China often bucks the trend in the global – local debate. For MNCs, the challenge has often been finding the sweet spot between global and local appeals. Global brand positioning needs to be executed locally in context of on-the-ground realities. For example, Dove’s global positioning of real beauty works well around the globe, but the execution varies significantly. Bare bodies may not be used in Muslim or more conservative countries though the concept of real beauty works well.
China often defies the global local equation. An example is OMO – the Unilever detergent brand where “Dirt is good” campaign was successfully adapted in all local markets except in China. These brand positioning statements that usually embody universal truths such as love, aspiration and ambition somehow fail to work in China.
Brands like Hermes have for the first time in their history launched a brand specifically for China – Shang Xia – a blend of Chinese craftsmanship and contemporary design. There are growing number of companies setting up R&D centres in China not for global innovation, but for localisation of offerings that will appeal to the Chinese consumers. Is it because China is truly different even from it’s next door neighbours, or does the sheer size of the market make it impossible for marketers to disregard any nuance in consumer preference? Hermes plans to introduce Shang Xia in Paris at some later date. Perhaps, this is not what executives mean when they ask – when will we see Chinese brands on the High Street? But Confucian societies have a long-term orientation and I think that is a trump card that the Chinese have up their sleeve even against India.