What Chinese Want
By Tom Doctoroff
China, whether considered as a market, a competitor or a geopolitical entity, is so large that one can easily fall into the trap of seeing it only in stereotypes. It takes long and close exposure to be able to describe the country at a useful level – and fortunately this is what Doctoroff, with 14 years of experience in the role of Greater China CEO for the global marketing firm J Walter Thompson, brings to the table. He also gets out of the boardroom and into the community, drawing lessons from friends and neighbours as much as clients and colleagues.
Doctoroff has a lot to say about marketing to Chinese consumers, although he sets it against a broad canvas. Trying to build brands or sales campaigns around emotional themes, often successful in the West, simply does not work in China. The key is the search for status: for example, cars are advertised on the basis of what they will make other people think, not on how the cars drive or how they make the buyer feel.
This links to a Confucian desire for order and stability, although it is very much an order imposed from above, whether the government or the family patriarch. The Chinese reluctance to stand out means that innovation proceeds slowly, if at all. In terms of managing Chinese workers, rote obedience is valued more than independent thinking. Managers should also expect to spend a good deal of time on personal counselling, as employees look to supervisors for advice on a wide range of issues.
Doctoroff dismisses any suggestion that China is becoming more Western in values. Most Chinese see dissidents and free-thinkers as little more than cranks and are broadly happy with the existing political arrangements. While the Chinese have adopted Western holidays such as Christmas, they are seen more as selling opportunities than religious events.
Doctoroff does not believe radical change is likely in China, at either the cultural or political level. There is simply no great demand for it: most Chinese take the view that there is no point in fixing something that is not broken. Doctoroff, by and large, agrees. The Chinese system would not work for everyone, he says, but the point is that it works for China.
By Adele Ferguson
Rinehart, riding Australia’s mining boom, is on her way to becoming one of the richest women in the world – if she is not there already – yet is often better known for the venom and complexity of her family’s legal battles. For a long time she was extremely close to her father, legendary mining magnate Lang Hancock, but they spectacularly fell out over marriage choices (although she inherited assets worth about A$600 million from him). Rinehart, after decades of growing her interests in the iron ore business, recently began to expand into the media sector. Her reasons for this move are not yet clear. Determinedly private and known for being litigious, Rinehart did not cooperate with Ferguson and as a result the book, while well‑researched, seems strangely without a centre or real focus. In the circumstances this is not a bad book, but there is a sense that the full story is still to be told.
Sleeping with Your Smartphone
By Leslie Perlow
Harvard Business Review Press, A$34.99
Having employees connected to the workplace on a 24/7 basis might initially seem like a good idea, but Perlow argues that eventually it saps energy, lowers morale and leads to poor decisions.
Smartphones and comparable technologies can have an addictive quality and changing to better practices is best done through a firm, organised process. She sets out a program to manage time more effectively and points to “predictable time off” as a key issue. Perlow also notes that a better approach to work hours will not only improve the output of existing employees, but will also make the firm more attractive to the people it needs to recruit for long-term success.
This article is from the October 2012 issue of INTHEBLACK magazine.