Chinese Brands: When Will They Succeed? – Forbes

I laughed when I read the comment from a 36-year-old guy in China who was looking to buy a new car. He checked out the Chinese car brands meticulously, only to settle for a BMW. His comment? “I feel I can’t trust a Chinese car.”

Chinese brands will only succeed on a global scale when the Chinese themselves start loving them. There’s still a question mark over that, it seems.

In foreign markets, a good number of Chinese brands’ customers don’t actually realize they are Chinese. Take Haier, a manufacturer of home appliances, which is probably the closest China gets to an international brand. Haier has a US subsidiary and factory, so Americans buy its Made in the USA products without necessarily discerning the China connection.

What’s the sweet spot for Chinese brands? Ones that can undercut western equivalents in price terms while matching them for brand appeal. That goal is a long way off, but plenty of Chinese companies believe that time is coming.

The Chinese I’ve spoken to are certainly concerned about the lack of credibility of their brands. Some of them have simply given up and splashed out to acquire foreign brands. But others are using western marketing and design expertise, with some impressive results.

Besides Haier, here are five Chinese brands on my hit list, covering technology, appliances, fashion and beauty:

Lenovo: OK, no big surprises here. When Chinese computer giant Lenovo bought IBM’s PC business in 2004, the world was forced to sit up and take note. Now Lenovo is heading for the tablet sector. The first reviews of the Lenovo ThinkPad, suggest it will perform well against the iPad2, although it is heavier and has less battery life. Lenovo is also attacking Apple on the smartphone front with Android-based devices, again undercutting Apple with a $150 Android-based handset aimed at those with lower incomes.

Huawei: Founded in Shenzhen in the 1970s, Huawei is now the world’s second largest telecoms equipment company, second only to Ericsson, but it’s relatively new to selling consumer products such as smartphones and computer tablets. The goal is to push global sales from devices from $4.5 bn in 2010 to $6bn this year. It sees Europe as a key to growth, with less regulatory issues than in the US. In the UK, for example, it is launching mobile phones that tend to undercut its western competitors. Huawei is also looking to developing markets, where competition is less intense and its lower priced products could be particularly well received. Nigeria is a test case in Africa.

Li-Ning: A sports footwear and clothing company with 8,000 stores across China that is challenging Nike and adidas in the Chinese market. Over the years, it has borrowed many ideas from its western rivals, but is now trying harder to carve out its own image. In terms of heritage, it’s got plenty going for it. Li Ning himself is a Chinese national hero, who won three gold medals in gymnastics at the 1984 Olympics. Li-Ning Group has recently begun pushing into Europe through a long-term deal with Finland’s L-Fashion. It’s also entered into a partnership with Chicago-based Acquity Group to boost its American distribution and brand awareness.

JNBY: The Hangzhou-based hip fashion company was founded in 1994 and has grown to more than 500 stores, almost all in China but including a flagship in New York’s SoHo and a handful of shops in Canada and Singapore. Its name is short for “Just Naturally Be Yourself.” The company initially drew heavily on deconstructed Japanese style for its signature designs but has shown more versatility in recent years, expanding into a full womenswear, menswear and childrenswear offer.

Herborist: In 2005, the Herborist beauty brand was distributed through department stores across China with sales of 100 million euros. Herborist then began an aggressive expansion strategy, working with a French design & packaging agency (centdegrés) to transform the graphic identity of the brand. It developed a network of boutiques in China and now has 1,000 shops, a spa in Shanghai and a turnover of over one billion euros. Shanghai Jahwa, which owns the brand, has also recently launched Shanghai Vive, a high-end beauty brand, pitched to compete with European giants such as Chanel.


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Larry Page Outlines His Plan And Vision For Google

Nikola Tesla
Larry Page wants to do what Nikola Tesla could not
Image: Wikimedia Commons

For about 45 minutes yesterday, Google CEO Larry Page spoke and answered questions at Google’s Zeitgeist conference. Google recorded the talk and we’ve embedded it below.

It’s a long video, but if you want better insight into the guy who’s controlling one of tech’s richest and most powerful companies, it’s a good watch.

Page starts by talking about a hero of his: Nikola Tesla. He says Tesla was an amazing inventor, who eventually failed to build all the things he imagined because he didn’t find a way to fund his work through commerce. Page says we could have had wireless power across continents already if Tesla hadn’t failed.

Google, Page says, is a response to that failure. Its model is: invent wild thing that will help humanity, get them adopted by users, profit, and then use the corporate structure to keep inventing new things.

For shareholders and other Google stakeholders, this is a clear message: While Page is in charge, you can  expect Google to stray from its core competencies into all sorts of businesses. We’ve already seen this in action when Google bought its way in the hardware business last month, acquiring Motoral Mobility.

The Google CEO gave Android, Chrome, and YouTube as examples of this pattern in successful action. Chrome has 160 million users now. Android is ubiquitous. YouTube has 3 billion playbacks a day and its revenue has grown 3X for the past three years.

