Analysis of Google’s Own Blogging Practices Settles the Question Once and for All: Is Guest Posting Kosher?

I’m a big believer in learning directly from the source.

Want to get in shape? Look at how professional trainers do it.

Trying to figure out the mechanics of parody? Study the lyrics from Weird Al Yankovic (“Tacky” sang to Pharrell’s “Happy” is a good start).

So when it comes to optimizing a website for search (SEO), it’s logical to turn to Google, not just scrutinizing what the company says, but also what it actually does.

Here’s what I mean.

Google’s swami of SEO Matt Cutts has been doing a slow burn on the topic of “guest posting for backlinks” for some time. In a video published back in October 2012 he said that “really high-quality guest posting is worthwhile” though he mutters the three-word caveat “in some cases” (appears in sec 20 in video below).

 

 

Cutts concludes by saying that guest posting is appropriate when “someone puts some work into it and has something original to say” as opposed to doing the bare minimum with the only objective being link building.

Apparently, the advice in 2012 didn’t squash the bad stuff because Cutts continued to revisit the topic, each time becoming more adamant on the perils of guest posting. His frustration boiled over in the post he penned earlier this year, “The Decay and Fall of Guest Blogging for SEO” which begins:

“Okay, I’m calling it: if you’re using guest blogging as a way to gain links in 2014, you should probably stop. Why? Because over time it’s become a more and more spammy practice, and if you’re doing a lot of guest blogging then you’re hanging out with really bad company.”

In the same post, Cutts dusts off a high-school metaphor to hammer home the point:

“So stick a fork in it: guest blogging is done; it’s just gotten too spammy.”

And closes like a preacher trying to impart the gospel on his disciples:

“So there you have it: the decay of a once-authentic way to reach people. Given how spammy it’s become, I’d expect Google’s webspam team to take a pretty dim view of guest blogging going forward.”

Absorbing such direction from above, many from the ranks of the SEO-gentsia concluded that guest posting should cease. Yet, that’s not what he meant, and Google’s own approach to guest blogging bears this out.

I analyzed roughly six months of posts from Google’s enterprise blog (Feb. 1 thru July 26) looking for an answer to the questions: Does Google itself publish guest posts? And if yes, what are their best practices?

It turns out that they do. Here’s how the data breaks down:

Google-Guest Posts Pie chart- SEO

Given that over 40 percent of the content comes from guest posting, it seems reasonable to conclude that Google views guest posting as acceptable.

Just to be sure an anomaly didn’t skew the data, I also cut it by month which you can see in the following:

Google-Guest Posts Bar  graph-  SEO

With the exception of March, there’s almost a 50/50 split in every month between Google posts and guest posts.

Cutts continually refers to the phrase, “taking to an extreme,” to describe guest posting gone wild.  Google’s own behavior suggests that if your guest posts deliver less than 50 percent of your content, this stays out of the danger zone (not “extreme”).

Drilling down into the actual content of the Google-accepted guest posts, there are a couple ways to ensure “safe guest posting.”

First of all, be judicious with the backlinks. Most of the guest posts on the Google Enterprise blog included just a single backlink. A few had two. Only one guest post had more than two, the NYC contribution which spread three backlinks across www.nyc.gov.

A second technique involves including internal links in the guest posts. Even though they’re third-party contributors, Google strives to add one or two links to information that hangs off of www.google.com. Again the NYC guest post provides an example of this technique.

Google CNY  Guest Post - SEO

I hadn’t considered this before, but it makes sense. Such internal links send a proxy of relevance to a search algorithm.

Circling back to the question at hand, is guest posting kosher?

The answer is a clear “Yes.”

Anyone with a fresh take that fits at the intersection of storytelling, PR and digital marketing?

Side note. Over the course of this exercise, I stumbled across Google using the exact same blog post twice. The post, “Chromebox, now for simpler and better meetings,” appeared in both the enterprise blog and the “official Google blog” on February 6, 2014. Assuming Google wouldn’t break its own rules on duplicate content, cross posting must be OK.

