From Made In China To Made Of China

April 29, 2011

Presentation Summary

In this presentation to students from the Communication University of China (CUC), Beijing, Kevin Roberts shares five ideas on how to transport China to Lovemarks.

Made of China barcode

Being in China and talking to young people are two of my favorite things in life, so this couldn’t be better.

I’ve been in and out of China over the last three decades, watching this amazing country opening up, and over the last decade integrating globally.

It’s a fantastic time to be young in China, to be proud and radically optimistic for your great nation, ready to shape China’s future. And what a future it is:

  • The world’s largest exporter, No.1 auto market, and now the No.2 economy – and almost half of Americans think you’re already No.1! You will be soon enough.
  • In two years, the No.3 advertising market.
  • In 10 years, the world’s largest luxury market.
  • In 15 years, the world’s largest middle class.
  • World leading in clean technology investment.

This is hugely positive, and yet the world around you is a VUCA world, Volatile, Uncertain, Complex and Ambiguous, a world created by my generation.

Your generation, globally, is the solution. Surfing in on connectivity and caring, your dreams are reloading VUCA as Vibrant, Unreal, Crazy and Astounding.

Today I’m going challenge you to create a super sensation, a premium that makes your country and your career fly. I know you’re up for the challenge.

The legendary American football coach Vince Lombardi, coach of the Green Bay Packers, said: “Winning isn’t everything, but wanting to win is.”

As students of advertising and communications, you’ll know that China, encouraged by government policies, is intent on turning China from a manufacturer of quantity to a creator of quality, a generator of premiums from its own imaginations instead of a licenser of other nations’ imaginations.

I’m talking about brands, those global force fields of feeling. The returns on manufacturing an iPhone in Shenzhen are just a fraction of designing one in Cupertino. China is “going out” to build a national brand through a nation of brands, good job!

In 1998 and again in 1995 I was in Beijing sharing my vision of Brand China, so I’m going to update you and explore the next phase. There’s been some progress away from a “Made in China” basement image towards the profound potential of ‘Made of China’.

The Olympics were fantastic. There are some standout global explorers like Li-Ning and Tsingtao championing the cause. There are some great innovators raising the bar, such as ZTE, Dawning, Baidu, Tencent and Huawei. There’s progress; still, few Chinese brand names quicken the global pulse.

The Chinese strategy of today has become “If you can’t beat ’em, buy ’em!” Helpful, but incomplete.

Lenovo took first mover advantage (2004), and for its courage, has premiums in China. Haier took a stake in New Zealand whiteware manufacturer Fisher & Paykel. Geely recently bought Volvo from Ford, and this is the trend.

The problem is that a financial investment is not a customer connection. Asset management is not brand management, which is why Lenovo now partners globally with Saatchi & Saatchi.

Furthermore, a global snowstorm of brands has wiped out the premiums that brands were invented for. Brands are at parity. Brands are pretty much dead.

Is this an issue for China? No, the next level of value is beyond brands and I’m going to take you there. The first rule of crisis management: Don’t panic!!

Being liked as a brand is a table stake to play the great game of creating Loyalty Beyond Reason:

  • Brands are owned by management, marketers and stockholders. Lovemarks are owned by the people who love them – people empowered by new technologies and massive choice.
  • Brands are built on Respect. Lovemarks are created out of Respect and Love.
  • Brands build Loyalty for a Reason. Lovemarks inspire Loyalty Beyond Reason. Beyond Attribute, Benefit, Price. Loyalty Beyond Recession.
  • Great Brands are Irreplaceable. Lovemarks are Irresistible.

Every country and company, every entrepreneur and every executive, sits somewhere on the Love/Respect axis.

Love Respect Axis Lovemarks


  • Low Respect. Low Love. From raw materials to poor quality to bad experiences. US airlines!
  • High Love. Low Respect. The creative zone of “NEW” and “GONE.” Latest offers, gamester Kaixin, now losing consumers to Weibo. Protest-chic American flag tank tops are hot. Some fads leap to Lovemarks. Most don’t.
  • High Respect. Low Love. Land of “e-r” words, better, faster, brighter. Where brands wage wars around performance, respect and trust.
  • High Love and High Respect. Tsingtao, Maotai, Apple, BMW, Louis Vuitton, Li-Ning. For tourism, France. For soccer, Brazil. The zone that creates loyalty beyond reason.

Lovemarks are created by emotions and passions, not by practices or policies. Here are 5 ideas to transport China to Lovemarks:

#1 Unleash Emotion

Human beings are 80% emotion, 20% reason; we dream, we live, we love and we decide with emotion.

Chinese innovation has been 80% rational and 20% emotional, and yet you have 5,000 years of emotional power and depth waiting to be poured into the market.

Emotion is art over science. It is the key to it all, innovation and design, branding and communication and connecting, the fantastic career you have chosen.

John Bargh, NYU psychologist, says that everything is evaluated as good or bad within a quarter of a second.

The world’s top brands are emotional thunderbolts that spin you round and light you up. Each equity is different but the result is the same – from Starbucks third home to Disney’s home of young dreams.

