a fundamental change in attitude.

Of course, not all of China’s 1.3 billion people think this way.

Neither do all their companies.

And the fact is, many organisations could easily shun Western markets because their home population is so big, they could become the the biggest brand in the World [in a particular category], without ever exporting a single product.

However for those who want to truly infiltrate the global market, it will require them to let go of the need to only deal with what they know [the cliche of ‘face’] and go back to some of the values that built their country – values that focused on doing things very well rather than the path of least resistance.

While this may seem a tough task, the reality is if anyone can do it, China can – because in a culture that is [seemingly] driven by wealth acquisition and progress, they will adapt to whatever ‘rules’ are required to maximise opportunities – be it quality control or branding process – though the real power will come when they start to define the rules rather than simply follow others.

Bit like how the Japanese car market took on the Western car market.

It’s an exciting time to be here, you should come and check it out for yourselves.

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73 Comments so far
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This post should be required reading for anyone in business, not just the advertising industry. It gives great insight into China’s attitude and approach to progression, which too many people write off as simply being a byproduct of having massive scale and low manufacturing costs and standards.

Great post Robert, your passion and excitement about the place makes me want to come back.

Comment by Pete

I’ve read this post and all it’s done for me is make me glad I’m in the greatest country in the World.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Why don’t you go back Pete. Oh I know, because Sarah will divorce you quicker than I can drink a bottle of jack.

Comment by Billy Whizz

You mean quicker than you can get drunk on one sip of jack surely?

Comment by Pete

Nice whack in the windpipe Pete.

Comment by DH

I could drink any of you under the table. Well at least Rob.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Thanks Pete – though I think you’re being a bit over-generous in your praise there, it’s hardly saying anything new, it’s just very few people seem to actually want to know what’s really happening here.

Comment by Rob

And you should come back, though I think Billy might be right in saying Sarah has had enough of living in Asia for one lifetime, ha!

Comment by Rob

And I love the “creative practicality” expression. It sums up China’s approach to so much so well. It would probably benefit adland if they adopted it too.

Comment by Pete

So pirate dvds are creativity? Where the fuck is that category at cannes?

Comment by Billy Whizz

youtube “inspiration” Pete. adland is way ahead of you when it comes to being practical..

Comment by niko

Isn’t the difference being China copies the solution that best serves the specific problem while the people who favour youtube “inspiration” choose that route regardless of the problem? Practical versus lazy?

Comment by Pete

Nice.

Comment by Rob

Final point. How long do you think it will take Chinese brands to have the confidence to let go of Western branding approaches and start creating their own? Is it generations away or on the horizon and why?

When it does happen, WPP are going to be destroyed in Asia.

PS. That fake staircase is fantastic.

Comment by Pete

Let’s hope soon then. Go China and whatever branding approaches are. Sounds like bollocks to me.

Comment by Billy Whizz

If I knew that Pete, I’d be a billionaire – though I do think that one of the factors that Western brands just won’t be able to compete with is China’s financial, manufacturing and distribution power which means that to a certain extent, they can make success happen regardless of the competitive landscape – which isn’t exactly a new brand based model, but it is something that could fuck up the rules of commerce.

In short, they might not need to develop brands because they can subliminally force purchase.

Of course there’ll never be only one way, but at the moment, I can’t help but feel China is almost ‘playing’ with Western approaches and one day, will stop the pretense and pounce, but that will only be when they’ve sucked Western brands dry in manufacturing and distribution.

As I once said to a rather large company – to win in Asia/China – it’s often more about who ends up losing the least than who makes the most. Short term profit is as much a carrot to keep investing rather than proof you have a definitive long term business. And if you do, prepare to be bought out. Hahaha.

Comment by Rob

Is that your fucking apartment campbell?

Comment by Billy Whizz

No Billy … and I don’t know if that’s the greatest compliment or insult you’ve ever given me.

Comment by Rob

Commie lover.

Comment by Billy Whizz

The two hotels I stayed in were amazing, as was the bullet train we traveled on. China will adapt because eventually the companies will learn that adapting brings more sales and better profit!

Any that fail to adapt will become the forgotten.