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Defining Thought Leadership in a Business Blog

business blog organic search and SEO tips

As our communication campaigns increasingly address SEO and particularly organic search, thought leadership becomes even more important.

Here’s what I mean and why it’s important to put yourself out there.

When it comes to organic search, Google and other search engines place a premium on backlinks. They interpret backlinks as “votes” for the content.

Of course, to generate backlinks, you must create content that prompts other digital properties to share your content with their audiences. For the type of content that grades out as shareable, it’s typically not product information or a personnel announcement or an industry award — information we characterize as company-centric. Instead, it’s the type of business storytelling that’s useful or informative and ultimately helps people in their jobs.

In short, thought leadership plays at the industry level, not the company level, ideally offering takes that can’t be found elsewhere.

Such dot-connecting points to blogging as one of the best platforms for thought leadership.

At the risk of stating the obvious, defining the objectives for a company blog goes a long way toward determining whether a blog truly delivers on the promise of thought leadership. I was reminded of this point recently in pursuing an award competition for blogs. I established three primary objectives for Ishmael’s Corner back in 2008 that remain relevant today:

  • Cultivate an industry resource for communication professionals
  •  Bring meaning to the concept of storytelling in business communications, offering pragmatic advice/insights
  • Create a halo effect for The Hoffman Agency that ultimately differentiates the Agency in new business and the recruitment of talent

With the first objective setting the stage for thought leadership, I went through the exercise of analyzing 126 posts published within the competition’s timeframe. Would the data support my premise that the blog strives for thought leadership?

It turns out that fewer than 10 percent of posts fell into the Agency-centric bucket. Out of the 139 posts published between May 1, 2013 and June 30, 2014, 126 played at the industry level. It seems fair to say that I’ve managed to avoid the “me, me, me, and here’s a little more about me” trap (though this post does deliver an ironic twist to the previous premise).

Drilling down to the next level, I categorized the industry posts by topic which you can see in the pie chart below.

Ishmael's Corner blog posts and organic search and SEO

While posts on storytelling techniques + visual storytelling constitute the largest part of pie at 31 percent, there’s still a healthy spread over a number of macro topics. It might seem odd that I write as much on journalism as social media, but this comes from the belief that communicators should be students of journalism. The best business storytelling in today’s world comes from journalists.

Curious about the riffs on news events, I captured those as well:

  • Sense of Humor from U.S. Soccer
  • Adam Silver Press Conference
  • Omnicom and Publicis Breakup
  •  LinkedIn Enters in China
  • Warren Buffett Shareholder Letter
  • Lame Tweets at Super Bowl
  •  Brands in Sales Mode at Super Bowl
  • Eight Predictions for Super Bowl Tweets
  •  Omnicom and Publicis Proposed Merger

Given my love of sports, it’s no surprise that more than half of these posts relate a sporting news event to storytelling techniques.

OK. Now turning back to the question, are others sharing these thought leadership posts?

Again, the reality matches the theory. Open Site Explorer indicates over 40,000 external links to the blog, roughly doubling the number from two years ago.

Open Site Explorer blog authority external links

Taking our own advice seems to be working.

As for the awards competition, I’ll keep you posted (even though that would qualify as an Agency-centric post).

 

 

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The Tug of War Between Journalists and the Obama Administration in Defining Transparency

Obama Press Conference

Naturally, journalists want more from the Obama administration.

More openness.

More access.

More information.

Given that the journalist’s agenda will always differ from the government’s agenda, it’s inevitable that a contentious dynamic shadows the relationship. This seems healthy to me so I wasn’t surprised to stumble across a recent letter from the Society of Professional Journalists (SPJ) addressed to the President asking for greater transparency.

Ironically, I think the letter was more of a PR ploy and not exactly well done. Then again, it appears the organization’s version of a PR function is to hire an aspiring journalist who just graduated in May to fill the role of “communications coordinator.”

