Posts tagged Study Chinese in China
Posts tagged Study Chinese in China
Mark Robinson, founder and president of HandicappedPets.com and the inventor of the Walkin’ Wheels adjustable dog wheelchair, was initially motivated to learn Chinese strictly for business reasons. He wanted to better communicate with Chinese manufacturers. However, Mark quickly realized that learning about Chinese language and culture provided him a sense of discovery and enjoyment other subjects simply couldn’t provide. Below, Mark shares one of his favorite cultural exchange moments from studying in Guilin.
The Adventures of Living in China
By Mark Robinson, CLI Immersion Student
One of the highlights of my stay in Guilin was the Sunday I spent going to English Corner. Sunday was a warm and sunny day. People still had their jackets on, but the sun was out and you could see a few patches of blue sky peering through the clouds.
My friend Edwin in Nashua recommended I meet some of his friends while staying in Guilin. They are the organizers of the Guilin English Corner that meets every Sunday at 10 AM. Like most of my excursions I had no idea what to expect.
Edwin had given me the QQ (China’s popular instant messaging software) address of Lisa, who sent me the location, in Chinese, of the place I was to meet them. I carefully copied the characters for the address on notepaper to give the taxi driver. He dropped me off about 30 minutes early and I went in search of breakfast.
Looking through American eyes I saw a dirty, open storefront where a toothless old man takes 3.5 RMB (about US$.56 cents) from the dozen or so people in line. As they get to the window, a matronly woman spits a few questions then serves a bowl of noodles from a makeshift pot adding chunks of brown stuff, a handful of green stuff, and a spoonful of balls of something-or-other. The people take the bowls to a table with a dozen cups of condiments, add several, and then sit on kindergarten-style plastic stools on the curb where they prod their food with chopsticks until it slides into their mouths.
My turn. She asks her questions. I nod and say “hào” (good). Sometimes you can nod and say “hào” and everything works out fine, no luck this time. She asks again. I have a line in reserve, just in case. “Wǒ shuō zhōngwén shuō de bù hǎo, kěshì wǒ hěn è.” This translates roughly to, “I cannot speak Chinese well, but I am very hungry.”
Success! She smiles, chuckles, and points to various pots and I keep saying “hào” as she adds a spoonful of their contents to my bowl of white rice noodles. There are four kinds of meat on the cutting board. She waves her finger and I point to one – pork, I’m guessing (guessing is always an adventure). I added a few condiments like I watched others do, found a stool, and began my chopstick attack. I’m good, but the noodles were better and I spent the next 15 minutes slurping up an incredibly delicious breakfast.
When it comes to learning a second language, simply being intelligent doesn’t guarantee success. Mastering a second language requires a unique form of discipline that will get you far no matter your age, education level, or prior experience. However, language learners often fall victim to five common mistakes that can be easily avoided with a little practice and insight. Being aware of these pitfalls will give you a jump start towards your language goals, whether you are aiming to study Chinese or any other foreign language.
More great news for the Chinese Language Institute! Another major publication has featured an article about CLI, this time it’s the China Daily. The article takes a look back on the founding of CLI, detailing the journey that Robbie and Brad Fried embarked on to start the institution. Take a look at the article below, or visit the China Daily website for the original story:
Let’s learn Chinese
9 December 2012 by Mike Peters | China Daily
A family-based business from the United States has settled in Guilin, Mike Peters learns, and has introduced an innovative yet practical method of learning Mandarin.
If Virginia native Brad Fried liked milk, there’s no telling where his younger brother Robbie would be today.
When the elder Fried came to Beijing in 2001 as a 22-year-old vegan, he was delighted to find that, unlike in the West, he didn’t have to worry that dairy products lurked in all sorts of prepared foods.
That helped him to settle down to a happy life as an expat, first as an exchange student and later as an English teacher in Guilin, Guangxi Zhuang autonomous region.
And that set the stage for his brother, who came out for a three-week vacation in 2006 and heard his own siren song.
