- Career Development
Midea's Overseas Marketer
For most of its history, Midea Group has been a successful brand in China, but only since around the turn of the millennium has it started to promote itself internationally. Since beginning to sell its products abroad, Midea has mostly been known as an original equipment manufacturer, so M.I.D (Midea International Division) was created to help turn Midea into a globally recognized brand.
The division boasts talent from Canada, Germany, Argentina, Brazil and Southeast Asia. However, some of the people brought in to help bring knowledge of international marketing come from much closer to home.
U.J. Huang (黃於真) joined Midea International Division in the autumn of 2014 after spending four years with advertising agency Ogilvy. Before that she studied Business Administration at National Chengchi University (literally National University of Governance) in Taipei City. She kindly took the time to speak to Advances about the experience she brings to the company, the products she is helping to promote and exactly how foreign she feels as a Taiwanese in Shunde.
Advances: What markets and products do you primarily deal with?
UJ: Our division markets products all over the world, but since I’ve arrived I have mostly done work for the Southeast Asian and Latin American markets.
As for which products I market, I actually do all of them. M.I.D is not a product division, so we are responsible for marketing everything from residential air conditioning to washing machines to refrigerators. Personally, I work more with major appliances such as residential air conditioning.
Advances: What are some of the company’s big success stories of recent times?
UJ: In the short time I have been here, the highlights have included the launch of the Marine Series of washing machines in Indonesia and Vietnam. Now we are working on the launch of a range of refrigerators in Argentina.
Advances: What are some of the biggest obstacles we are facing?
UJ: I think most of the problems are internal. When I joined this company I thought it would be easy because we were in the headquarters, at the nerve centre of Midea. Instead, I find this company is quite decentralized with so many divisions and departments that need to keep communicating with each other.
Sometimes it is difficult to get all the departments and product divisions to cooperate and move in a single direction because everybody has their own ideas and style of communication. One department decides which product will be marketed into which department, then our department will decide on how to promote it, bringing together communication materials, etc. We need to have a good grasp of retail and point of purchase.
Advances: What are some of the professional skills that took you into this job?
UJ: My major in college being Business Administration, my background is largely in markets and admin. My last job was in advertising agency Ogilvy – my first job after college – and it was actually very similar to my current job.
I heard about this company from my ex-boss. Midea is a client of Ogilvy, even though Midea does not currently sell in Taiwan.
Advances: What do you think some of M.I.D’s goals should be for the next year or two?
UJ: Now, Midea is a very big and well respected brand in mainland China. But in most of the world, our brand recognition is very weak. We are only known as an original equipment manufacturer. So the first step is to start building our brand around the world.
The first step is to decide what you want your brand to be (what promises do you make? what do you want the consumer to think of you?). The next step is to let the customer know who you are, such as television commercials and magazine commercials. Finally, you have to establish a relationship with the consumer to build brand loyalty.
Advances: What about the advertisements we are making in the domestic market?
UJ: In China, the pattern is to use a celebrity and highlight the functions and brand names. This may be effective in China, but to create effective advertisements, we need to intimately understand the specific market we are advertising to.
Advances: Is this company using all of its strengths?
UJ: I think, with MID having its own marketing function, and each product division having their own marketing functions, we can sometimes overlap. A single body to make final decisions on marketing might help.
Advances: What are our star products?
UJ: I think everyone knows are star products include residential air conditioning and fans, which have the longest history in our company. To tell the truth, I have only been with the company a short time, so I am not familiar with everything in our vast product range.
Advances: What are some of our competitive advantages in the markets you deal with?
UJ: We are an affordable brand that can offer products at roughly the same value but a lower price than our competitors. For most of our history, we have been an original equipment manufacturer, so we need to work on our product planning, that is knowing the market and how the product can fit into it. Research and development is also an important part of the process.
My first task upon arriving was to work on a dishwasher catalogue to help the company communicate its message in North America ahead of the launch of a range of dishwashers. This involved identifying the target audience and the pricing, something that our company needs more experience in.
Advances: Being from a part of the world that is more Westernized than most of mainland China, do you feel you have knowledge of the world that your Chinese colleagues can use?
UJ: Haha, well you could say that in Taiwan we are more “worldly.” There is a very famous restaurant in Taiwan called “Dintaifung” (鼎泰丰) that is popular with mainland tourists. In October 2014 there was a media storm when a little boy from the mainland peed on a table at this restaurant, which brought a lot of shame to mainlanders.
Being from Taiwan could have its advantages here in the long-term. But our team is already very international anyway. The head of my department is from Taiwan, and half of my colleagues are foreigners, from Malaysia, Canada and other parts of the world.
Advances: Does Shunde feel foreign to you?
UJ: Not really. It is a small village and I myself am from the small village of Jiayi in Taiwan, though I studied in the capital city of Taipei.
When I am not working, I pass the time here in my apartment reading or watching television. Sometimes at the weekend, I go to Guangzhou. I can keep in touch with friends and family back home through Facebook and other social media.