Here’s the content of the letter with my commentary:


President Barack Obama
The White House
Washington, D.C
July 8, 2014

Mr. President,

You recently expressed concern that frustration in the country is breeding cynicism about democratic government. You need look no further than your own administration for a major source of that frustration – politically driven suppression of news and information about federal agencies. We call on you to take a stand to stop the spin and let the sunshine in.

In a form of journalistic jujitsu, the SPJ nicely turns the President’s words against him. But that last line “… take a stand to stop the spin and let the sunshine in” brings together more clichés than a 7th grade English class.

Over the past two decades, public agencies have increasingly prohibited staff from communicating with journalists unless they go through public affairs offices or through political appointees. This trend has been especially pronounced in the federal government. We consider these restrictions a form of censorship – an attempt to control what the public is allowed to see and hear.

Call The New York Times or The Washington Post or any major publication to request a meeting with the editor-in-chief, and what happens? You are quickly shuttled to the PR department who then determines whether you are “worthy.” This is how all organizations bring method to the madness. Of course, the process can be abused, but censorship? Puhleeze!

The stifling of free expression is happening despite your pledge on your first day in office to bring “a new era of openness” to federal government – and the subsequent executive orders and directives which were supposed to bring such openness about.

I suppose it’s all in how you define “openness.” As I’ve written in previous posts, the Obama administration gets “owned media,” establishing a new benchmark for how a government entity essentially becomes a media property in its own right with multiple channels to reach the masses.

White house owned media

Recent research has indicated the problem is getting worse throughout the nation, particularly at the federal level. Journalists are reporting that most federal agencies prohibit their employees from communicating with the press unless the bosses have public relations staffers sitting in on the conversations. Contact is often blocked completely.

The data seems to indicate that when a journalist interviews someone from the federal government, he or she is increasingly accompanied by a PR person. Can you imagine?

When public affairs officers speak, even about routine public matters, they often do so confidentially in spite of having the title “spokesperson.” Reporters seeking interviews are expected to seek permission, often providing questions in advance. Delays can stretch for days, longer than most deadlines allow. Public affairs officers might send their own written responses of slick non-answers. Agencies hold on-background press conferences with unnamed officials, on a not-for-attribution basis.

Now we’re getting somewhere. I completely agree with the SPJ’s position that journalists should not have to submit questions in advance. As I’ve publicly stated, this undermines the credibility of the journalist, and that hurts everybody. In fact, I’m the one who wrote an open letter to the PR community advocating for the “Just Say No to No” campaign as a way to restore the credibility of our journalistic brothers.

As for the “on-background press conference with unnamed officials, on a not-for-attribution basis,” maybe you shouldn’t attend if they’re a waste of time.

In many cases, this is clearly being done to control what information journalists – and the audience they serve – have access to. A survey found 40 percent of public affairs officers admitted they blocked certain reporters because they did not like what they wrote.

I couldn’t help but notice that there’s no attribution for the survey, a journalistic no no. Which causes me to wonder if this is really an issue.

Some argue that controlling media access is needed to ensure information going out is correct. But when journalists cannot interview agency staff, or can only do so under surveillance, it undermines public understanding of, and trust in, government. This is not a “press vs. government” issue. This is about fostering a strong democracy where people have the information they need to self-govern and trust in its governmental institutions.


“Under surveillance?” I must have missed the memo stating that somehow the NSA is involved.


It has not always been this way. In prior years, reporters walked the halls of agencies and called staff people at will. Only in the past two administrations have media access controls been tightened at most agencies. Under this administration, even non-defense agencies have asserted in writing their power to prohibit contact with journalists without surveillance. Meanwhile, agency personnel are free speak to others – lobbyists, special-interest representatives, people with money – without these controls and without public oversight.

Right. I’m sure the Nixon administration made journalists feel right at home, offering them an iced tea as they roamed the White House. And again, what’s this “surveillance” issue that keeps surfacing? If it refers to a PR person accompanying the federal source, I’m deeply offended. Heck, I have a tough enough time keeping an eye on my grandkids much less have the expertise to hack the mobile phone logs of a journalist.