Comment by Rob Mortimer

I think you’re missing Rob’s point, he’s saying (I think he’s saying) there will be a point where China starts creating rules rather than adapting to others and due to their scale it will guarantee success even if that is just in it’s own country.

In 20 years time, it might be the Western countries and brands that need to adapt to China’s way, not the other way round.

Comment by Pete

You think you know what Rob is saying? Finally someone does.

Comment by DH

I was sort-of saying that … but then I was also saying what Mr M was saying … except he implies that China could lose if they don’t and that’s never going to happen, it’s simply a case of how much they’re going to win by.

Comment by Rob

Well I was using adapt in terms of both adjusting to other criteria AND creating your own!

I was also saying that some companies will lose, some will succeed; I certainly wasn’t saying China could fail… because I’ve seen no evidence yet that it will!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

Isn’t it some horrible hour in the UK right now?

Comment by Pete

Mortimer living it up.
Or working on a pitch.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Actually waiting for drivers to update before going to bed…!

Comment by Rob Mortimer

you sad fuck.

Comment by andy@cynic

If this was the 1950s, you’d be top of McCarthy’s blacklist.

I enjoyed and learnt things from this post. Don’t make it a habit, I want to be able to look at myself in the mirror.

Comment by DH

They should restart it and stamp out pro commie scum like Rob.

Comment by Billy Whizz

And Sean Penn. I’ve never trusted him.

Comment by Billy Whizz

It’s a Madonna thing isn’t it Billy.

Comment by DH

Grannies shouldn’t have muscles.

Comment by Billy Whizz

“It’s an exciting time to be here, you should come and check it out for yourselves.”

I was actually told to stay the fuck away..

Comment by niko

Who said that, the sex police?

Comment by Billy Whizz

Actually I think that was me. Though I didn’t say it in those terms and he knows exactly why I said it.

Comment by Rob

Because you’re a fucking bastard?

Comment by Billy Whizz

And before anyone say’s anything – yes, I did change the title of this post, mainly because it was previously focused on ‘image’ and that actually had nothing to do with the content of the post … even though you could ask, when does it ever!

Comment by Rob

Not as much as I ask why I keep reading your stuff.

Comment by Billy Whizz

I’m with Pete, this is an excellent post and the term “creative practicality” is an excellent, if overtly positive, expression of how business is approached in China. That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it’s just wrong by Western standards.

Comment by Bazza

“That doesn’t mean it’s wrong, it’s just wrong by Western standards.”

Nice point Baz, except if a Western brand blatantly copied a Chinese companies idea/image/tech, the Government would be as outraged as their counterparts in the rest of the World.

As I have always said, the main rule of life seems to be hypocrisy.

Comment by Rob

Is that like governments talking about justice but really wanting revenge?

Topical. Who am I, Ben Elton?

Comment by DH

America. Fuck yeah.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Who the fuck is Ben Elton? I’m guessing an old and unfunny limey.

Comment by Billy Whizz

Yes and yes and yes.

Comment by DH

Posts like this reveal how good you are. You should do more of them, everyone benefits from it.

Comment by George

Not according to Mr Dodds.

Comment by Rob

I’d believe this was peculiarly Chinese if you gave some concrete examples of this “getting to the point” but you don’t. That leaves me wondering if it’s not just another case of a nation playing catch-up by firstly generating cash-flow (and therefore not having time to waste on supposed perfectionism) before realising that in added-value markets that good enough isn’t.

Many nations have done this before, though none have done this with the advantage of a such a huge pool of labour and none have done it at this time in the development of the world economy. Yes the Chinese approach may be different and yes they will be the dominant economic power but you haven’t really told me why it’s not just because size matters.

Comment by John

Fair point John – but while there are some things China absolutely has to “catch up” on, they’re a damn sight more developed than many think and in some areas – way in advance. And while the ‘scale’ issue is obviously a huge advantage, it is also riddled with issues and so their approach has to cover a much wider range of obstacles and opportunities that many give them credit for.

