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Product positioning in China

March 20th, 2010 by Bruce Wiseman

I just returned from Beijing.

Yeah, the one in China. Sometimes life is serendipitous: CCTV, the government owned television system, is doing a 5 part documentary on the financial crisis – why it occurred and what to do about it. They had heard about my new book, Crisis by Design, the Untold Story of The Global Financial Crisis  HYPERLINK “” and flew me over there to discuss global financial matters.

No joke. It was quite a trip. There is legitimate concern there about the financial coup d’ etat orchestrated off by the Bank for International Settlements last year.  More on this later, but you can catch a glimpse of me here as CCTV promotes past and upcoming interviews (and if you think Fox News has a large viewership, these guys own the airwaves in the most populated nation on earth).

But the point of this little missive is a marketing one, not financial.

I checked into the Beijing Hilton and this bright Chinese kid helped me with my luggage up to my room: nice space, great work area, big HD TV screen on the wall. And he says, in good English, “Where are you from?”

“Los Angeles,” I say.

He goes from cheerful to ecstatic, “LA. Wow. I love Kobe. He’s my favorite.”

It is sincere enthusiasm, not a ploy for a bigger tip, because you don’t tip in this country – which is why this is a little odd to me. You see, Yao Ming, the 7’6” giant center with the Houston Rockets, who is from Shanghai, is a virtual God in China.

A couple of nights later, I am walking down Wangfujing and find what may be the reason for my bellboy’s enthusiasm. Wangfujing, by the way, is Rodeo Drive on mega-steroids.

Every major brand in the world seems to be represented on this street which is as wide as a freeway (no cars allowed in most parts) and runs into the distance as far as the eye can see.

And it is packed with Chinese shoppers – I mean packed. The above is not a picture from my trip, but Wangfujing was only slightly less crowded the night I was there. It was a Sunday night and it was freezing – literally the temperature was freezing or below – and you could hardly move on this street due to the crowds, which go on and on and on.

And then I saw it…up to my left was perhaps the largest billboard like display I had ever seen: Kobe Bryant charging down the court like a wolf chasing a fleeting prey, but he has the ball and the basket looms. Behind Kobe, up in the left hand corner of the piece, is what has become one of the most successful brands in the world – the Nike swish.

Cold as it was, I paused and admired the positioning. Nike has become the biggest name in sports equipment (worldwide sales = $18.6 billion) by positioning itself with many of the world’s greatest athletes.

This is positioning at its simplest and yet most powerful. Positioning is achieved by tying your product, your service, your brand to something that is already in the mind of your prospects. In sports, tying the brand to the top athletes in a sport is a no brainer.

But Nike has done it with power and panache like no one else in the history of sports advertising (there was a smaller billboard further down Wangfujing with a picture of Yao Ming. He was standing stoically holding a basketball wearing his Reeboks. Yawn.)

We didn’t create Nike’s position, but our clients do include some of the largest brands in the world: from Saatchi & Saatchi, to Hilton, Courtyard by Marriott and Hitachi Consulting. We have also serviced hundreds of smaller and medium sized companies. If your marketing isn’t biting the way you think it should, positioning might make all the difference.

At On Target Research, we have been creating unique positions for our clients for more than 20 years.

“The positioning that grew out of your research was nothing short of stellar. We now have a strategically researched, laser-like position that will dramatically assist us in rolling out our new brand.” Jeff Donner, President.

If you want to discuss positioning for your brand, or any survey needs, feel free to call me at 818-397-1401 or visit us on the web at

Have a spectacular 2010!