“I’d been here about two days, and I was hooked,” Robbie Fried says. “For me it was the language. My experience with foreign languages before was in a classroom on the east coast of the US. It was basically an academic exercise, with no tangible benefit.”
“But when I came here, and saw how quickly you could connect with people, how excited my language partner was – it was just real.”
So instead of going home after his scheduled holiday, the younger Fried spend two months memorizing vocabulary and then taking it to the street.
The experience stimulated him to enroll in formal Mandarin study at a top Chinese university. But instead of getting the big boost he expected, Fried hit a brick wall.
“It was like I’d carried the old classroom experience across the ocean,” he says. “There were a thousand foreigners studying Chinese – completely sectioned off from the university environment. We walked to class with other foreigners, where there was one Mandarin speaker in the room – the teacher. So English was the medium of communication among ourselves, whether in class or segregated in our dining hall.”
In Guizhou with his brother, Mandarin had been organic and alive – a way to connect with people, to buy bread and cabbage, and to find your way in a new culture. In Beijing, it was suddenly theoretical, something in a book.
Lots of Americans have an itch to learn Mandarin and instruction has grown by a factor of 12 in the past decade, he says.
“So at that point it was my goal to tear down all the barriers.”
“Sparks flew when I combined three factors,” he says. “There was a huge market for Mandarin learning, the quality of service was insufficient, and most foreign students were being overcharged.”
“Most foreign students – Americans, anyway – come to China to study through their home university,” he says. “That means they are paying the US tuition rate.”
Fried himself had chased scholarships and took out a student loan for courses that cost about $10,000, only to discover he could have paid about one-tenth that amount by enrolling directly.
If only he had known how.
So the two brothers put together a business plan for Chinese Language Institute, where they would teach the way Robbie had learned from Brad, in bite-sized pieces, intensive but not overwhelming.
They approached a group of businessmen who worked with their father, borrowed $10,000, and CLI was born in Robbie’s dorm room at Tsinghua University.
Soon the brothers had rented a three-bedroom apartment and held classes in the living room. They say a chalkboard was their biggest investment in teaching tools.
The Frieds had one student at first in 2009, four at the year-end winter term, and five the next spring. But they stayed focused.
“I wasn’t turned off by the low turnout,” Robbie Fried says. “I was confident that we had something special.”
By the end of 2010 they had 42 students, and the numbers have doubled each year since, reaching about 200 today.
The loan was repaid the first year and the language school now thrives in a five-story building in scenic Guilin, with a strong base in the community.
Despite it’s professional staff, CLI is still a family affair. A third Fried brother runs the company website, and mom Nancy Fried works as director of admissions from her home base in the US.
Besides its own immersion courses in Mandarin, the institute staff runs a semester-abroad program at Guangxi Normal University, where it has 13 classrooms, and helps Americans secure English-teaching positions from middle-school to university level.
That includes many Asian-American students who can speak perfect English and have a head start interacting with the culture, says Fried.
Many incoming Americans are part-time Mandarin students at CLI and part-time English teachers in local schools simultaneously.
The brothers negotiated a three-week study tour with Virginia Tech, Robbie’s alma mater, that was a huge success and started word of mouth that the Frieds credit for CLI’s growth.
Virginia Tech students can claim course credits for studies done at CLI.
The institute’s programs last from two weeks to a year, with tuition costing from about $700 for two weeks to slightly more than $19,000 for one year, depending on the program and accommodation. The institute grossed more than $160,000 in its first year, Fried says.
Nicholas Gacos, a student in that inaugural study tour, told a Virginia-based newspaper that, “We crammed so much learning into those three weeks. The things we did, and saw, and ate, and the people with whom we interacted It was an unbelievable learning experience.”
Understandably, the Frieds think US President Barack Obama’s project to boost the numbers of Americans studying in China from about 14,000 to 100,000 in four years is a great idea.
“It’s a wise investment,” says Robbie Fried, who is now 26. “And the starting point is breaking misconceptions about China, ideally with high-school students.