Here are some recent examples:


• The New York Times ran a story last December on the soon-to-be implemented ICD-10 medical coding system, a massive change for the health care system that will affect the whole public. But the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS), one of the federal agencies in charge of ICD-10, wouldn’t allow staff to talk to the reporter.


• A reporter with Investigative Post, an online news organization in New York, asked three times without success over the span of six weeks to have someone at EPA answer questions about the agency’s actions regarding the city of Buffalo’s alleged mishandling of “universal waste” and hazardous waste.


• A journalist with Reuters spent more than a month trying to get EPA’s public affairs office to approve him talking with an agency scientist about the effects of climate change. The public affairs officer did not respond to him after his initial request, nor did her supervisor, until the frustrated journalist went over their heads and contacted EPA’s chief of staff.

Always a nice touch to bring in proof points.

The undersigned organizations ask that you seek an end to this restraint on communication in federal agencies. We ask that you issue a clear directive telling federal employees they’re not only free to answer questions from reporters and the public, but actually encouraged to do so. We believe that is one of the most important things you can do for the nation now, before the policies become even more entrenched.


We also ask you provide an avenue through which any incidents of this suppression of communication may be reported and corrected. Create an ombudsman to monitor and enforce your stated goal of restoring transparency to government and giving the public the unvarnished truth about its workings. That will go a long way toward dispelling Americans’ frustration and cynicism before it further poisons our democracy.


Further examples on the issue are provided as well as other resources.


Sincerely,

One thing for sure, the SPJ has made a conscious effort to leverage emotionally charged words. Hello “suppression.” Still, I like the idea of an ombudsman. It could work just like the role in publications. Oh, that’s right. Most publications axed their ombudsmen during cost reductions.


While we have never supported a federal agency, our work for the City of Fremont gives us a window into how a constructive tango between the media and government should work.

Sure, the contentious dynamic I referenced earlier periodically surfaces, but again that’s the nature of colliding agendas.

Dear SPJ,

PR is not the enemy.

Perhaps, you should issue a clear directive to your membership that it’s not only OK to interact with PR, but they might actually find it useful and not in conflict with the journalistic integrity of their work.

 

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What’s the Story with Chinese Companies and Their Global Aspirations?

Yesterday in Beijing that question was at the heart of a roundtable we participated in involving Campaign Asia and the BBC.

The very insights that Campaign Asia’s Jason Wincuinas offered on the topic in last week’s Q&A framed a lively discussion.

As part of our preparation for the roundtable, we turned to the Forbes Global 2000, sifting through data on the ten largest Chinese state owned enterprises (SOEs), the ten largest non-SOEs, and the ten largest U.S. companies.

While these companies represent only one piece of a complex puzzle, researching them still proved a revealing exercise. Tallying up the sheer amount of revenue derived from overseas markets for each of the three categories, the U.S. dominates to such an extent that you can’t even call it a race.

But don’t underestimate the quest by China Inc. to build brands on a global stage. This is a marathon, not a sprint, and extracting the growth rates from each category over the past five years, a different story emerges.

Taking a page from our own counsel on visual storytelling, we put together the infographic below called “China vs the U.S., The Race for Global Revenue.”

 

 Hoffman Infographic - China vs the U.S., The Race for Global Revenue

Embed this Infographic on Your Site:

 <div align="center"><a href=" http://www.ishmaelscorner.com/2014/08/15/whats-the-story-with-chinese-companies-and-their-global-aspirations/”title=” What’s the Story with Chinese Companies and Their Global Aspirations?"><img src=" http://www.ishmaelscorner.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Hoffman_infographic_full_081514_F.jpg?utm_source=infographic&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=infographic" alt=" Hoffman Infographic - China vs the U.S., The Race for Global Revenue" style="border:none;" /></a><br /> <small>The Hoffman Agency is a public relations firm that emphasizes storytelling in <a href="http://www.hoffman.com">business communication</a></small>.</div>

If you’d like to use the infographic minus the supporting data, here’s a second version.

