Western brands still misjudge Chinese market

I’m still in the ongoing process of waking up a few of my customers (and the readers of this blog) on why the Chinese market is such a specific and fast one. Three years ago, I was pointing the inexorable move of the Chinese government toward clean energies, and forecasting that by 2020 they would export green tech and electric vehicles to Europe and the US. And we are getting there.

At the moment, my concern and major interest is the huge disconnect that has built up between consumers and retail brands in the West and how they deal with the Chinese market, as a digital monster.

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Platforms’ Dark Patterns: Facebook Portal

In June, I was writing about « Platforms’ Dark Patterns » as a cautionary forecast on how the GAFA / BATX will evolve to sustain their constant push for pervasiveness in our daily lives.

Today, Facebook announced « Portal », an always on connected home camera to keep in contact with family and friends… through the Facebook servers:
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Understanding the Apple Watch

Understanding the Apple Watch is hard.

In September 2014 Jean-Claude BIVER, President of LVMH Watchmaking Division (Tag Heuer, Zenith, Hublot) famously said:

This [Apple] watch has no sex appeal. It’s too feminine and looks too much like the smartwatches already on the market. To be totally honest, it looks like it was designed by a student in their first trimester.

The main difficulty is probably to step back and remind ourselves it’s merely a moving part one of the largest consumer ecosystem on the planet. In this ecosystem, every single added device exponentially increase the customer’s value of the free and the paid services provided:

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Are we still learning anything new about startups or are we just pretending from now on?

After years of working with every kind of startup programs — read: incubators, accelerators, tech clusters, public tech transfer, universities, entrepreneurs’ networks, corporate platforms, and various EU initiatives — I keep asking myself: are we still learning anything new about startups?

For early stage startups there are basically only three things to remember:

  1. If you’re a one-man startup you will fail;
  2. Spend time working on tech and product, instead of seeing where the market has a problem and you fail;
  3. Don’t start working in English and you will never scale (that one might be blunt and would deserve a full article, but yeah, essentially this is what is going to happen).

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You’re not competing on products

A powerful statement from Nintendo of America President and COO Reggie FILS-AIME about what business they are in, and who they are competing against:

He counted the exact number of minutes per day and said that outside of the time a consumer spends eating, sleeping, working, and going to school, “all of the rest of that time is entertainment time. That’s what I compete for, minute by minute. That time you spend surfing the Web, watching a movie, watching a telecast of a conference: that’s all entertainment time we’re competing for. My competitive set is much bigger than my direct competitors in Sony and Microsoft. I compete for time. When I do that, I have to be creative and innovative in order to win that battle.” — Ars Technica interview, Oct. 3, 2018

Granted this is not just PR material, it’s a very educated positioning and explanation on the fact they don’t sell products, games or electronics. The end value of Nintendo is entertainment. Which means they compete as directly with Netflix, as they do with Microsoft or Sony. And as such matching feature for feature with other gaming consoles is not the end game, but rather a short-sighted trap.

Ask yourself: in what business are you in? How can you bring added value? And only then consider what product you would need to achieve your goal.

Do you have an opposable strategy?

I published already a few things about the notion of opposable marketing, which to frame it simply, just asks the question: do you say something meaningful to your market?

Being cost-efficient, having good quality, paying attention to customers, etc. All that means nothing. Because no one does the opposite of that. If no one markets the facts they sell over-expensive products that are dangerous to consume because they don’t care about who buys them, why would you waste your time explaining you don’t do that?

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Why is your innovation program missing out the next market wave, again and again.

I’m often surprised to see leading companies with solid innovation programs, missing obvious market turnarounds. They record the same weak signals and trends that I do, they understand them as well or better than me, but they fail to properly act on them. In my experience, the key reason they fail and miss every new market wave is because they don’t adjust to the right perception distortion.

Most innovation programs work on the first order of consequences.

If you’re an insurance company and see your customers relying more and more on digital tools and social web, well, there is a point in time when you decide to get there too. And you feel that you innovate because you transfer your customer journey progressively from a physical brick and mortar, and phone operation, to a digital one. You actually don’t innovate. You’re just adjusting to what the market is progressively telling you to do. You’re not even customer-driven for what it’s worth, you’re getting on par more or less rapidly depending on your internal agility. Which very often is why you feel you innovate. Because it’s painful for your team and involves a huge cultural shift.

But the market doesn’t care.

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The Culture Framework

Culture framework

Philippe had been hinting at one of the combined tools we’d like to share: the culture and business frameworks. The culture framework that we’ve been using for years informally when helping organisations in their strategic transformations is the “other side” of the business framework Philippe has been sharing for a while now. We redesigned it recently and tested it extensively with our more recent customers to ensure that it’s practical and actionable for anyone not in the consulting business : )

You will see how it regroups and connects concepts I’ve been sharing in previous articles such as values, vision and behaviours, and key elements I’ve been hinting to when talking about complexity intelligence: purposeful drive, strategic empathy and reconfigurable mindset.

This concepts are usually fuzzy and it’s difficult to see why they would matter on any Monday morning at the office. It shouldn’t be that way.

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Our next set of tools reconnecting corporate culture framework and business model

I won’t develop fully the tools and how to use them in this article. It’s all about giving a first tour of the concepts and how simple they are.


The first illustration is how powerful CUSTOMER-driven companies (Amazon) connect their culture, leading with strategic empathy to identify emerging problems to invest in, and finally select differentiated products.

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Microsoft slow refocus

After Google this is now Microsoft that tries to wow us with their vision of the future, introducing Surface Hub 2.

Past the obvious elegance and desirability of the product we have to ask if Microsoft will manage to regain its splendor. The strategy is now more and more obvious: if Google, Amazon, Facebook and Apple and first and foremost consumers companies (even some use consumers as products), will Microsoft be able to transform in an ubiquitous business platform?

To the credit of Satya NADELLA they already have started to tune down Windows as a core focus. But this is a slow refocus for now. One should ask if merging with IBM and rapidly adding payment solutions wouldn’t be the next logical step.

Or is it just about selling more Azure cloud solutions and Office 365?

[ Update ] June 4, 2018 - Just a few days after this article, Microsoft announced to have acquired GitHub for a cool $7.5 billion. The refocus might just be acccelerating...