Trees inside living rooms, lights draped on houses, jolly old men in red suits ringing bells outside department stores, and cars pouring into shopping mall parking lots are all common sights and sounds this time of year in the West. Western holiday traits may be at a minimum in the Middle Kingdom, but the warm feelings, content smiles, and family togetherness that come this time of year are not lacking in Guilin.
December in Guilin continues to be filled with activities ranging from excursions to see the colorful Chinese tallow trees to homemade cake baking to a lesson on how to play the gǔqín. Each activity provides a new opportunity for students to demonstrate their Mandarin proficiency, share Chinese culture, and connect to local residents on a personal level.
December’s first weekly Chinese culture class gave students the pleasure of learning traditional Chinese music from a gǔqín master. The gǔqín is a seven-string Chinese musical instrument and playing one is truly an art form. The students were excited to have the opportunity to learn this ancient skill. It may not have been “Jingle Bells”, but CLI’s halls echoed with satisfying music.
After a diligent week of studying and teaching Mandarin Chinese, students and teachers shared a relaxing weekend afternoon alongside the Li River on Wujiu Island. Wujiu is known for its colorful tallow trees. The tallow tree’s leaves change with the seasons from pale green to yellows, oranges, purples, and reds, rivaled only by the maple tree on the color spectrum. A relaxing afternoon in the fresh air provided the perfect motivational recharge for the coming week’s Mandarin lessons.
Last weekend, students took their Chinese language skills to the kitchen to learn how to bake a cake. Baking seemed appropriate given the season and the warm atmosphere provided the perfect opportunity to apply one’s classroom lessons to real life situations. No one claimed to be the next Martha Stewart, but with a seal of approval from our baking instructor, new vocabulary words learned, and a sweet treat to show for our hard work, the afternoon was deemed a success.
Mikko Helimo shares his language journey in CLI Perspectives number nine. Mikko was first bitten by the Chinese language bug while studying for his MBA in Beijing. After years of working for the banking industry in Finland, the itch continued to persist. With the goal of working in Chinese business, Mikko returned to the Middle Kingdom to learn Mandarin. How did he sooth his itch for the Chinese language? Read below!
Forget Your Fears, Speak Chinese
By Mikko Helimo, CLI Immersion Program Student
After ten years of banking and looking over people’s investments, I decided that it was time to do something else. I always had an interest towards China and especially Chinese business. After a four month spell in Beijing in 2001 I knew how to greet people and say thank you. But I knew that if I wanted to pursue a future career in China, I had to learn how to speak Chinese properly.
After I made my decision to come to Guilin, I contacted the staff and let them know what my learning objectives were. At first I wanted to be able to communicate with people, so my focus was on speaking and not so much on the characters.
The whole process of coming to Guilin was super smooth. I did my sign up and registration with Nancy Fried on the Internet, and was greeted at the airport by CLI staff who took me to my nice, relatively new apartment near CLI’s building. The first day I was introduced to my three teachers and started classes right away. CLI staff also helped me to open a bank account and get a mobile phone number. Everything was made easy and I really felt welcomed.
We used all kinds of study materials (books, internet, and documents) to build up my vocabulary, but for me the most useful method of learning was just speaking and listening. If I didn’t understand the question or the answer, I asked the teacher to repeat her sentence in a slightly different way and write the new missing key words on the blackboard. It really didn’t matter what we talked about, once you do it long enough you feel comfortable talking to anyone about anything. I had many “wow” moments after I realized that I had been talking and listening for two hours strait and it felt like only five minutes.
Apart from studying, I also did some traveling to Zhangjiajie, Liuzhou, Nanning, Yangshuo, Shanghai, Hangzhou, and Suzhou. Guilin has good connections all over China by air and by train. Using my new Chinese skills was one of the highlights of the trips. There is one moment I will probably remember forever. I was on top of a mountain in Zhangjiajie National Park and a nervous looking young boy approached me and wanted to practice his English. We had a 20-minute chat about our lives, he speaking in English and me in Chinese. His last words to me were: “wow, until now I have been afraid to talk to foreigners, but after this I am not afraid anymore”. My point exactly, just practice your speaking and you won’t be nervous anymore.
