The tale of the Apple Computer Corporation in China has been a story of false starts, misadventure and curious competition. Like the all seeing eye of Mordor peering at China from the 3G enabled land of Hong Kong, Apple has sent its minions into the mainland many a time before but never with the success that they have enjoyed in markets like the USA. Even with success in Hong Kong and the rest of the world, the battle to put iPhones into the hands of Chinese consumer will be a tough one.
History has shown that even with the wildly popular iPod, sales and marketing strategies through mainland distributors have have not yielded the phenomenal successes that they have seen in other markets. It appears that Chinese consumers, as much as they will extol the superiority of Apple products are just unwilling to pay the premium when a similar local product is available.
As we place our ear to the ground we hear the preparations for a great battle. Only weeks after the worldwide 3G iPhone launch, Apple’s first flagship store in Beijing’s Sanlitun area opened it’s doors. In a war where victory is not guaranteed and enemies are many the question on our lips is “Is this store a strategy unto itself or will it simply serve as a war banner for a greater campaign?”. Especially with rumors of Steve Jobs’ ailing heath, we might be seeing the beginnings of a final blitzkrieg for the worlds largest mobile phone market before the legendary CEO hands over the reins to someone else.
To lead the charge, Hong Kong based brand agency Eight Partnership has just been appointed to handle Apple’s creative marketing in Asia. Casting aside a global marketing leader, TBWA, who also bid for the contract, Apple chose an agency that is headed by Managing Director, Charles Brian-Boys, the man responsible for the Guinness Book of Records record for world’s largest outdoor advertisement when he wrapped the IFC2 tower with the Financial Times newspaper in 2004.
As part of Apple’s strategy in the mainland and in bid to overcome its failure to compete on price with cheaper Chinese equivalent products, it will aim to position itself as a luxury product. Brian-Boys says that;
Apple’s move to represent itself as a luxury brand has become obvious as its retail approach is different to the traditional way of marketing electronics and computers.
Marketing-interactive.com also reports that;
As well as appointing Eight Partnership to manage its creative account, Upstream Asia will oversee the company’s public relations.
With the predicted roll out of 3G services in China in the latter half of this year a comprehensively conceived battle plan to conquer the hearts and wallets of the Chinese consumer seems inevitable. Hopefully we will be witness to the kind of campaign that will match the Financial Times’ launch in Hong Kong and long be remembered in the history books.
Will Apple and iPhone succeed? Only time will tell but with the likes of Brian-Boys at the helm, at least the battle will be a spectacular one.
Photo by Josh Bancroft
UPDATE: A correction about the appointment of Eight Partnership: Patricia Fox of TBWA confirmed that Eight Partnership had won the job for translation / adaptation of marketing collateral for non-English speaking markets in Asia and TBWA remains as the agency responsible for the development or all creative work and strategy for Apple across 23 countries. The organization that bid against the Eight Partnership was Tequila, the below-the-line arm of TBWA. Thanks Patricia for the heads up.