June 18, 2013
“Is it really true to say that China is a rising empire?” asked Alexei Orlov, chief marketing officer for Volkswagen Group China, during the session “How to Reach a Billion Eyeballs” at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity today. “I would say they’re a returning empire,” he said, reminding the audience that China is responsible for inventions like paper and gunpowder, even toilet paper, and home to some of the largest global brands, including Lenovo and Huawei. China now contributes more than a third of VW’s worldwide sales, Orlov said: The automaker sold 2.1 million cars in China in 2012, 37 percent of global sales.
Despite the vigorous marketplace, VW ranked an abysmal 126th in terms of desirability in China three years ago. “There’s a big difference between need and desire,” Orlov said. To amp up its desirability, VW launched “The People’s Car Project,” which allowed consumers to suggest designs for cars—more than 260,000 were submitted—one of which the company produced. Orlov said it was the biggest crowdsourced product to date. In 2012, VW moved up to 76th most desired brand.
Orlov followed a presentation by PepsiCo China CEO Richard Lee, who pointed out that China’s rapid development has come at a cost: the loss of family values. For instance, while Chinese New Year is the most important season in the country—with some 700 million Chinese traveling to celebrate with their family each year—70 percent of youth question the tradition of going home for the holiday. Last year PepsiCo sought to remind youth of the importance of family and culture with a campaign focused on rebuilding family bonds. Spreading the message that family is the root to happiness, “Bring Happiness Home” included a 22-minute film, music videos, outdoor ads, bus wraps, social media, QR codes on packaging, content marketing and more.