Hello everyone and welcome to this episode of my interview series.
Charlie Gu is the Founder of Kollective influence. A marketing agency that focuses on helping brands reach Overseas Chinese Consumers mainly through working with Chinese influencers in the US and Canada.
Is your business a beauty brand who wants to operate in China?
Are you looking to build demand in China prior to market entry?
Create consumer demand for your brand in China BEFORE you enter. Don’t just dive straight into the world’s most competitive beauty market.
In this interview with Charlie Gu, founder of Kollective Influence, we discuss the importance of the overseas Chinese community living in the US.
This is a great discussion where we dive into tactics of how your brand can start its China journey.
Why did you start Kollective influence? What pain point are you trying to solve for brands?
I have been operating in the space of connecting brands with Chinese consumers for over 10 years now. Before founding Kollective Influence, I help a lot of brands that are targeting this trend of outbound Chinese travelers.
And so we’ve been working with Brands advising them on how to build their marketing channels to target these consumers. And how to create training programs to educating and empowering local salespeople globally.
About three years ago, I start to see this trend of cross-border e-commerce starting to emerge and more, and more brands wanted to go to China directly without even having to open a store.
But then that posed another set of challenges, which is that if your brand does not have a presence in China, does not have a team in China. You can sell the product to China, but how do you Market to the consumers? How do you get your products known? And I see a lot of brands trying to get into the area of influencer marketing and start to work with influencers. But the logistics, the language barrier, the cultural barrier, understanding of how the market operates. Those are really, big challenges for a brand that does not have a team on the ground. So that’s when I thought someone has to kind of step in, help Brands to fill that gap. That’s how I decided to found – Kollective Influence
🌟 Overseas Chinese living in the US are a powerhouse in terms of spending and influence
What is the landscape in the US like for brands wanting to work with local Chinese influencers?
My first recommendation to brand is :
1. Do Your homework. Work through your brand story and work out why Chinese consumers will be interested in your products
2. Think about your customer journey – how will they discover you? Not all channels are made equal.
A friend recommendation holds a lot of weight!
Can you share some best practices for brands building relationships with local Chinese influencers in US?
🌟KOCs – Key opinion consumers in US are really important to build authenticity.
Product seeding is key for awareness, feedback and testing your message BEFORE entering into China.
🌟Leverage this community on your doorstep to gain feedback and awareness for your brand in China
🌟 Chinese KOLs – Key Opinion Leaders living in the US play an important role do drive awareness. Many Chinese influencers look to these KOLs to find out about up and coming US brands.
Before investing in those big influencer names, focus on the core customer, where there’s a real customers who care about your brand and incorporate them into your social media planning.
Put their content on.
I think the first challenge really for the brand and I know this is what you do. What do you want to achieve in China? and then do you have a plan that is gonna make that happen? And that really guides we’re very flexible.
We work with different channels in different ways for every single brand because the brands have different objectives and we’ve, our partners have taken the time to understand for themselves.
What it is they want to accomplish and then we kind of guide it, does that mean you’re highly focused on Tmall? Does it mean you’re trying to end our offline shops which we also do. Does it mean you’re focused on two or three star products? What are your star products?
I mean there’s I should have a checklist, maybe you have a checklist of the things, audit yourself as you’re coming in. Do I know what my star products are? What’s the Chinese perception of my brand today because as I think most brands know as well that everything is on Taobao. Everything is on Little Red Book but it may not be what you want it to be.
How do you grab a hold of the message? There’s a lot of things to think through. Shaping that message. I think the first step is understanding what that message is right? Like what are people saying about you?
Brands are often surprised at how some product that they don’t necessarily push globally has become a hero product without them doing anything in China and this happens all without brands having any idea most of the time.
I think that’s a step that brands have to take to understand that before they leap in and working out that, as you said the hierarchy there’s sort of SKU, which SKUs but also the hierarchy of messages.
At what stage in a brand’s journey do you advise brands to work with Chinese influencers in US?
You’re building up that awareness and demand from Chinese within the U.S. but also your halo affecting into directly into China because I think part of it is the influencers and part of it is the Chinese in the U.S. having that influence with their friends and family.
They have that connection, you’re influencing on both sides which is so important.
Then you never know, and then these overseas Chinese influencers might one day, go back to China.
And then so we’ve seen that few influencers I just mentioned Mr. Bags earlier Savi’s look.
Because there are few of them that all went back to China and start a career there and then your brand already has an advocate, inside China when that happens and we see that trend.
Apart from working with influencers what other recommendations do you have for brands looking to build demand in China prior to market entry?
🌟 It is crucial to target your message for your specific audience in China.
👉 Why is the product suitable for Chinese skin, hair,
👉 Don’t be afraid to “Geek out” – Chinese consumers love the details of why it works and what ingredients help with specific issues.
Overall message is do not rush this. China is a big opportunity but set yourself up for success with a detailed plan and with enough demand before launching yourself in!