 

 Hoffman Infographic - China vs the U.S., The Race for Global Revenue

Embed this Infographic on Your Site:

 <div align="center"><a href=" http://www.ishmaelscorner.com/2014/08/15/whats-the-story-with-chinese-companies-and-their-global-aspirations/”title=” What’s the Story with Chinese Companies and Their Global Aspirations?"><img src=" http://www.ishmaelscorner.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/Hoffman_infographic_short_081514_F.jpg?utm_source=infographic&utm_medium=main&utm_campaign=infographic" alt=" Hoffman Infographic - China vs the U.S., The Race for Global Revenue" style="border:none;" /></a><br /> <small>The Hoffman Agency is a public relations firm that emphasizes storytelling in <a href="http://www.hoffman.com">business communication</a></small>.</div>

Finally, thank you Campaign Asia and the BBC for including us in the roundtable.

No doubt this race will take many twists and turns and perhaps “wipeouts” in the years to come.

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Campaign Asia’s Jason Wincuinas on Chinese Brands with Global Aspirations, How They Engage Customers and the Transparency Gotcha

Jason Wincuinas, managing editor of Campaign Asia-Pacific

Teaming with the BBC and Campaign Asia, we’re participating in a roundtable in Beijing next Monday (8/18) that takes on the topic of Chinese companies building global brands. Jason Wincuinas, managing editor of Campaign Asia-Pacific will “referee” the session.

As a prelude to the big event, we flipped roles with me peppering Jason with questions.

Here’s the Q&A.

Lou: I’m looking forward to seeing you in Beijing on the 18th for the roundtable on Chinese companies going global. I’d love to hear your perspective on some questions.

Jason: Thanks Lou. This is a topic that really interests me. My first trip to China was in about 1995. I was an importer then, buying traditional porcelains and arts for sale in the US. That experience was fantastic, but the China I saw then is gone. The one I saw about 10 years later when I moved out of that business is also gone. And the one from 2008, just after the Olympics had its impact, that China is hard to find now too. And really, China of last week is already a bit dated. The rate of change is spectacular.

Lou: I hear you. It’s the type of change that leaves your mind out of breath. There was a great line in your LinkedIn profile: “Every consumer touch point is an opportunity for brands to tell their story and sell real value.” Do you think Chinese companies have taken this mentality to heart the same way Western companies have?

Jason: I believe very few companies around the world have truly taken that idea to heart. But for Chinese brands it may be even more important for them as far as building a brand image outside the home turf. Fair or not, there is a low-cost/low-quality perception they have to overcome. Often that means overcompensating.

Most businesses do one thing really well and that one thing is what they are in business for. The rest then just sort of follows—sometimes for the better and sometimes for the worse. Often what a brand does really well is enough to carry the business. But not always, and as soon as real competition comes along, whatever weaknesses were there become far more apparent. Apple is an example of a brand that works on consistency from product to web to physical store and into customer service.

Lou: Is there a Chinese brand that comes to mind that delivers on this Apple-like consistency?

Jason: Xiaomi is showing the world that a local Chinese brand can disrupt everything.

Xiaomi successful Chinese brand and customer engagement

There was just news recently that it pushed Samsung off the top spot in China as far as volume sales. And that’s after Samsung came in as the number one brand in Campaign’s Top 1000 Brands ranking. Xiaomi’s strategy of responding to customer requests with frequent product updates shows a Chinese brand can take this idea to heart and push the envelope for marketing and customer service. The product itself is one thing, but the fact that the product can get better even after you own it and that those improvements can come from your own suggestions—that’s a fantastic brand story—who wouldn’t want to be part of that?

