Personal 10 December 2005

Spike Jones on the awesome Brains on Fire blog rightly takes McDonald’s to task for its current US McRib sandwich “farewell” campaign . What’s unfortunate is that they make it LOOK as if it is a fan club that is behind the campaign, when in fact, it is a McDonald’s sponsored site (you must take pains to notice the disclaimer on the bottom right of the page; see red arrow in the pic above). This is not a grass roots campaign, but an astroturfing (need proxy) campaign. Here’s a bit about the agency behind it.

Why not empower Mcrib fans to share their love with the world? McDonald’s has plenty of fans. Check out the kinda weird, but nonetheless addictive McChronicles blog or do a Google search for “mcrib fans” and you will see sites like “McRib: the Sandwich of Kings.” You can even find the love in wine discussion forums. The people behind these sites and discussions are the ones who likely would have naturally “come to the rescue” of the sandwich. Why not reate a site that makes it easy for fans to share their stories (instead just send pics which are surprisingly few on the current site) and tell their friends about it? Get the media in touch with these fanatics so they can hear true fans’ passion and share it with the world.

To make a web site that looks like consumer generated media means that McDondald’s understands CGM’s power and importance. So why fake it?

Posted by   @   10 December 2005 0 comments
 Personal 10 December 2005

Growing up, I had the privilege of learning to play tennis at a country club with professional instruction. I spent a couple of years going to clinic every afternoon after school and during the summers. I was no prodigy, but I developed a competitive game.

So I played tennis the other night with my colleagues Denis, Robin and Moses (apologies for the crappy pic made with a crappy phone; I am in pain witout my Treo). I was looking forward to “schooling” them in tennis (especially after they schooled me in ping pong and badminton).

However, I was quickly put to the test with these guys. After Robin pounded the 10th or so rocket forehand pass down the line on me, I had asked him where he had learned to play. Did he have a coach? Did he learn at college? “No,” he said. “I learned from downloading videos off the Internet.”

Tennis is not an especially popular sport in China, but like most any hobby or sport, you can find plenty of information and communities on BBS and blogs.

You can find discussions on BMX, hiking….even belly dancing (the dancer at Zahara Middle Eastern restaurant in Shanghai also learned her moves from the Internet, she told us last time we were there). Like their counterparts in the West, Chinese netizens are using the ‘net to find the long tail.

Posted by   @   10 December 2005 0 comments
 Personal 3 December 2005

Fons from China Herald wrote a piece on why TiVo would never work in (mainland) China.

While I don’t necessarily agree with his reasons WHY TiVo would not work in China, I do agree that it will not work. I believe the reason it wouldn’t work is that many within the target audience already have “time-shift” machines: they’re called computers. The ‘net generation in China watches much of their video entertainment on the computer, spending much less time on TV. Chinse Bit Torrent sites are plentiful, each filled with local, Taiwanese, Hong Kongnese and overseas TV shows and movies. Some of my staff have multiple external hard drives filled with media downloaded from the Internet. Almost none have DVD players. Check out the waiting area on any flight to China: it will be filled with Chinese ‘netizens, notebook computers open, playing videos downloaded from the ‘net.

On the flipside, Apple could do a killer business with Video IPOD. The ‘net kids are pre-disposed to downloading video media spend and more time on the ‘net than they do watching TV. They would love to have a cool, portable device to view it. But its gotta cost less than US $300 to hit a critical mass.

Posted by   @   3 December 2005 2 comments
 Personal 30 November 2005

My partner Patrick today suggested that one of the cool things about net culture in China is that it closely maps mainstream consumer/pop culture. I think he is dead on.

Let’s take recent Chinese net stars The Back Dorm Boys. Check out one of their first videos here if you are in China and here if you are outside China (b/c download speed may vary outside the Great Fire Wall).

The video hit a massive Word of Mouth trajectory via mail forwards and BBS discussion, and was followed by other videos. The incredible WOM was fuelled by a Sina page dedicated to them. Eventually, Motorola picked them up as hosts for their online lip-sync contest. Now, these guys are even getting mentioned on the Today show in the US by Boing Boing.

The “Back Dorm Boys” phenomenon shows a few things worth noting. First, contrary to some people’s conventional wisdom, irreverent humor has a place in China among the younger generation. Second, it shows that net stars in China actually can become mainstream stars. Ask how many people in the US have heard of the Star Wars Kid (need a proxy if inside China). Sure he had his 15 seconds of fame among those who pay attention to this type of stuff, but how many actually pay attention to this type of stuff? Not too many. Now ask how many people in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities in China know about Back Dorm Boys. We think a lot. No official figures, but whenever we show this video to clients, the Chinese white collar professionals in the room all laugh as they explain who these kids are to their older bosses.

The computer is the central entertainment and information appliance for the new generation in China and the Internet, through the power of Word of Mouth, is making stars. And some smart companies like Motorola are listening, watching and learning.

Posted by   @   30 November 2005 0 comments
 Personal 29 November 2005

How did you get to China? This, aside from “can you use chopsticks,” is the most frequently asked question of a foreigner living in China. So, I think it is appropriate to answer this with my first post on this blog.

Huateng 1999 Chinese New Year Party (I’m circled in red, in the back)

In May of 1996, Shanghai Huateng Software Systems invited me to provide cross cultural training for their software engineers who were being sent to work in the US in droves. What was supposed to be 6 months has now turned into 9 years. Along the way, I moved into corporate communications for Huateng, helping to raise the profile of the company leading to a lot of VC money in 2000 at the at the height of the last Internet boom. I also initiated the spin-off of, an e-payment service provider (now partner with E-bay China). The Village Grouch, Steven Schwankert, wrote about us in glowing prose in February, 2000 (unfortunately, the e-payment quandry has yet to be solved in China…more on that another time). After heading up international business development, I left Huateng in 2003 to do my own thing.

“My own thing” has developed into CIC data. What started out as me and a couple of college Internet surfers doing Internet market intelligence research for a US client has turned into me and about 100 surfers doing market intelligence research for clients all over the world in 5 languages 7 days a week all hours of the day. We added some killer senior analysts as well with two of the original college kids, Violet and Robin (now graduates), becoming key members in our Word of Mouth research arm where we also have some very cool technology helping our growing roster of international clients make sense of the millions of Chinese BBS and Blog conversations happening every day in China.

Oh yeah…I also got married, bought a flat and have a cool dog named Elvis (after Costello, not Presley). Essentially, I moved to “red China,” became a capitalist, and am living the American dream in the Shanghai suburbs. And I couldn’t be happier.

Posted by   @   29 November 2005 2 comments
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