A new study conducted at the University of Florida suggests that studying abroad improves one’s creativity and problem-solving capability. The study found that students who had studied abroad “significantly outperformed” those who had not in tests that measured the complex cognitive processes involved in finding innovative solutions and creative problem-solving.
In the following article, Pacific Standard’s Tom Jacobs explains that if you want to make your resume stand out in today’s competitive field, studying abroad may just be the key!
New research confirms that spending a semester studying overseas enhances one’s ability to find innovative solutions.
Looking to hire someone who will make a creative contribution to your organization? Here’s a tip: When checking applicants’ college transcripts, don’t focus exclusively on their grades or honors.
Take note of whether they spent time studying abroad.
That’s the implication of newly published research, which provides the best evidence yet that studying overseas boosts one’s creativity. A semester spent in Spain or Senegal leads to higher creativity scores on two different tests, according to research conducted by Christine Lee, David Therriault, and Tracy Linderholm of the University of Florida, Gainesville.
“Cultural experiences from living abroad have wide-reaching benefits on students’ creativity, including the facilitation of complex cognitive processes that promote creative thinking,” the researchers write in the journal Applied Cognitive Psychology.
The link between studying abroad and enhanced creativity was first made in a 2009 paper by William Maddux and Adam Galinsky, who found students who spent time overseas were more likely to come up with innovative insights. Like many studies, however, it didn’t quite establish causality. The authors couldn’t say for certain that the experience was transformative, admitting it is possible that people choose to study outside the country are more creative to begin with.
To address that issue, Lee and her colleagues assembled three groups of students from a large university in the American south: 45 who had studied abroad, 45 who were planning to study abroad (but had not yet done so), and 45 who had no interest in studying abroad. All completed two creativity tests.
The first, the Abbreviated Torrance Test for Adults, measures general creativity. Participants are asked to draw a pair of pictures using specific guidelines, and to discuss “the troubles they might encounter if they could walk on air.” Creativity was judged by the number of answers they came up with, their originality, level of detail, and the flexibility of thinking they demonstrated.
In the second test, which was devised by Lee and her colleagues, participants were asked to generate as many ideas as possible in a series of challenges. This “cultural creativity task” included such problems as “Suppose you wake up tomorrow with a different skin color. What changes might this create in your life?” Creativity was judged by both the number of responses and their originality.
On both tests, the students who had studied abroad “significantly outperformed” members of the other two groups. On the second, those who had spent time studying overseas generated “ideas and solutions that were richer in description, detail and humor” than their classmates—including those who were predisposed to studying abroad, and planned to do so.
According to the researchers, this strongly suggests that “the actual immersion in a foreign culture” boosts one’s creativity. In the words of Lee and her colleagues: “Our findings indicate that studying abroad supports cognitive processes involved in developing innovative solutions.”
So if you want to think outside the box, spend some time outside the country.
Read full article here.
CLI’s most recent contributor to the CLI Perspective series is Jason Campbell. Jason Campbell, CLI Immersion Program student, came to China in hopes of better understanding China and Chinese culture through learning Chinese. What life altering experiences did Jason encounter? Read on to find how studying Chinese in China broaden Jason’s world views, life outlook, and much more.
By Jason Campbell, CLI Immersion Program Student
There are few experiences in life that can be truly considered as “life-changing”, but my time in Guilin this summer is certainly one of them. The month I spent in China not only gave me a wonderfully unique access into Chinese language, culture and life, but it also allowed me to gain special and essential skills in areas from international travel to communicating with someone who does not speak my own native language.
Beyond this, however, the most important effect this trip had on my life was the way it made me realize how large this world truly is and how diverse the people who inhabit it are. Most people who have learned about different cultures and lifestyles throughout one’s life understand this fact. The experience of living in a country where you no longer constitute a member of the majority, nor speak the native language of the area, is one that can make anyone feel truly humbled.
