In this episode of The Negotiation I speak with Charles Lavoie, Brand Strategist at PBB Creative, about launching an Italian Vodka brand in China, helping hockey become popular there, and why the best brand-building strategy should be a blend of China’s deep historical roots and beliefs and today’s pop culture and social media phenomenons.
We start off talking about Charles’ favorite Chinese company, Nongfu, a bottled-water producer who has, in Charles’ opinion as a branding expert himself, accomplished some incredible branding traction to the point of being able to charge in the neighborhood of $40 USD for a bottle of water. Not only is their marketing creative, but also their packaging, down to their unique bottle design. I then ask Charles to talk about the importance of being unique as a success factor in China.
Charles then takes us through his fun “How I ended up in China” story which entails studying finance in Beijing which then led to starting up an Italian Vodka company, and how its success was predicated on being able to build the brand and sell the story. Charle’s then points to the limits of the industry as one of the difficulties in scaling his business, eventually coming to the conclusion that their company could not be the one that could lead the expansion of the Vodka market in China necessary to take his company to the next level. All this led Charles into his current arena and love of brand building in China.
We then talk about Charles’ efforts to help popularize the sport of hockey in China which leads to a broader discussion around how big companies and brands can typically miss the mark when brand-building in China. He talks about his experience with large Western brands that bring an arrogance, although well-deserved in some cases, towards replicating the marketing that has been successful in the West that should easily and as effectively be deployed through Asia.
Charles also gives some great advice around blending history with pop culture or current events and fads. He suggests doing your homework around the long and deep cultural beliefs that are rooted in all Chinese citizens and trying to navigate that while weaving in what popular in today’s local society.
What is The Negotiation?
Despite being the world’s most potent economic area, Asia can be one of the most challenging regions to navigate and manage well for foreign brands. However, plenty of positive stories exist and more are emerging every day as brands start to see success in engaging and deploying appropriate market growth strategies – with the help of specialists.
The Negotiation is an interview show that showcases those hard-to-find success stories and chats with the incredible leaders behind them, teasing out the nuances and digging into the details that can make market growth in APAC a winning proposition.