Tremble, You Giants from Above The Line

In the Hutong

Sneaking looks at CNBC

2148 hrs.

Sam Flemming at See-I-See hosts an Alex Geertz post on the New Media panel at the Fifth Economist China Branding Roundtable, the annual marketing confab held this year in Beijing.

Before we get going, a side note. The question posed to the panel and that served as the session’s title, “New Media: Can Brands Afford to Stay Out?” was, to me at least, so painfully obvious as to be rhetorical. Are there actually companies and communications craftspeople in China who do not see new media making up at least part of their marketing mix?

No surprise, the panel was unanimous in the affirmative, the sole qualification being that you need to do it well. I don’t blame the panelists for this, just the organizers, who could have come up with a more imaginative question/title like “How much of your mix should be new media?” or “How do you do new media well?” or “New Media: Shouldn’t we just stop buying television time altogether?”

But we digress.

The panel included Vinay Dixit from McKinsey presenting their recent research that suggests word-of-mouth and Internet word-of-mouth are the two most credible communications media in China. Granting that for a lot of us these conclusions are old news, it is always nice to have them confirmed by McKinsey, or Bain, Accenture, or Boston Consulting Group.

What make both Vinay and Sam credible is that they stopped short of making specific recommendations on how to go about engaging in word-of-mouth marketing. Strategies, tactics, and the campaigns that link the two have to be company- and situation-specific. As is the case with most below-the-line communications channels, the further you get away from set formulas, the more successful you’re likely to be.

Somewhat less credible – at least as far as I can read into the post – is Dan Wong from Nokia explaining how the company has acquired the tools to adapt to social media, and suggesting how Nokia’s move into software is somehow an adaptation. Those are all good starts.

But Nokia is a long way from figuring out how to elegantly integrate mobile handsets with social media – one reason that Apple, Garmin, Google, Samsung, and Motorola all see social media integration as an opportunity. In fact, it is one of several areas (along with entertainment, location-based services, and Nokia’s belief that it is the handheld computer business) where Nokia is more vulnerable than it wants to let on – or even knows.

Hint to Nokians: integration is not about buying everything you see. It’s about creating an experience that lets us integrate what we want the way we want it into our phones, whether you own it or not.


About David Wolf

An adviser to corporations and organizations on strategy, communications, and public affairs, David Wolf has been working and living in Beijing since 1995, and now divides his time between China and California. He also serves as a policy and industry analyst focused on innovative and creative industries, a futurist, and an amateur historian.
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