This is a kind of marketing that some might categorize as growth hacking. But that’s the idea when I talk about using touch points other than the traditional advertising message to boost brand image. Marketing isn’t just advertising—it’s selling an idea and standing behind it all the way. Anywhere you can reinforce that brand idea it’s worth doing. But it should be forethought, not an afterthought.

Lou: Can you think of a Chinese company that’s particularly skilled in applying the concepts of storytelling to its communications? Alibaba certainly gets a lot of mileage out of Jack Ma’s personal narrative (i.e., worked as English teacher, first venture called “China Pages” failed, etc.).

Jason: That’s a good question and I’m afraid my lack of language skills will skew my answer here. As far as a brand story in English, I’ve always thought Lenovo’s history makes for a compelling business tale. I like how it has grown from essentially just an assembly line, into a manufacturing giant and then into an international brand name. Now buying Motorola, it’s shown it can look ahead and see where it needs to go to grow.

Lenovo store in China

But maybe the area where Chinese brands do the best “storytelling” is less about narrative and more about engaging consumers on a level they prefer. The way Xiaomi growth-hacks and involves customers in the R&D processes sends a compelling message to people. What Chinese brands seem to be getting adept at is more along the lines of how they talk to consumers, which is through mobile devices. Mobile is the language of the future.

Little things like parking a new car on a busy pedestrian street, painting it with bright attractive colors and putting QR codes on it so people can get pricing and model information on the spot through their phones, that says something to consumers. The MG brand (part of Shanghai Automotive Industry Corporation [SAIC]) did that in China. It’s not exactly storytelling, but there is a narrative there about brands understanding consumer needs for time and trying to give them something useful to make their lives easier. The key word there is give. Give is much better than tell.

Lou: As a general rule of thumb, is it fair to say that private enterprises in China are more ready to build their brands on a global playing field than the SOEs?

Jason: I’d have to agree with that. SOEs still enjoy protections, and sheer size means they have less to worry about commercially. Like any industry, if you have go out every day and win in the market versus getting a paycheck at the end of the week no matter what—who do you think is going to work harder in that situation? It’s just a different dynamic. But going global will change the playing field. Can PetroChina or Sinopec become the next Royal Dutch Shell? Maybe.

Sinopec station Chinese brand storytelling

Lou: Based on your observations, are there one or two common mistakes that Chinese companies often make when embarking on a global brand-building effort?

Jason: Chinese brands have the same trouble going global as any nation’s brands, and that’s getting the local picture right in any of the markets they want to enter. The history of branding has lots of funny examples of poorly translated slogans or name brands. Ever try selling a Chevy “no go” (Nova) in Mexico?

Uniqueness, exclusivity: those are selling points with many consumers, but foreignness is often a bridge too far. The difference between exotic and unfamiliar is the same as between desire and caution. European fashion brands seem to get a halo from their foreignness, but those are the “exotic” exception. Everybody else has to tap into the local ethos, and that is not easy. Failure comes when brands aren’t willing to bend. I can’t tell you how many Chinese manufacturers I used to buy handcrafted goods from that had the term “animal byproduct” in the company name. Blaah. Granted that was business-to-business and in an era much different than today, but a name like that has zero chance outside the little world those companies operated in, even if some of them made really beautiful things.

Transparency seems to be another area where Chinese brands have trouble. Not that Microsoft or Facebook don’t obfuscate when it suits them, but there is an element of Chinese society that seems to maybe put a higher value on one’s privacy or the right of authority to brush off questioning. Can you imagine anyone asking Jiang Zemin what kind of underwear he prefers? But Bill Clinton answered that question while campaigning without hesitation.

Bill Clinton PR and transparency

That’s not what won him the election, but the perceived straightforwardness of the Clinton brand did win it. And therein lies the trouble for Chinese brands. They’ll have to be a lot more open and forthcoming than what they are accustomed to in order to succeed in the West—maybe even more so than their local competitors. That might be a double standard, but it’s one that could trip you up if you go in unaware of it.

