East Meets West Recap

Racepoint Global

Rachel Kamada – Senior Account Executive, Racepoint Global San Francisco

On April 12, 2018, Racepoint Global held its first East Meets West Summit in San Francisco where we discussed the challenges for US companies operating in China and the growing challenges for Chinese companies operating in the US. We had a great lineup including Evan Osnos, New Yorker staff writer and National Book Award-winning author as our keynote speaker with the following industry leaders on our panel:

  • Rebecca Fannin, Founder/Editor, Silicon Dragon
  • Michael Oldenburg, Senior Communications Manager, North America, DJI
  • Pim Tuyls, Founder and CEO, Intrinsic ID
  • Jeff Richards, Managing Partner, Silicon Valley, GGV Capital
  • Bradley Hecht, Senior Managing Director, Americas, Reputation Institute
  • Alan Seem, Partner, Jones Day

We discussed the crucial ways marketing plays a role in the success of international expansion, and the panelists shared their experiences and strategies to deal with growing challenges. In case you missed the event, below we have outlined some of the key takeaways from the summit.

Doing Business in China Is a Challenge, Are You Up For It?

Even Racepoint President and CEO Peter Prodromou admitted that when he first decided to do business in China he nearly failed. Why? Because there were several challenges to overcome in China like regulations, the perception of US companies in China and different cultures. While it isn’t surprising there is a big challenge for US companies to do business in China, there are often areas that companies tend to overlook.

Panelist Brad Hecht, Senior Managing Director at Reputation Institute, gave the example of American liquor brands who have failed at branding in China because the Chinese tend to only drink at bars and restaurants, rather than purchasing them at markets or liquor stores like Americans do. He advised that “Companies need to open a store in China and build a brand around it,” using Haagen-Dazs as an example.

Jeff Richards, the Managing Partner at GCV Capital, advised that companies who are looking to go to China need to ask themselves, “are you ready to scale globally?” “Are you dedicated?” Because it’s “a long bet, a long game” and you need to be sure you have people locally employed who are going to be dedicated.

Pim Tuyls, Founder and CEO at Intrinsic ID, shared his own personal challenges citing intellectual property (IP) as a concern for his company, as well as finding good, local people. However, each panelist agreed US markets should look at China given its growing intelligent market and opportunity for economic growth.

Entering the US Market Is Also a Challenge, and Trump Isn’t Making It Any Easier

Chinese companies also face many challenges targeting the US (*cough cough Broadcom*) and the Trump Administration have made it clear they have growing concerns about China doing business here in the US. But Trump isn’t the first to show concerns, as pointed out by our keynote speaker Evan Osnos. Evan reminded us that for years there has been a narrative that China is a threat to the US and there’s a duty for the government to be sure China doesn’t impact the US.

For Chinese companies today, Alan Seem, Partner at Jones Day, believes that Chinese companies are facing harder challenges since Trump. “Just look at his tweets,” said Alan, “his tweets have anti-China rhetoric.” Rebecca Fannin, Founder and Editor of Silicon Dragon, agreed that there is this inherent fear of Chinese companies so they face a lot of skeptics and have a hard time getting their messages across.

To Succeed in the US, You Need the Right Message

Although Trump’s feeling towards Chinese companies can be negative and fear-based, there are still ways Chinese companies can succeed in the US and it has to do with their message. Rebecca advised that Chinese companies need to be sure they are tailoring their message to the US. She also shared that she’s seen a lot of poor translations and branding, but with the right message and PR plan, companies can change their reputation and succeed. Michael Oldenburg, Senior Communications Manager at DJI, agreed with Rebecca, that developing and maintaining reputation is a key to success. He shared that DJI brands itself as a global company, even though its founder is Chinese. Michael also gave the advice that it’s always important for local employees to get face to face time with upper management and let them know what is going on and keep them aware of the cultural differences they may not be familiar with.

So how can Chinese companies develop the right message and tell their story? Well for starters, they get an amazing PR and marketing agency that has keen knowledge and proven success bringing visibility to companies in the US – that’s us by the way – and you build your reputation; which brings us to our next key learning.

A Brands Reputation Matters More Than Ever

Consumers want a brand they can trust and align with. According to a recent study by the Reputation Institute, a company’s reputation is heavily affected by the consumers’ perception of its workplace environment, how it governs and the positive impact it has on society. For Chinese companies, their reputation can be heavily affected by its product, company vision, and governance.

What this study showed is that brands can build its reputation through visibility and open engagement. Brad shared that “companies who show they have a great impact on society and are not just making money off of their customers, will be able to gain trust from its target audience.”

We want to say thank you to everyone who attended and for the speakers and panelists that made our summit so successful. While the event might be over, here at Racepoint, we’re always looking for ways we can help our clients gain positive international visibility and are continuing to discuss challenges and strategies for international marketing.