Googling China

The search engine war in China has long been heated, but Yahoo! recently upped the stakes with the launch of a new search portal: www.yisou.com.

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It sure looks a lot like Google’s search portal, underscoring the dramatic success Google has enjoyed in this market over the past few years.

Consider these impressive stats from The Miami Herald:

China is currently second to the United States in Internet users (at 80 million in 2003 compared to our 185 million) but will surpass the United States within five years, according to Forbes Global. On any given day, nine of the world’s 25 busiest websites are situated in China. Yahoo! and eBay are coming on strong in competition with locally entrenched portals. Even without China-based offices, Google attracts 40 percent of China’s search users.

Clearly, the search portal that wins in China will have the lead in users globally. While Google has the lead today, I suspect that an entirely new search engine, likely based in China itself, may be that leader five years from now.

Localized Washing Machines

The Reveries Web site has an interesting piece on Whirlpool and its localization efforts in Latin America. Apparently the company has had great success in Brazil by creating a low-cost “people’s washer” with features unique to the marketplace.

Here’s an excerpt:

Whirlpool’s research also revealed that aesthetics were important because washers are considered status symbols. In China, the looks factor is multiplied because “many families keep appliances in the living room.” There’s no place else to put them. In Brazil, Whirlpool jazzed up the control panel with bright yellow buttons and blue lettering. They also carefully selected appliance colors based on by-country preferences . Wash cycles were named on a by-country basis, too (in India, the delicate cycle is called the “sari” cycle, for example). What does one of these machines cost? Just $150 to $200 (about half the average cost in the U.S.). So happy are low-income Brazilians to have these machines that some are said to “treat the washer like a member of the family, referring to her as ‘my little princess’ and my ‘little girl.'”

And here’s a picture of one such machine:

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For the full article, go to: http://www.reveries.com/coolnews/2003/december/dec_9.html

Chinese Hoops

According to a recent press release, last year more than 15 NBA teams incorporated Asian American marketing efforts into their overall marketing plans. And the timing isn’t due just to Yao; today, there are three Chinese players in the NBA: Yao Ming of the Houston Rockets, Wang Zhizhi of the Los Angeles Clippers and Mengke Bateer of the Toronto Raptors.

There are more than 2.4 million Chinese residents in the U.S. And the NBA needs all the fans it can get these days. Here’s an excerpt from the press release:

“The timing is perfect for the NBA to take this important step in reaching out to the Chinese population in the United States,” said Saul Gitlin, executive vice president-strategic services at Kang & Lee Advertising. “Not only are Chinese the largest Asian group in the country, but they have an unusually high level of education and boast a median household income of $51,444 – almost $10,000 ahead of the median for all households in the country. The intense passion for basketball within the Chinese community presents many opportunities for the NBA.”

The NBA has also done a fine job of marketing itself globally. Jordan wasn’t the world’s most popular athlete by chance. The NBA had been pumping game highlights globally during most of his reign. And now, the NBA is awakening to Web globalization…

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The NBA has enjoyed tremendous popularity in China. During the 2002-03 season, a record 14 telecasters televised NBA games and programs in China, with NBA programming reaching a total of 314 million TV households. The league also launched NBA.com/china, a comprehensive internet destination, written entirely in Chinese.

Pampering Russia

This is a great article about Procter & Gamble’s adventures in Russia.

While currency devalatuations have been challenging, the economy has since stabilized and sales are growing at 50% annually (although revenues are still a fraction of US revenues). Products such as Pampers, Tide and Pantene have been very successful (though they must be priced aggressively).

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Here’s an excerpt that highlights the complexities of marketing in Russia:

…P&G must alter marketing strategies that have worked for decades in the United States.

Alex Nasard of Procter’s Moscow marketing office said the company uses straightforward pitches rather than the entertaining, nuanced ads aired in the United States. Nasard said Russians are more immune to propaganda because of years of communism.

P&G also has left English labels on most products, to maintain the company’s global branding as well as appealing to Russian customers’ desire for anything American.

Here’s the article.

Is Globalization Good?

According to a recent study by the Pew Research Center, people around the world generally approve of increased international trade. They also “think positively” of international and multinational organizations, such as the World Trade Organization. (Respondents were not too fond of WTO protestors.)

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The study also notes that “majorities, in most cases strong majorities, in 34 of 44 nations thought the availability of good paying jobs had gotten worse in the last five years. And substantial majorities–82% in France, 67% in the United States, 63% in Mexico–thought the gap between the rich and the poor had worsened.”

What does this all mean? Like all studies, it should be held at arm’s length. After all, a person’s experiences with globalization can vary widely. For intance, it’s not such a bad thing if you save 50% of your stereo equipment, because of increased trade with China, but it’s not such a good thing if you just lost you job to a call center in India.

Globalization is not all good and not all bad, like a lot of forces that have shaped this planet – languages, political movements, technologies. It is a double-edged sword that some countries are more skilled at swinging than others. The U.S., for example, has known how to swing that sword to its advantage for some time, but now other countries are honing their skills — China, India, Russia. It will be most interesting to see how America reacts in the years ahead, as more and more countries start swinging their figurative swords at it.