Lou: Back to Lenovo, which is a poster child for Chinese companies who have successfully built a global brand. Do you anticipate that we’ll see more Chinese companies acquiring Western brands as a means to accelerate the global brand building?

Jason: From a business perspective that’s inevitable. They may not all be headline-grabbing ones like Smithfield or Motorola, but management consultants and economists I’ve spoken with all expect a great deal of M&A over the next five years. One forecast from The Economist shows China fully passing the U.S. as the world’s largest economy by 2018. It is highly unlikely that kind of power shift would come without companies changing hands. If nothing else, the distribution channels that Western companies own will be low-hanging fruit to empowered Chinese brands looking for overseas expansion. When the Lenovo/Motorola merger came through, at Campaign we looked at that as mainly a brand deal. Lenovo doesn’t really need more manufacturing base; it might want some of the patents, but Google kept all the best ones for itself. However, the readymade market access to North and South America, as well as the built-in brand recognition—that’s only valuable to a growing company like Lenovo. It was definitely a smart strategic move. And the circumstances that led to it can’t help but repeat. Countries will likely cry “national security” at some deals (energy and petrochemical could prove to be sensitive areas), but FMCG, sports goods, finance, automotive, electronics, services, food, earth-moving and building equipment—there’s lots of potential there.

Lou: When I was growing up in the 1960’s, Americans associated cheap and low-quality goods with the “made in Japan” stamp. Yet, today it’s just the opposite. Americans think of Japanese products as high in quality and worthy of a price premium. It was the Japanese carmakers who led this perception turnaround. Can you see one particular industry sector in China leading the way in changing the perception that Chinese companies win based on the lowest price?

made in china logo - global Chinese brand

Jason: Technology. Lenovo is one example. Xiaomi is another. These firms are proving they can build both reliability and innovation, much like your auto example. Consumers came around to Japanese cars because the manufacturers packed in more features, pushed quality and met consumer needs. Today Chinese brands might still use price for leverage, but I expect that to fade. There’s too much wage pressure within China, raw materiel cost parity globally and other economic pressures. China’s cost advantage has an expiration date. After that, the only way they will win in the market will be based on the better mousetrap. Xiaomi has outmaneuvered global names in its domestic market. It won’t be easy, but replicating that success outside China is not such a stretch.

Lou: Consumer electronics are as vital to modern life as autos were 50 years ago?

 Jason: Right. In Hong Kong a car is a nice-to-have, but in most advanced economies it’s a must-have. Even if you work for minimum wage in the States, you typically need a car to get to that job. Digital devices are now just as essential; they are the division between taking part in the modern economy and getting left behind. If you are not online, you barely exist. Taking the internet with you—tablet, laptop, smartphone, phablet, etc.—puts a new definition to your mobility in very much the same way the car did.

China has some scale advantages in making these devices, as well as a better comfort level as far as working in a fast-moving market. You can’t discount a century’s worth of growth in just a 30-year period. That creates a certain mindset, and it’s an environment Chinese engineers are used to tackling; they have become experts at incorporating the latest innovations. And they certainly don’t suffer from the “not invented here” affliction. Charges of copying aside, engineers at some Western firms won’t even use development tools from a third-party vendor—it all has to be done in-house. That attitude can translate into sluggishness. And in the digital era, if you are not creating at a running pace then you’re a dead man walking.

 Lou: Any final thoughts not covered in the questions?

Jason: Why do meals in the south of China always start with soup but ones in the north finish with soup? No one has ever been able to answer that for me. I’m looking forward to our lunch.

Lou: See you in Beijing.

Brand China - global business storytelling

I appreciate Jason taking the time to offer his unfiltered perspectives. If this was sports talk radio, he would have just won two tickets to a San Francisco Giants game.

I’m sure the Monday roundtable will look at these areas and others in more detail.

With so many Chinese companies with global aspirations targeting the U.S. as their top overseas market, I’ll be sharing a point of view based on being on the receiving end of these brand-building efforts.

It should be lively discussion.

 

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