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EXCLUSIVE : The multi-faceted world of Chinese baijiu – JiangXiaoBai will meet marketers in MarketingPulse 2019

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China is a fast-pace evolving market, with international brands willing to localize, but also Chinese brands now looking to expand globally. MarketingPulse 2019 will have quite a variety of speakers addressing this topic and providing a new perspective on Chinese market by sheding light on new players.

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Retail in Asia has met Mr Fu Peng, Director of International Business Department JiangXiaoBai to learn about his experience and to get a glimpse of what he is going to share in the session “Say Hi to Cool China Gen Z” at MarketingPulse 2019.

2. Portrait_Fu Peng (colour)
Source : MarketingPulse

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Based on his experience at  Chief Magazine, Mr Fu Peng will share about how was to work  for a Chinese media brand going globally,  and how he transitioned from media to a brand. He will also share aboput how much he enjoyed working at Ducati trying to localize an international brand in China, through building motorcycle culture, and finally his current role at JiangXiaoBai bringing products to 16 countries in less than half a year and contributing to a positive image of China around the world.

While waiting to meet him at MarketingPulse, we asked him to share a few insights with our audience.

RiA : As we look at your career, you have always picked your passion. How important is it to work for a brand you are passionate about? 

Mr Fu Peng  : Passion is a key element in building a carreer. Work occupies a big portion of our time, it would not be nice to work for a brand you have no passion or interests. However, sometimes you start and you develop your passion afterwards thanks to your team or work environment that could make it more interesting that it looks at the beginning.

RiA : As you have worked in media, then in marketing and PR, how is it to be on both sides?

Mr Fu Peng : For me it was a very natural transition from media to brand. When I was working for the magazine, it was the only English motorcycle magazine, which from China made it globally. While working there, I met Ducati and then I moved to the company. The two experiences benefit each other quite well. I had my passion for Ducati which is still my favourite motorcycle brand today and learnt lot of things about the brand from a media perspective. After joining Ducati as the Marketing and PR manager for China, I used my experience from being on the other side to negotiate better with media

Now, I am in a different industry, the baiju industry and I am still benefiting from my previous experience as the multi-perspectival view I have now helps me in making decisions and dealing with situation with an innovative approach of someone that comes from another industry. lots of inspiration when we build our brand in the abroad market.

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RiA : As you have worked for Ducati in China, how did you manage to successfully localize a Western brand? 

Mr Fu Peng : Motorcycle business in China is quite difficult as there are a lot of regulations, however, Ducati had already got quite a few numbers of fans who helped building the brand awareness. Ducati’s mission was to build the dream bike for motorcycle enthusiasts, and my job was to promote this dream.

It was not easy as the price for a Ducati in China was much higher than in Europe, and also there was a cultural effect. In the West, motorcycles are considered popular and fashionable lifestyle and not a simple commuting tool, and people are willing to invest in it, whereas in China, motorcycles are a simple low-level two-wheeler vehicle used by many people, and therefore, hard to sell it at a high price.

As a result, promoting Ducati becomes promoting a safe way of using a motorcycle. The goal is to build a culture of appreciation and change people’s negative impression. Events such as WSBK and MotoGP are very useful to open people’s eyes, and now while riding this positive track, Ducati got increasing sales in China.

RiA : What was the biggest challenge, but also your biggest success?

Mr Fu Peng : The biggest challenge for me was to build this culture of appreciation.  I spent 2 years in operations for the dealership in Chongqing.  In 2015, our customers and investors have almost lost their confidence due to the previous poor management and lack of engagement of the brand with the customers, my job was to get them back. Riders are a community with similar interests and passion, they are yearning for a group of the same type, and they also desperately need to understand how to ride the big displacement bikes correctly and safely. Our sales team, is made of all qualified riders and they themselves have love riding motorcycles.

Otherwise it would be hopeless for them to transfer the love to our customers and make them true riders to continue the love, and after that we invested long time and spent lots of money for the riding training programs and riding events, before I left Ducati in the middle of 2017, we had the most loyal and professional Ducati riders group in the south-western region of China, and the popularity of the brand among the local riders and the sales number hit the record high of the dealership which keeps the record till now.

