Be Like Mike: The Art of The Comp
Jeff LoCastro, August 13, 2011
Founder & President, NCCREA
The best way to make money in China is to give your product away for
free. At least give it away to right people.
For those that recall the brilliant
1991 ad campaign launched by
Gatorade starring Michael Jordan
you'll remember the "Be Like Mike"
slogan was genius in the recognition
that Jordan was fundamentally different. There's nothing new to the
marketing notion that consumers want to emulate famous athletes
or famous people. But Jordan was among a handful of icons such as
Babe Ruth, Willie Mays, Mickey Mantle, Joe Montana, Elvis, John Lennon
in which people didn't just want to emulate . . .they wanted to be that
person. As a child I didn't pretend to play like Wille Mays, I pretended
to be Wille Mays. There are only a handful of those types and Jordan
was one of them.
Culturally China is a Be Like Mike society. Because of their massive
population the Chinese have always, notwithstanding the cultural
revolution, sought to differentiate themselves in any possible way from
the guy next door. As a result of their attempt to separate themselves,
the Chinese have always been highly status conscious. Much more so
than Americans. The Chinese are also highly competitive when it come
to demonstrating their status. Much more so than Americans. The
measurement of success is being able to afford "Western" goods and
services; demonstrating how one lives a western lifestyle. Therefore,
all things "international" are perceived are highly desirable. For these
reasons, many goods seen by Americans as discretionary, are for the
Chinese basic budgetary necessities.
Further, as Chinese are typically not job-hoppers and it is common that
they work for the same company for their entire career, their business
leaders are that with whom they aspire to be. Their boss is Mike.
These are the Opinion Leaders in China. Therefore, if you want to sell
your consumer widget to the China telecom workers in the
big building down the street, give your consumer widget to their
bosses; the opinion leaders. If you want to capture a more tech savvy
demographic for your consumer widget, give it to the top guys at
Lenovo. It's a very powerful marketing tool that fly's in the face of how
Americans create demand. For example Proctor & Gamble doesn't
market their new soap by giving a big box of it to Steve Jobs or some
middle manager regional guy at Coke. But in China that kind of
marketing drives demand.
China is just different. Did the Chinese like coffee before Starbucks
came to China? No, not really. It was virtually an unknown beverage.
Can you imagine bringing your consumer product to a market that
generally doesn't like your product? But business leaders, who in their
drive to demonstrate their success and display their western lifestyle
began trying Starbucks; the popular international brand. They walked
around the office with their white Starbucks cup with its unmistakable
big green logo. They walked around town, sat in the lounge. Those
working under them saw this and voilà: they wanted To Be Like Mike.
It's unclear if Starbucks gave it away to these bosses initially, but what
is clear is the result: For a culture that didn't much care for coffee,
Starbucks is immensely popular. The coffee houses are full. And people
who can ill-afford it are shelling out ¥20 - ¥30 for a cup of java . . . To be
Yes, it's a strange concept: Company leaders inadvertently pushing
demand because their subordinates want to also be perceived as
successful and to have a relative bond with their boss. Can you imagine
any company employee in the west buying, drinking, eating, wearing,
using anything simply because their supervisor does? Again, this is
China. Why not Be Like Mike.
COPYRIGHT 2011 JEFF LOCASTRO
DISTRIBUTED BY NCCREA
CHANGZHI, SHANXI, PRC
Contact the author at: Jeff@NCCREA.com or Jeff@CaliforniaSecured.com
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