Early during my time in Guilin I walked to a Buddhist monastery that is relatively close to the Chinese Language Institute (CLI) building. On the way to the building there are rows of small houses which look more like shacks than a house I would be accustomed to. While walking through this, I was struck by the sheer abjectness of the way people lived here. I realized that though I had seen poverty before in my life, it had never been with such a degree of starkness as I saw it here. After I passed this area, I came to the monastery where I spent nearly an hour talking with a monk. She freely gave her time over to explain the intricacies of Buddhist thought and the symbolism of the different objects and ornamentations in the monastery.
On my way back from this monastery, I again walked past the area of destitute homes. This time I was struck by the remarkable disparity I recognized between the experience I had in the monastery a few minutes prior and the one people had daily living here – the overwhelming sense of love and acceptance the monastery provided on one hand and the sense of being placed on the fringes of society so blatantly on the other. Though this is something that can be seen in any major Western city, it had not become as clear to me as when I saw it in this particular format. This experience has proven to be one of the more important insights into life I have had in Guilin or anywhere else.
Later in my trip, I traveled to the famous rice terraces at Longsheng. This area has a beauty and natural artistry that defies being reduced to mere words. Not only are the terraces and mountains gorgeous to look at, but the way in which the hiking paths are set-up allows visitors to become close to nature. Visitors can walk within the rice fields and among the people who are working the fields. Walking from the town where my hotel was to another village nearly three hours away gave me a greater connection to the natural world than any other experience I can think of recently in my life.
The experience in Guilin that CLI provided did not merely allow me to visit China as a tourist, but to feel as though I had truly embedded myself within the environment. Following the month I spent there I had the feeling that, unlike previous trips in my life, I did not merely visit this area, but I had lived there. By doing all the necessary activities of daily life, experiencing the cultural environment in Guilin, and participating in excursions to surrounding areas, I left Guilin truly changed and feeling as though I am better person for having gone on this trip.
Want to work in China? Want to do business with Chinese companies? To make your life easier and more successful there is one thing you need to understand first – Chinese culture. Tom Doctoroff, contributor for the Huffington Post, shares his tips for doing successful business in China. The underlining theme from each tip is Chinese culture. Understanding Chinese culture allows one to comprehend what motivates and informs the decisions of one’s consumers and business partners.
Chinese language and culture are intertwined and the key to understanding one is being familiar with the other. The most efficient way to learn about Chinese culture is to study Chinese in China. While studying the Chinese language one naturally develops an understanding of the Chinese culture. Come to China and experience Chinese culture firsthand!
30 July 2012 by Tom Doctoroff | Huffington Post
The Chinese consumer is becoming modern and international, but not Western. In my book, What Chinese Want, I outline a few “golden rules” successful businessmen must adopt in order to penetrate China, the world’s most dynamic market.
This interview was originally posted in the China Observer, a great blog on Chinese business and marketing.
What are the main differences between your recently released book, What Chinese Want and your earlier work Billions: Selling to the New Chinese Consumer?
My first book, was more of a “how to” guide on marketing in China. Sequentially, I addressed several consumer segments — the middle class, the mass market, men, women and youth — and analyzed their buying instincts based on insights particularly to those segments.
I think What Chinese Want is a broader book, perhaps a more ambitious one. I start with a fairly long chapter on the Chinese “worldview” (“Old Pipes, New Palace”) as a framing device for the entire book. I argue that Chinese society has always been and will continue to be characterized by a unifying “Confucian conflict” between ambition and regimentation, standing out and fitting in, projection of status and protection of economic interests. In this chapter I outline “timeless” characteristics of Chinese culture as well as enduring strengths and weaknesses. In subsequent chapters, I interpret these characteristics across four “domains” of contemporary culture that include business, consumerism, social structures and engagement with the world. At the same time, I hope to reconcile the most modern and dynamic elements in China, from digital behavior to luxury fixation to the PRC’s relationship with America, with enduring cultural imperatives. I believe Chinese society is becoming modern and internationalized but not Western. Much of What Chinese Want focuses on how Western influences — for example, Christmas and diamond engagement rings — are transformed into vessels of Chinese culture as status projectors in a society in which self-driven individualism remains a tempting but dangerous aspiration and individuals do not define themselves independent of their responsibilities and obligations to others.
