April 2012

Brave Digital World

Amanda Mooney, senior manager of Edelman Shanghai’s digital practice, talks shop

Q: Your Tumblr site, wearethedigitalkids, was featured quite prominently. Have you kept up with it in China?

A: It’s done well, it’s just really like my place to share things that are interesting. I think Tumblr is really interesting especially for somebody starting out in the [blogosphere] because you don’t have to know what your perspective is. You learn your perspective by sharing and kind of creating that mix of different voices that inspire you.

Q: Do you want to expand your blog in China?

A: Yes, I think I’ve been much less focused on publishing anything while I’m here. I’m still sort of writing for [Paper] magazine in the US but I’ve done it so much less now because you get caught up in observing and being a part of the life here, studying real life versus trying to necessarily summarize it online. So, I’ve taken a pretty big step back from sharing a lot and forcing myself to have a lot of opinions.

Q: So in terms of a multinational company that’s already digitized, how do they work with you to improve their business here?

A: One of our big clients right now that’s been great to work with is a major travel client and they’re the loyalty program for a major hotel group [from the US]. Here when they enter the market, there is very little understanding of the value of a point, let alone their brand. Essentially the brand’s positioning is using points to help honor your hardworking experiences with your family and loved ones. So that’s a very emotional purpose. They just had a standard global promotion, like stay four nights and get a fifth night free and we turned it into a Weibo campaign where we allowed families to tell us their story of hard work or the things that they’ve overcome or achieved in their year. It created like this little emotional journey, gave them a week off, versus us just telling the consumer, stay four nights and get a fifth night free.

Q: There are two basic aspects of what you do, digitizing the rest of Edelman Shanghai’s office and also handling your own team.

A: Yes, so building it here but also connecting… we have a lot of clients that are multinationals that will be our clients in the US that are coming here to enter the market and know nothing so we help bridge that gap for them.

Q: What about small businesses that are starting up in China? How would they use digital media to help increase consumer exposure?

A: I think one of the big advantages is that being a small business, you can act small and you can be personal. That’s really hard for big companies to achieve and something that’s very easy for the local chocolate shop to do. I think the opportunity is identifying those faces and voices of a company, and actually just having them be the voice online so it feels more like a personal connection versus trying to compete on the scale of a major multinational. Understanding that small business is like a little incubator for lifestyle, or it should be.

Q: In terms of digital venues that can be used, Weibo is huge. Is there anything else that you can do?

A: We do a lot with video also, again especially for multinationals coming into China. I think mobile is really critical. A lot of times you get companies that know mobile is really important so they’ll build a mobile optimized version of their website or they’ll build an app that allows you to book easier on your phone, and that helps to a certain degree, But if you think about the consumer your mobile app should be like their mobile travel guide. It’s something that should be a really strong utility in their lives.

Q: Are there many visual differences, and difference in tone of digital content in China compared to the West?

A: Absolutely. I think that wherever you go, even in the US, even within different targets within the US, and especially coming from Western China, everything’s different. The humor is different. The way that you use or don’t use play on words, versus being quite straightforward. You really have to go into testing here and assume, regardless of if you’re a global brand, that you know nothing here. And assume that you can maintain the same fundamentals of what the brand stands for and what it represents, but how it interacts, how it communicates [in China], has to be totally different.