Acts of Union: The UK’s digital attempts to lure Chinese fashionistas

We all know that wooing Chinese consumers to the United Kingdom and its products is nothing new. This has been most evident in the past through years with the tourism industry. VisitBritain‘s ‘Great‘ Campaign which made a marked effort to snare possible tourists, particularly during and following the London Olympics in 2012. Most notably the Chief executive, Sandie Dawe, yesterday announced that the government ‘would be completely mad to walk away’ from this venture. Granted, the campaign (with its paid displays on billboards around the globe, and world tours) did not solely focus on China, however with the obvious growing spending power of its middle classes we can be certain they didn’t ignore it. However, I am writing this article to highlight that UK’s interests in China are not purely focused on tourism or the luxury car industry, in fact they are expanding everyday, most notably through a digital environment.

VisitBritain's 'Great' Campaign set to tap into the Chinese market.

VisitBritain’s ‘Great’ Campaign set to tap into the Chinese market. (Photo: China Daily)

I recently came across ‘Hot Pot Digital’, a digital agency and member of the PAE group that claims it is the ‘UK’s only agency dedicated to reaching the Chinese consumer’. This tells us one of two things, that there is a need here for businesses equipped with the specialised knowledge of helping companies succeed in China but also that there is a growing potential. Their focus on social media strategy in China is something that appealed to me as most of the Joe public here, don’t know the difference between Weibo and Ai Weiwei. However, it highlights the growing trend of Western businesses delving into the relatively obscure (to them) world that is Chinese social media and the need for companies to guide these ventures.

Apart from tourism and luxury car’s, there has been a recent push by Britain’s major fast-fashion businesses on-line. ASOS, the hot-shot e-commerce clothing store announced recently that it was planning to announce its new website in China in October of this year, along with Russia. Worth pointing out is the care and attention that ASOS has placed in this. Opting to operate from within China, rather than in the UK (unlike it’s other international websites) and develop a different on-line model. Whether purely for decoration or not, this announcement made by head of ASOS, Nick Roberton clearly identifies a strong intent to make the most of that ‘30%’ in China. The affluent, urban middle class who supposedly spend a large amount of their resources on western brands.

As much as ASOS would like to appear to be trend-setting. Topshop had  a digital e-commerce website set up a while ago, and has recently announced the unveiling of its Hong Kong store in May this month. Although critics will clearly identify the differences between this and entering the mainland market, they have already shown intentions online for a China invasion. The success of their ‘the lanterns’ viral video during the lunar new year campaign, identified a clear want to appeal to Chinese consumers.

Although these e-commerce ventures are all very new in the scheme of things there is much hope and high prospects put on these ventures. It almost seems like a race to riches is developing in the UK fashion market with Marks and Spencers also releasing plans for development in mainland china. The proof of success will ultimately be in how consumers take to these, I recently spoke to a rather fashionable Chinese friend of mine about the ASOS‘s plans and the response I got was ‘ASOS who?’. It will be interesting to see how the company plays it. My bet is that there will be a Chinese spokesperson for the brand gracing the covers of online advertisements in the not too far from distant future. Until then, the future of UK fast-fashion in China is anybody’s game.

Mercedez-Benz China bring out the Clooney Tunes

Over the last few years global companies have been ploughing into the Chinese advertising market attempting to break through cultural barriers and bring ads that succeed in wooing the world’s second largest economy. Mercedez-Benz China have decided to bring in the big guns of hollywood smoothness with hiring George Clooney to star in their new E-Class Long Wheelbase commercial. This isn’t the first time that Mercedez have decided on using big name Western stars in their motorcar ads. Kobe Bryant of NBA fame, appeared in their “Big in the City” Smart Car Campaign in March. However unlike basketball which has a huge calling in China, does George have as much appeal here as expected?

Featuring the model Bonnie Chen it seems that Mercedez have attempt to combine two stars of sophistication to push this car to the wealthy Chinese market, however apart from creating a slight ambience of refinement and style the ad does little to bring about any additional excitement. Its a shame, when a new market holding great creative potential is seeing ads flow through that seem to think throwing popular stars into the sphere is enough for them to hook customers. Maybe it is, however does it legitimize  ad companie getting involved in China s to do just the same?  Unlike the Smart Car ad, which utilized Kobe in a humorous and interesting way the new E-Class ad just doesn’t cut the mustard. Advertising@chinasmack.com called the ad ‘slightly odd and not particularly exciting‘ and I wouldn’t argue with that. There is something slightly artificial, a ‘just out of the showroom’ feel that comes with this one. Boasting the tagline ‘Success is where you find it’, can Mercedez-Benz really find it on Chinese television?

China’s ‘Fishy’ Goings on

China’s waves of economic activity hit foreign shores.

We’re all aware of many suspicions arising in Western media and politics as regards the rise of China as an economic superpower. However, for Scotland not all chinese whispers are bad news. Recent findings suggesting a huge growth in the exports of Scottish salmon to China not only show positive results for the  recent salmon-deal made between the two powers, but also highlights  the increasing affluence of Chinese city dwellers and their demand for Western food. However, following the crippling import controls on Norwegian salmon, should these findings be seen as a blessing or a result of Chinese manipulations of the European food market?

The Scottish Salmon industry seems to have the Chinese market 'hooked'.

BBC news have recently reported the results of HM revenue and customs announcement identifying China as the largest customer for Scottish salmon exports in Asia, with 2,347 tonnes sent in the first half of 2011. This result places it in the top 5 export markets, alongside economic rivals, the USA and three other European nations (France, Poland and the Irish republic). The Scottish government reported that Chinese demand for ‘salmon and salmon products’ was ‘more than 150 percent of total Scottish output’.It sparks good news for bonnie Scotland as it was only in January that an agreement was made following the visit of Vice Premier Li Kiang to the UK on the 9th January, in which various deals were made including a green energy deal and an agreement that allowed for the first time, Scottish Salmon to be direcly imported for the first time into China.

To Chinese culture enthusiasts though, this information will not come as a shock, as there has been an obvious increase in the growing consumption of Western foods in conjunction with the growing affluence of certain individuals in this emerging superpower. Vicky D Liu of the ‘Student life‘ Washington University newspaper attributes this to western food in China being ‘relatively pricey’ and the cudos and ‘envy‘ that comes with its consumption.

The popularity of Western food is partly encouraged by a growth of investment by Western supermarkets in the developing economy.

Yet this news isn’t all rays of sunshine as it comes following Chinese reaction to the awarding of the Nobel Peace Prize to sore-point Chinese dissident, Liu Xiaobo in Oslo, Norway. In 2010, the Chinese government imposed strict import controls on salmon exports from Norway, leading to a breakdown in trade for the Scandinavian fishing nation and the sight and smell of North Sea fish rotting in Chinese warehouses’. The British Foreign Office claimed it was in negotiations with the WTO about how to proceed to take action against China, however nobody can doubt that these actions mark a positive outlook for the Scottish salmon industry and the ailing British economy. At the end of the day, it is likely that accusations by Britain condemning China’s supposedly political move against Norway, will slowly dissapear in the glow of prospects of a shiny future for the Scottish salmon industry in China and the oceans of opportunity it will create in the huge economic waves being made by Sino growth. The question that remains is how long will fishy success for Scotland last until China’s political might says otherwise.

The Chinese government recently said Norway to Norwegian salmon imports.