As for examples about this ‘getting to the point’ – there are many, but at the most basic of terms, I could say it’s from their “imitation” approach to brand development [read: Li Ning – copying NIKE in every way and matching them in most of the ways] through to the Governments US$100 billion investment in green tech [they’re the biggest developer in the World now] to become a major energy player [both for own use and sale] in a period of just 10 years through to the entire ‘fake market’ approach and fake staircases to make an apartment look “classy” to name a few.

I appreciate I didn’t give any examples, but I find it interesting you doubted the approach given so many in the West actively believe China ignores ‘rules and approaches’ to favour its own interests and drive revenue from day 1.

Comment by Rob

I didn’t doubt the approach, I simply questioned its origins – as ever I had an open mind and was willing to be persuaded.

Comment by John

Yes, you’re the epitome of Mr Open Minded, ha!

Comment by Rob

And the complacency of the successful.

Comment by John

PS None of us would fit under Billy’s teeny-weeny table, so his idle threats are moot.

Comment by John

from what ive heard doddsy, youve stooped much fucking lower than billys shitty table.

Comment by andy@cynic

I agree with George.
Amazingly, I also agree with John.
Blimey.

Comment by northern

You are achieving a higher state of grace. Breathe deeply.

Comment by John

Or joining the grown ups

Comment by northern

I only read this blog because you work at W+K. Morning.

Comment by Marcus

Hello lovely. I know that’s not true – it’s so you feel better about yourself because when you see what trash I’ve written, you know whatever is going on in your life can’t be as bad as the rubbish I churn out.

Comment by Rob

there’s that too. Fuck me, you’re a good planner.

Comment by Marcus

It’s all about knowing your audience and years of being in a shed in a printer firm in Germany will do that to people.

Comment by Rob

where the fuck are all my cards and presents and cakes you tight fucks?

not fucking one.

wankers.

fortunately for you, im still in overpriced holiday joy so you wont get hit yet, bad news is this shithole blog is already making my skin crawl so my moment of kindness will pass in 5…. 4…. 3…. 2…. 1….

fuckers.

Comment by andy@cynic

has anyone else noticed how i go on holiday and osama gets killed?

coincidence?

not fucking likely. how the fuck could someone called a fucking seal kill a bearded bastard on land.

Comment by andy@cynic

scanned the posts, fucking shit, especially the tight as fuck mention on my fucking birthday.

billy you did ok. not enough swearing or piss taking but ok.

the rest of you have been a bunch of fucking nicey nicey wankers, but im back now and theyll be no more of that fucking planning wank. yes george, that includes you.

going to watch her indoors unpack my case because thats what real fucking men do.

Comment by andy@cynic

Welcome back. I was so good at being your deputy no one knows you’ve even been away.

Comment by Billy Whizz

you fucking delusional twat. but good work on keeping the planning scum on their fucking toes. ill buy you a drink. itll be a fanta but its still a fucking drink you ungrateful bastard.

Comment by andy@cynic

Return of the Jedi (if the Jedi was a sunburned over the hill Sithlord)

Comment by northern

darth fucking vadar more like you cheeky planning fuck.

missed me? course you have, what else have you got to fucking look forward to apart from another bank drainer.

Comment by andy@cynic

Just when planners thought it was safe.

Comment by DH

There goes the neighbourhood. And not before time.

Comment by John

I learned to be wary of people judging China’s innovation by Western/US/Silicon Valley standards. Sure, China is big and they seem to come up with practical/product/process innovations (how to make stuff work on such a big scale).

Everyone thinks that Baidu copies google or lenovo copies samsung/apple/whatever company you can think of, leaving no room for things developed by them. But it’s missing the point. Not all innovation is created equal.

There’s actually a really interesting book coming out. I’d come to China…plane ticket please! 😀

Comment by andrea

[…] For the record, I wouldn’t have answered it that way and that’s why this kids response made me remember that in an industry where we continually try to add layers of drama and flair to everything we do, sometimes, the most creative response to a problem is the most practical. […]

Pingback by School Results … | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]

[…] A long time ago, when I first moved to Shanghai, I wrote a post about how I felt China practiced what I called practical creativity. […]

Pingback by Does Adland Know What Innovation Actually Is? | The Musings Of An Opinionated Sod [Help Me Grow!]




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