Page also says that the other advantage to pursuing wildly ambitious goals is that it actually makes business easier because it attracts the world’s best talent.

Watch:

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Time Spent On Facebook Is Growing At An Astonishing Rate

United States citizens now spend roughly 16% of their total time online on Facebook. That’s an enormous figure.

In Q3 2010, the number was around 10% and it shows no sign of slowing down. That is bad news for Google, Yahoo, Microsoft, and AOL, which are struggling to compete. Of those four, only Google increased over the last year but not even the search giant could match Facebook’s growth.

chart of the day, facebook marekt share versus the rest, septm

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At The Intersection Between Design And Data, Facebook Timeline Was Born | TechCrunch

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Today at Facebook’s f8 conference in San Francisco, CEO Mark Zuckerberg showed off a huge change to the service: Timeline. It’s the Profile reborn, and it looks great. Later, Facebook’s head of product Chris Cox took the stage to talk about the feature’s inception.

Cox largely credits two people: Nicholas Felton and Sam Lessin.

Cox waxed poetic about Felton’s history. He gushed about Felton’s Feltron Annual Reports, which stared in 2005. “14 pages. One year. One book,” Cox noted. It was all about organizing the years of his life in a beautiful, visual way. “It was hard to call it anything other than what it really was — art,” Cox continued.

“We had one reaction: we have to try to hire this guy.”

And Facebook did just that. When they bought Felton’s startup Daytum this past April, Felton and co-founder Ryan Case moved from New York to Palo Alto to help weave their data analysis instincts into the future of the Facebook Profile.

Cox then turned his attention to Lessin. Facebook also acquired his startup, Drop.io, last year in order to get him. He had one job: to re-imagine the Profile. Lessin noted that “the single biggest lost opportunity in the history of human story telling” was the way the Profile was laid out when he joined. He printed out all of the information he had shared on his profile since he joined Facebook in 2004 to prove his point. It stretched across Facebook’s entire office.

Cox noted that when they accidentally launched a product called “Memories” this past summer for a few hours, the reaction was huge. This was a taste of what was to come with Timeline. “We tucked that away, and kept working,” Cox said.

Today, the work is complete — though Timeline will be slowly rolling out over the next couple of months to everyone, there will be a beta of it starting today. Facebook’s recent focus on design, and their moves to acquire as much top-tier design talent is possible is now evident.

“We’re a culture of builders. Now let’s go build something awesome,” Cox said in closing.

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Facebook to Double Worldwide Ad Revenues This Year – eMarketer

Global ad revenues of $3.8 billion include $2.01 billion from US

Worldwide ad revenues for Facebook will rise 104% this year to $3.8 billion, eMarketer estimates. As the social network doubles its advertising intake, it is also diversifying its revenue streams and adding dollars through other means, like Credits.

eMarketer’s forecast updates earlier estimates for 2011 Facebook revenues. In January, eMarketer forecast ad revenues would reach $4.05 billion this year.

“This slight revision downward for 2011 should not be taken as a sign that Facebook’s overall business is losing momentum,” said Debra Aho Williamson, eMarketer principal analyst.

Facebook Ad Revenues Worldwide, 2009-2013 (billions and % change)

“Facebook’s revenue streams will continue to diversify, with ads representing a decreasing proportion of total revenue while other sources, such as Facebook Credits, will grow,” said Williamson.

Total revenues at Facebook, which include those from advertising as well as Facebook Credits and other sources, will reach $4.27 billion this year, eMarketer estimates. That’s more than twice as high as the $2 billion Facebook is estimated to have earned in 2010. Ad revenues will make up 89% of the total this year, down from 95% in 2009.

Facebook Revenues Worldwide, by Source, 2009-2011 (millions and % of total)

eMarketer forms its estimates of Facebook revenues based on a meta-analysis of estimates on consumer usage, marketer usage, ad pricing and impressions on Facebook, as well as revenue estimates from research firms and other sources and interviews with industry executives.

Within the US, Facebook ad revenues will surpass $2 billion this year, accounting for just over half the worldwide total. US ad revenues will continue to rise at a rapid clip, but overseas ad dollars will represent 50% of the pie next year and a slight majority by 2013.

Facebook Ad Revenues Worldwide, US vs. Non-US, 2009-2013 (billions and % of total)

Despite a positive outlook, Facebook will continue to have to prove to advertisers that its products deliver results.

“Even though Facebook has spent several years wooing marketers, many of them still believe the ads aren’t effective at driving clicks and other actions,” said Williamson. “Facebook must either work to improve its clickthrough rate or show advertisers that advertising on the site is effective even without a click or other action.”

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Facebook’s Huge Trove Of Photos In Context

Facebook hosts 140 billion photos, and will add 70 billion this year, according to the blog of photo-sharing site 1000memories.

Putting this in context, 1000memories made the following visualization which shows how big Facebook’s library of photos are in comparison to other photo sharing sites, as well as the Library of Congress.

