How China’s biggest brands and businesses want to learn and share

Wang Zhao | AFP | Getty Images
CANNES LIONS: Why Chinese internet giants were visible at Cannes

In June, some of the world's top minds in design, entertainment and creative communications gathered at the Cannes Lions International Festival of Creativity.

In a sign of China's growing influence, Tuesday 20 June at Cannes Lions was dubbed 'China Day', in which Chinese creativity and innovation were put under the spotlight.

Some of China's biggest brands, names and businesses were there, and spoke to CNBC's Marketing Media Money.

"We are here to learn and at the same time we are here also to share… our latest opinions or point of views that we have with regards to our market, our users as well as how the evolutions of technology (are)… taking place back home in China," Tencent's Sy Lau said.

From Lenovo to Huawei and Xiaomi, Chinese companies and their wares are becoming increasingly ubiquitous in the west. "China's image used to be 'Made in China', but now it's kind of like 'Created in China'," the pianist Lang Lang said.

Nevertheless, challenges remain. What, for example, is preventing some Chinese companies from expanding overseas and western businesses doing well in China?

"One of the hardest things is developing cultural bridges between… western agencies and Chinese companies," Simon Shaw, chief creative officer at H + K Strategies, said.

"A lot of these Chinese companies are incredibly successful in China – 1.3 billion people as their audience – and they've become incredibly successful brands," he added. "As soon as they step beyond China they have to then deal with a whole new set of circumstances and that's one of the challenges that I think they're facing."

Building bridges

Shaw went on to state that one pitfall for western companies wanting to work with Chinese brands was not spending time to "understand how to build the cultural bridges."

Referring to China's thousands of years of history and heritage, its culture and ways of thinking about the world, Shaw said it was too easy to "carry your cultural baggage with you and apply that to China."

"You need to… go with an open mind and actually change the way you work to reflect the way the Chinese brands want to work."

What China's big hitters decide to do over the next few years will be watched with great interest.

"The sheer size of the population… a lot of the Chinese internet companies stay in China to compete because there's too much 'stuff' on our plates to eat," Charles Zhang, CEO of Chinese internet giant, said. "So the trend for globalization is not our top agenda."

Chris Tung, the Alibaba Group's chief marketing officer, said the business was looking to go from strength to strength. Alibaba, he claimed, already had the number one e-commerce platform in countries in Southeast Asia and Russia. "And we're building our platforms in India aggressively and (in) some of the European countries we enjoy leadership as well," he said.

"So we're seeing China as a proof of concept that gets replicated in many, many important markets in the world," he added.

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