“There was a time when Americans and Europeans came to China and said, ‘This is how we do things and so think this is how you should do things’," Norman said in an interview with Campaign at Group M Interaction’s Digital + conference in Shanghai on 28 October. "But Chinese infrastructure and the services built on it has reached a tipping point where businesses in the West have as much to learn from China as China has from the West.”
Clients in North America and Europe say that their top two priorities moving forward are to “win in China, and to win in digital”, he adds.
The US, he continued, suffers from having large and expensive infrastructures that are now out of date. “For example, in the US, we built the internet for dial up modems and low-performance PCs which gave people a pretty poor experience that has been completely transformed by broadband.”
On the other hand, China and developing markets like it have never known dial-up internet and therefore won’t have that relative comparison to make. How you behave and digital marketing depends in part on how you interact with such technologies, observed Norman.
Using the yardstick that “any technology you grew up with, isn’t really technology”, Norman said that most Chinese probably don’t regard smartphones as “technology” any more than most Americans think of the television as “technology”.
Understanding this is key to appealing to the Chinese consumer via digital marketing. “We need to understand how consumers make decisions. The new part of all of this is the influence and scale of consumers talking to each other online. Word-of-mouth has always existed, but never at this scale,” said Norman.
It is the role of the advertiser to integrate all this influence and interaction, he added. “Advertisers have to map a complex customer journey for each of your consumers and map out the media you deliver and the media you hope to be discovered in.”
All this is made yet more complex, continued Norman, by the increased immediacy and speed of the available data. When the advertising world was dominated by television, campaigns drove marketing and planning was inherently episodic, he said.
“We’re moving to a stage where episodic isn’t enough, and always on marketing and planning needs to go with it. The challenge, is how you apply it to the marketplace,” said Norman.