Entering Easy, Staying Tough

by Karyn Lim, November 2014
RSM Chio Lim Stone Forest Annual China Briefing Forum

Karyn Lim is our Chief Executive Officer. The following are excerpts from her speech delivered to 100 Singapore based Small Medium Enterprises at RSM Chio Lim Stone Forest Annual China Briefing Forum. She delivered this speech alongside Maggie Zhou, Vice General Manager of Alibaba Group on the need to develop an effective O2O strategy (Online with offline branding and marketing strategies).

How should a brand position itself in a 1.4 billion-­‐strong Chinese market?

First, Understand.Regions, cities, and provinces expect and behave differently, have different needs and demands, tastes and modesty expectations. One size cannot fit all. Brands must understand the specifics and adapt products and services to suit.

Next: Adapt/Keep. What does your brand need to change to appeal to Chinese markets, and what does it need to maintain? Enter with your competitive advantage for the market — then test for relevance. China looks for a brand that speaks the language, which may mean tweaking brand names slightly to meet trademark regulations. Names need to have simple meanings, be easy to pronounce and remember. An example for this is how Mothers en Vogue went to China with the nickname MEV.

The second half of this strategy – Keep. Intellectual Property protection matters. In China, trademark protections are based on a first-­‐to-­‐file regulation. Trademark your brand and protect your brand icon or risk losing your rights in a first-­‐to-­‐file market.

Third: Raise. “Made in Singapore” or being part of the Singapore Brand Association equates with a raised level of quality, especially for the F&B, TCM, and Healthcare sectors. Then take advantage of the diaspora influence. Brands go where their loyalists go — for those that win China over, that means a great many places.

Lastly, Enter. Spread risk through several channels. MEV opened retail stores, went online with a website and atTmall.com, an e­‐commerce channel popular in China. Scanteak ventured similarly, with a retail store, e-­‐commerce channel and showroom. With a programme customised to the needs of SMEs, the MRA grant (Market Readiness Assessment) readies brands with information crucial to manoeuvring this vast country with its diverse regions, dialects, and cultures.