Billions was generally well received but some felt I presented Chinese consumers as too traditional rather than constantly evolving. This time around, I endeavored to paint a picture of a modern Middle Kingdom, not stuck in the past but still very much engaged with foreign institutions as a means of strengthening their own domestic circumstances.
What are your thought on the relationship between product positioning and individualism in China?
On the multinational client front, both Starbucks and Haagen Dazs have reconfigured their business model to conform to Chinese business imperatives. In China, the “golden rule” of marketing is: maximizing public consumption can increase price premiums and profit margins. The Chinese will invest in anything that provides “face” — that is, external endorsement that leads to professional or personal advancement. This is not just a question of relevant insight or positioning. Starbucks will soon operate 1,500 outlets on the mainland. The company has established its stores as gathering spots for groups of aspiring professionals. It has reconfigured design, broadened menu options, developed an extensive array of “badged accessories,” and leveraged social media — all this in a “tea culture” country.
Haagen Dazs also maximizes public consumption. Consumers will not eat expensive ice cream at home. Like Starbucks, its business model focuses on driving traffic through stores, parlors that sport a romantic vibe and new generation cool. P&G brands are impressive for consistent ownership of the category benefits. Additionally, General Motors has leveraged skill portfolio management across vehicles, particularly Buick, as men progress on a “journey of success.”
Local companies have also made progress, although none are actively preferred relative to MNC brands. More maintain consistent positioning. Anta, a sports shoes and apparel manufacturer, defines mass market sporting spirit. VANCL, a fashion brand, fuses digital self-expression with e-commerce innovation. But Chinese and international brands still have fundamentally different strengths and weaknesses. Mainland companies know how to “manage scale” across immense swathes of time and space. They are “frugal innovators.” Their products are available to hundreds of millions of Chinese, right down to the rural fringe. In this respect, Lenovo, China Mobile, China Unicom, Haier (appliances), Yili (dairy) and Qingdao (beer) have been impressive.
As Chinese consumers become wealthier, they become more modern and international. But, digital liberation notwithstanding, they are not becoming Western. The Chinese worldview remains anti-individualistic, if we define “individualism” as societal encouragement of individuals to define themselves independent of external expectations. China remains a Confucian society driven by a complex code of obligations, centered on twin pillars of family and nation. At its core, Chinese society is characterized by tension between ambition and regimentation, the urge to advance while conforming to imperatives imposed by the “system.” Egos are huge — success is impossible without “face”— but outright rebellion is forbidden.
The motivations that fuel the most dynamic categories remain profoundly Chinese. And brands are always tools of advancement and benefits are always externalized. Sports cars will always be niche because their benefits — “zoom, zoom,” the thrill of motion — are largely “internalized.” “Power” must morph into status projection because autos, like practically all brands, are weapons of professional advancement on the business battlefield. Chinese tourists are more interested in purchasing luxury goods or “collecting” destinations for show off purposes back home than experiencing other cultures. Of course, as consumers become more sophisticated, positioning strategies must become more artful, less one-dimensional. The man on top demonstrates mastery or connoisseurship, not his bank account. But, young or old, rich or poor, all benefits are a means to an end — that is, climbing a hierarchy of success. Brands should, directly or indirectly, enhance social standing. Budweiser’s “What’s Up” campaign, a celebration of male bonding, would never work. In China, premium beer lubricates trust between guys who want to make money.
As JWT’s CEO of Greater China, you have seen the full range of best and worst practices as Western multinationals attempt to entice Chinese consumers into weaving their foreign products into the fabric of their everyday buying behavior. What is one example where a Western company seriously missed the mark? On the other hand, what is the best campaign you have observed or have been a part of during your nearly 20 years working in advertising in Asia?
The most egregious campaign I can recall was a Toyota print ad - I think for trucks - that reinforced the power of the vehicle by having traditional Chinese lions bowing in front of the truck. Chinese are fiercely nationalistic and also very sensitive regarding Japanese lack of “sincere” apologies for their aggression during the 30s and 40s. This ad was shockingly insensitive.