Incredibly, Facebook is hosting 4% of all photos ever taken, according to 1000memories. It estimates 3.5 trillion photos have been taken through history.

chart of the day, the largest photo libraries in the world, september 2011

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With Payvment’s Fashionable Facebook Platform, Shopping Is Social Again | Fast Company

Perhaps the hottest place to be for Fashion’s Night Out was at home–with your laptop.”Selling is a living thing, like a fire,” Payvment’s chief brand officer, Joelle Musante, tells Fast Company. “You can be the bellows and make it happen.”

EXPRESS RUNWAY'S  FASHION SHOW IN TIMES SQUARE  2011    /    Rock The Sidewalks      -     Times Square, Manhattan NYC     -     07/23/11

About the “Baked In” series: Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg likes to say that social dynamics are going to work their way into every industry, and the companies of the future will be the ones that bake them in from the beginning, rather than slapping them on as an afterthought. This series takes a look at companies that are discovering new opportunities by using social components in the foundations of their businesses.

Anna Wintour might not want to hear this, but pushing through throngs of frenzied fashionistas during Fashion’s Night Out is becoming as outré as last fall’s cargo pants. For those not in participating cities, multiple social media channels streamed live feeds of the retail chaos unfolding on the streets and in the store aisles of New York, LA, and Chicago. For once, those at home had the advantage. Not only could they get a front-row seat (sans pushing) to some events on Facebook, but they could shop there too, thanks to F-commerce boutiques powered by Payvment.

payvment dashboard

You might not have heard of it yet, but the two-year old Palo Alto-based company is a force in F-commerce. Payvment’s platform enables brands and merchants to create their own storefronts and get discovered by Facebook’s 750 million users. Currently powering over 60,000 active sellers offering more than two million searchable products, it’s a paradise for shopaholics with a penchant for discovering new trends and indie brands.

“It’s like having a one-on-one conversation with someone. There’s no anonymity and you get to know your shopkeeper. That builds trust and loyalty,” says Payvment’s chief brand officer, Joelle Musante.

Unlike other solutions that have popped up from major retail chains, Payvment’s tools are truly social. Musante tells Fast Company that Payvment understood from the beginning that Facebook was not the place to mimic e-commerce sites. “People go to Facebook with intention,” to connect with friends and family Musante says, “But we see [retailers] who say rebuild my store.”

Musante says Payvment saw the Facebook platform as an opportunity to reinvent shopping. Payvment powers individual shops on FB but also pulls them together on an aggregate site –a “mall” if you will– that both allows for discovery and recommendations, as well as provide an intro to small boutiques, like Amazon’s network of sellers on steriods.

For instance, if you’re looking for a Gibson guitar, a Vivienne Westwood dress or even bling-encrusted purple stripper pumps, look no further. The bonus: you can actually see who likes them (not just how many do) and you can also click through to the seller’s wall and chat with the merchant about sizes or other merchandise, see their ratings, etc.

As the first U.S. department store to turn its fan page shoppable, JCPenney allows its Facebook fans to click through a few pretty landing pages to get to piles of product shots which don’t look any different from their online storefront. The effort falls short of the social mark because the only interactive element is the Like button. Other retailers simply redirect to an online shopping site. That’s not really social commerce Musante maintains, “It’s just a really fancy gallery.”

CEO and founder Christian Taylor says that staying true to the Facebook model has meant the application has been free since its initial launch in late 2009 and through the debut of its “Shopping Mall” eight months ago. “The true value is not the store but the opportunity for discovery,” Taylor explains. Participating stores can set up shop with no fees and Payvment doesn’t take a cut of the sales revenue.

So far, the lack of monetization hasn’t been a sticking point. The company’s been well funded, raising a total of $8 million from BlueRun Ventures, Sierra Ventures, and 500 Startups. However, Taylor says the intent to monetize has always been there and this week Payvment launched a new version that plays to all sizes of retailers.

For $29.99 a month, Payvment Premium offers subscribing sellers a host of features including the oh-so-social dashboard that aggregates advanced analytics beyond simple sales and traffic data. Payvment’s tools show all social interactions including likes, comments and Tweets on a product-by-product basis, enabling sellers to evaluate the impact of promotions and understand which products are trending or driving viral reach.

Sellers can also schedule posts to their wall and Twitter feeds and run promotions on individual products using product-specific coupon codes.

For large sellers with more sophisticated needs, or an agency handling a large number of clients, Payvment will also offer Payvment Platinum, a custom version that comes with a corresponding price tag. Taylor says the promote button in particular, allows brands to seem much more social. “”There is a 900 percent increase in conversation about that product. If you automate that a bit and set up a week’s worth of promotion you can generate the world’s perfect promotion,” he says.

Musante is more sanguine. She points to an indie California brand recently taking preorders for T-shirts via its Facebook storefront. In this way, the company is building buzz, revenue, and its fan base who can share their find and drive even more traffic, not to mention mitigating the risk of producing too many shirts. Of this example Musante says, “It’s an education. [Selling] is a living thing, like a fire. You can be the bellows and make it happen.”

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