Emotion is how to connect with employers, customers, colleagues and partners. Emotion is the key to better decisions, to stronger value, to bigger brands, to higher margins and profit.

Neurologist Donald Calne: “Reason leads to conclusions, emotion leads to action.”

It took Japan 30 years to get beyond ‘Made in Japan’. China can turn it around in 10 – because emotion today connects globally at warp speed, including at home. China’s online population grew 19% in 2010.

In the Screen Age, everything connects with everyone. We live in the always-on, immediately-sharing Renren time of NOW. More and more, people live in the moment, where they are happiest, and where emotional, not rational, properties decide.

Winning in the Age of Now is about:

  • Building participation, not grabbing attention.
  • Sparking interaction, not distracting ‘targets’.
  • Embracing global, not fencing off local.
  • Inviting return on involvement, not funding return on investment.

We are all screenagers, and the screen is supreme in making emotional connections. It delivers sight, sound and motion online, in the street, on the go, in the store.

The job is to deliver emotional relevance for your market. It’s not about what makes media different, but what makes media the same. People don’t care whether something is digital or not. They care for what makes their heart race.

We care about the emotional experience, not the channel or how the channels come together. Take a compelling story. Get smart about the elements that matter most. Let loose where they connect best.

Three questions matter:

  • Will they want to see it again?
  • Will they want to share it?
  • Will they want to improve it?

#2 Use the Unreasonable Power

It’s not about the brand or product, it’s about the unreasonable power of creativity. The future rewards the crazy “what if?” questions:  IBM asked: “What… if we go into services?” Toyota asked: “What… if we create hybrid cars?” The answers changed their fortunes.

Ideas are the currency of the future. A great idea reframes and often surprises with the obvious.

Apple opened retail stores and receives 40,000 visitors per day in China.

To succeed, Fail Fast, Learn Fast, Fix Fast.

Sparks of creativity will only fly off the truth.

#3 Create Priceless Value

Marketing has been all about the product as hero, but the ground has shifted globally to consumer as hero. The consumer’s biggest question is: “How will you improve my life?”

This is about:

  • Understanding and responding to how the consumer feels about her life and what matters most to her. Many Western brands in China failed to locate and localize this, Best Buy to Barbie.
  • Shifting emphasis from selling product to adding experience and pumping excitement. Fiat 500 can charge a 30% premium based on a feeling.
  • Priceless value is “Purpose-inspired; benefit driven.” For P&G it is “Touching lives, improving life.”

Involve people in something bigger than themselves and deliver moments of joy and exhilaration and ask a price people can believe in. Li-Ning gets it.

The sweet spot of priceless value is perfect for China, starting with your world-class textiles and tailors.

#4 Use the Three Secrets

Lovemarks are created by three qualities that China has in rich abundance, three pillars of Brand China.

Mystery is inspirations, dreams, icons, symbols and stories, past, present and future. It’s about sharing the attractions of the unknown.

Eternity and wisdom, philosophy and harmony, invention and industriousness, these mysterious alluring values are distinctly Chinese, yours to imbue in the new Chinese brands, yours to connect with an exciting future of enterprise and renewal.

Shanghai renaissance movers like Feiyue sneakers inspire. Jia Inc, Hong Kong, took a 3000-year old tableware tradition to the West, modernizing, turning over €6m in 2010.

Sensuality enthralls the emotions, Vision, Sound, Scent, Touch, Taste. Harmony and energy, high intelligence and high craft, music and an intense aesthetic sensibility, these are Chinese strongholds unrivalled anywhere.

Cut’m loose!! Take your design sense of living and feeling out to the world emanating through your new brands, and the world will swarm around them.

Intimacy is empathy, commitment and passion. It’s the small touch, the perfect gesture, the fine detail, the innocent smile.

Intimacy is born of family, and China’s family and its family values have remained rock solid through the transformation, whereas modernity has fractured Western families. Let the world feel your familial strength, run your companies with these bonds. Create brands of irresistible Chinese intimacy.

#5 Be an Inspirational Player

Business connects the global flow of goods, ideas and experiences, so you’ve made a great career choice.


  •  To create shareholder value
  • To create and grow a customer
  • To make the world a better place for everyone

To me the answer to Brand China is you: young Chinese attitudes and enterprises, proud and passionate, globalizing your positive impulses and pulses.

The spirit of Saatchi & Saatchi is ‘Nothing is Impossible’.

This spirit is the heartbeat of the Inspirational Player, the individual who rises to the challenge, who sparks an idea, who inspires others to do what they thought was beyond them – and this is your way to win.

First, ask yourself three big questions:

  • What’s my 5 year dream?
  • When am I at my best?
  • What will I never do?

Quote: “Talent hits a target no one else can hit … genius hits a target no one else can see.” – Schopenhauer

Second, look for four things:

  • Responsibility
  • Learning
  • Recognition
  • Joy

Third, don’t farm, hunt!  Be gritty, be focused, be fearless, relentless, ethical, honest, 100% positive. Your heart is the compass that points to your happiness. Make the small decisions with your head; the big ones with your heart.

Be strong – and have fun!

Filter Speeches

Subscribe to our newsletter

To stay updated with the latest workshops & speeches

Subscribe Now