The best campaign? I am most proud of the work we did for DeBeers, transforming “foreign” diamonds into a Chinese cultural imperative. In America, De Beers’ slogan, “A Diamond is Forever,” glorifies eternal romance. In China, the same tagline connotes obligation, a familial covenant — rock solid, like the stone itself. In the PRC, where the clan, not the individual, is the basic building block of society, marriage is less a union of two souls than two extended families. It is not truly consummated until a new generation is produced. Romantic love, desired and even useful as a bonding agent, is a secondary concern, a means to an end. Men demonstrate worthiness via proof of commitment. Marriage is a protective union, a bulwark against the vicissitudes of a world in which individual rights do not exist, self-expression is often viewed as a threat to the established order, and institutions designed to protect individual interests are rare.
What are the top three pieces of advice you would give to marketing professionals getting started in the Chinese market?
I’ve already discussed two “golden rules” — that is, generating higher margins by maximizing public consumption and externalizing benefits so brands become “tools of advancement - so I’ll tick off three more.
First, to generate both margin and scale, brands should be stretched “out and down.” Margin isn’t enough. Given the trust Chinese consumers have in “big brands,” the link between category and brand is relatively weak in China. That means one brand can stretch across more than multiple categories, assuming credibility in related categories. Johnson & Johnson, for example, could launch an infant formula and consumers would accept it despite lack of experience in this category.
Relatedly, the only way to target a broad swath of price-sensitive consumers is to extend premium-priced brands downward across lower price tiers, always by reducing costs and simplifying benefit structures. At the same time, great care must be taken to avoid degraded quality perceptions, usually by advertising the most premium variants. Colgate toothpaste was an early innovator on the mass-market front. Colgate Total Oral Care premium toothpaste, composed largely of imported ingredients, cost approximately 200 percent more than local brands and maintained a 3 percent share. Colgate Herbal and Colgate Strong, however, used local ingredients, had a lower cost of goods, and were priced slightly higher than or at parity with local brands. The combined Colgate franchise controls a phenomenal 20-plus percent of the toothpaste market, one with hundreds of regional and national competitors. In recent years, Nestlé and some Procter & Gamble brands—notably Crest—have adopted a similar strategy. So, too, have higher-involvement categories such as mobile phones.
Second, Chinese, irrespective of income or geography, are overwhelmed—yet excited—by the explosion of brands, both local and international. Twenty years ago, the public phone was the only way to make a telephone call; today, there are over three hundred brands of mobile devices, ranging from U.S.$30 basic models to state-of-the-art smartphones. Making matters worse, China’s media landscape is extremely cluttered. The average Shanghai resident is exposed to three times as many ads in one day as U.K. consumers. In Beijing, television screens, mostly owned by Focus Media, are ubiquitous—in taxis, elevators, restaurants, building exteriors, locker rooms, and bathroom stalls.
Complicated messages, therefore, are not easily digested, even amongst the most brand-literate subsets of the population. Consistent messages must be conveyed directly, requiring as little cognitive processing as possible. Advertising must be ruthlessly single minded about the visualization of key benefits, leveraging demos as creative ideas, slice-of-life formats that dramatize product performances in extreme circumstances and so on. Celebrities must be carefully selected so that their star attributes reinforce a core brand proposition.
Third, never — ever — underestimate the importance of trust lubrication. The dramas of Enron and financial crises notwithstanding, western business people assume that the playing field is basically fair. Impartial commercial courts protect us. Stock markets are relatively transparent. Credit is broadly available, assuming adequate risk-return calculations. Chinese institutions exist to reinforce the ruling power of the Communist Party and, therefore, are much less developed and will likely remain so for decades.
Trust must be lubricated one-on-one, in the CEO’s office or in private dining rooms at round tables. Unfamiliar people or new ideas elicit anxiety, so informal pre-meetings must be set up between trusted third parties. Email contact gets you nowhere, since executives are uncomfortable with “mechanical” communication (although, these days, many issue one-way tweets). Common business objectives must be established at dinner, but only after the ice has melted.