RiA : Now, taking up a senior role, in a more business-oriented for an Asian brand, how is it different? 

Mr Fu Peng : It’s a huge change. When I was in Ducati, we were introducing a lifestyle from the western world to China, and the job that I am doing now is on the opposite direction, and we are introducing a time-honored and traditional Chinese drink and culture to the abroad. Since we are not just simply a trade company, and our mission is to bring baijiu into the mainstream market, and in order to realize this, we need to also do lots of market education and training as well just like I did for the Chinese fans when I was in Ducati.

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RiA : How are you building JiangXiaoBai brand, but also business strategy? 

Mr Fu Peng : To build a Chinese brand abroad is completely a different story comparing building the same brand in China due to many factors such as the culture, consumer composition, religion and drinking habit and venue etc.

We carry out our business strategy mainly from 3 angles:

Customer. In most of the markets, we start from the Chinese community first and also do the testing sales in the local consumers. During the process, we will receive feedback from both Chinese and local people and we make our sales and marketing strategy as well as products based on the feedback.

How to drink it. In China, people mostly drink baijiu neatly instead of in the form of cocktails or other mixed drinks. It doesn’t mean that baijiu is inappropriate for mixed drink, and just people have drunk it like this for many hundreds of years. And the drinking way does not work for our abroad market, few people know baijiu We invested heavily in time and money to work out the best mixed drink, stories and promotional materials and talk to lots of bars to list our product into their drink menu, and we are glad that we have made some really positive progress.

Restaurant is the most baijiu drinking venue in China, but in America, most of the spirits are consumed in bars and we need to work on our market strategy and products accordingly based on the practical market situation.

RiA : What is the Unique Value Proposition of Jiangxiaobai? In which way are you conveying it?

Mr Fu Peng : “I am Jiangxiaobai, life is very simple” is the slogan that many of our consumers are with, since it is printed on our most popular product, the Express Bottle. Simple and pure are the most important values that we advocate. Just like our package design and liquor body’s character. If you have been to a Chinese liquor store, you will be buried in the over-packaged products, many brands prefer to a luxury-looking for their package no matter what market positioning they are, but we call for a simple and modest package. Instead we are more willing to invest in R&D, and this is also our unsaid statement for the environment protection. When we talk about our distillation and our liquor body, the rich texture and complicated profiles of the product is not our highlights. We have three words to define ourselves: smooth, light, and pure.

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RiA : Throughout your career you have worked within the area of lifestyle for mainly male consumers, and what is the key to succeed?

Mr Fu Peng : The brands that I have worked for in the past and working now are indeed successful brands in their segment, and I am very proud that I have shared the beautiful time with them. From my point of view, two of the most important reasons that make these brands successful are empathy and staying sharp, both Ducati and JiangXiaoBai have given me a strong feel of this empathy. We always put ourselves into the consumers’ shoes to develop products and service.

Staying sharp means that they are always sensitive to the newest trend and the subtlest signs of the market, which is not just confined to their own industry only. They can always feel the direction outside and find the right partner and force to partner with. Innovation is also the key to Jiangxiaobai.  We have created the business model of small size packaged baijiu 7 years ago and we are still leading this segment even though our product has evolved for a few generations already, but still we can spot some counterfeited instances of our 1st generation product.

RiA : You will be sharing your experience at MarketingPulse on 20th March, what can we expect from this event and your intervention specifically?

Mr Fu Peng :  We are very much proud to be part of MarketingPulse 2019 and be able to share our experience with the audience.  It is a great chance for us to show a different image of the traditional Chinese alcoholic drink called baijiu to the audience. We hope people will learn more about baijiu, and understand how it has never stopped innovating.

My intervention will be an invitation to discover baijiu as you have never imagined before, through a multi-faceted experiences, being an ambassador for China as well.

Just like our home country China itself, I have travelled to many countries thanks to my job, and many people’s impression about China is surprisingly old and wrong, like the 1st impression when they think of Chinese baijiu, they would think it’s bitter, throat-burning and pungent, but what I want to tell is that it is not true, you would better make the statement after you truly taste it and really understand it.

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