Read full article here.
The Chinese Language Institute
The physical space where we live, work and study has a profound impact on our progress as individuals and as a greater whole. An environment should encourage personal development and open collaboration, as well as provide a platform for those within it to reach their fullest potential. At CLI, we seek to live up to this ideal by continuously evoloving our learning and living space to best suit the needs of our growing community.
Since moving into the CLI building in January 2011, the CLI team has continued to improve its space with new artwork, learning materials, recreation areas, common spaces, and improved living accommodations. Please enjoy the following photo tour and come visit anytime! Visit our Facebook fan page for many more photos.
Matt Kao, CLI Immersion Program student, wrote this week’s CLI Perspective. Before coming to CLI, Matt had previously been introduced to the Chinese language and culture through his father, who was born in Taiwan. However, this time Matt decided to immerse himself in the Chinese culture by studying Chinese in China. Find out how Matt’s views on China grew after traveling and studying in China.
By Matt Kao, Immersion Program Student
To say China and America are different is stating the obvious. But, before coming to Guilin, I never thought I would notice so many differences. The little things were the most noticeable, but before you call me out for being cliché, big things were noticeable as well.
I first came to China with my family two summers ago. It was only for a week and a half and we rushed through as much of Inner Mongolia and Beijing in that timeframe as we could. My father is Chinese, so I have been in close contact with the culture. Spending two entire months in mainland China allowed me to seriously slow down and truly experience everything that was going on around me. My friend Kian, on the other hand, had never been to Asia and has no blood ties to China. He did not know what to expect.
As soon as we landed, we headed to our apartment where we were more than pleased to see how spacious, comfortable, and convenient our living space was. It was clear from day one that CLI took great care of their students.
I will never forget the next morning when we passed a few staring natives and CLI local director Molin told us, “Yeah…you might get a few looks while you’re in Guilin”. Some may feel these stares are meant to scare, but in reality they are purely curious. Most of these Chinese have never seen tourists or been out of the country. During my whole stay here, I have not encountered one impatient local who wasn’t excited or willing to converse with me in my surely frustrating, broken Mandarin. I wish New York City could treat their tourists the same.
Our first trip outside of Guilin was to the Longji Rice Terraces in Longshan. I wanted to soak in all of the beauty of the extremely unique landscape, but it was truly too widespread for me to take in at one time. I seldom experience that feeling. Photos don’t do justice to all of the incredible views and sights we have seen in China. The city of Longshan was literally built on a mountain. One could often experience vertigo moving from one shop to the next. On Saturday night, the entire town was eerily silent by 10 P.M. I have been to many countries in my life, but few can go from bustling during the day to completely dead at night like China often does.
Our next trip was to Zhangjiajie, the inspiration for the floating mountains in the American film Avatar. It was so interesting to see, firsthand, what helped cause a global sensation in all its glory. Once again, the scenery was incredible and the mountains were countless. At the park, I noticed a difference from American parks. Parkgoers were given much more freedom. At Zhangjiajie, there were boundaries surrounding the mountains, but they were quite small. It was awesome being so close to nature, but I realized American parks would never trust their customers with so much freedom. For example, monkeys were within an arm’s reach of me! Even in Guilin, there seems to be a greater sense of freedom.
We also went to Maoershan, a mountain within the city area of Guilin. Unfortunately, during our trip, the rain and dense fog prevented a typical viewing experience from the mountain top. Yet I and Kian agreed, there was something so refreshing and mysterious of the calm, soft mist. It was definitely a nice change from the everyday heat and humidity of Guilin. Before we reached the top, we came upon a memorial remembering WWII American airplane fighters who crashed on the mountain during the war. It was a fascinating feeling to be at a spot halfway around the world where our country’s bravest gave their lives for us. It was even more amazing to note that little to no foreigners have ever been to Maoershan. I can only hope more great experiences will come in my last weeks at CLI.