Q&A with Glory Cheung, Chief Marketing Officer, Huawei Consumer Business Group Huawei Technologies Company, Ltd.
Worldwide locations, heavy R&D investment build global tech brand
Digital and traditional media strategies vary by country
What are the key factors that explain Huawei’s success overseas?
Huawei’s success was not achieved overnight; rather, it resulted from two factors. The first is that Huawei has been devoted to international markets for many years. We now have 170,000 employees in over 150 locations around the world, of which 45 percent are R&D staff and 79 percent are overseas local employees. The other factor is our consistent commitment to R&D, an investment of at least 10 percent of each year’s revenue. In the past 10 years, Huawei has invested $38 million in R&D, and established 16 R&D centers and 28 joint innovation centers globally. We can only say that current achievements are the result of years of continual investments.
How important was it to build a strong brand in China before expanding outside of China?
I don’t think it was important. In the context of globalization and the emergence of mobile Internet, Huawei has been an international enterprise and positioned as an international brand from the very beginning. Our vision has always been to build up a first-class international brand while adapting to the cultural nuances of each market.
Do you position the Huawei brand differently outside of China than you do in China?
The brand positioning is the same in both overseas and domestic markets. Huawei is delivering a new Tech+Culture brand that empowers consumers to be our greatest advocates, and this is applies to every market in which we operate. However, in different regions, considering the cultural differences and Huawei’s business progress, each is at a slightly different brand development phase.
Would Huawei consider growing through acquisition or is the brand committed to organic growth?
Expansion is not our ultimate goal. What is important to us is that we can serve more users worldwide with more innovative and high-quality products. We’ll consider anything that may help us achieve that goal.
How is the Huawei brand evolving? Do you expect that Huawei will become a luxury brand? If yes, over what period of time will that happen?
Actually Huawei’s brand has been developed in less than five years. I hope that Huawei will be a trendsetter in future technology and culture. We want to be an integral part of consumers’ lives all over the world. As for a luxury brand, we haven’t given that much thought.
Does the Huawei media strategy or media mix change outside of China? Does the media strategy or mix change market-by-market?
There is no one-size-fits-all strategy. At our core we are a global brand, but digital media and traditional media strategies need to be adapted to align with the requirements of different local markets.
How has traditional and digital media assisted Huawei to build a global brand? What e o s has Google made to help Huawei go global?
Digital media provides more opportunities that enable brands to communicate with their target audiences. At Huawei, we actively use digital media to engage our customers and provide deeper understanding of Huawei. Our cooperation with Google has been great. Google has a mass of global user data and offers excellent support to help us understand the characteristics of consumers in different markets.
Our research suggests that awareness and consideration of Chinese brands is higher in markets such as Spain or Australia, and lower in Japan, the US, and the UK? Is that similar to the Huawei experience?
First of all, Huawei is an international brand that happened to be headquartered in China. Secondly, consumer tech brands can be impressively different from others. General consumer products may be greatly affected by their country of origin and cultural influences. However, for tech products, consumers are expecting more in terms of product innovation. Of course, there is still great cultural variation from country to country, so to tell a story based on local understanding is very important.
Huawei has enjoyed great success in Europe and less success in the US. Why is that, and do you expect to build the brand more aggressively in the US?
As an international brand center, the US is a very important market for Huawei. We will not give up on it, and will continuously provide competitive products and services to meet consumers’ needs. We are very confident in Huawei products. Great products can always win the support of consumers, so opening up the US market is just a matter of time.
How does Huawei gain insights about the markets it enters?
We have our own methods. In general, we will look into three different factors: market, product, and consumer.
How do you explain with clarity the breadth of Huawei, with technology infrastructure and consumer smart device businesses fitting under one brand?
In my opinion, in the future there will be no difference between B2B and B2C brands. All brands should focus on B2C communications, because ultimately all communications are about influencing individuals.
How important to the brand are social responsibility initiatives, such making digital communication more widely available?
As an international company and responsible corporate citizen, Huawei has always been committed to sustainable development of the social economy, bridging the digital divide, network operation stability, and environmental protection, in order to build a connected society for everyone to enjoy.
Has the way international consumers view brands or products from China changed? Is there still a perception that Chinese brands are imitators or is there a perception of Chinese brands as innovators?
International consumers are rational. They recognize authentic innovation in products and respect companies and brands that make real innovations. Take the P9 smartphone, which we launched in this April, as an example. Our partnership with Leica brought revolutionary innovative dual-camera photography, and the integrated marketing campaigns globally helped to propel Huawei onto a new stage. We have figures indicating that global sales of the P9 series have already exceeded 9 million units and hopefully can reach 12 million. This is the clearest barometer for true innovation.
Is there a difference in the way younger consumers view brands and products from China, compared with the view of older generations?
Yes, there is a clear difference. Especially in the ways that technology enables greater day-to-day convenience, as well as opening up modes of self-expression, younger consumers are more open-minded about embracing the innovations.
Do particular cultural or operational styles provide Chinese brands with competitive advantage?
In the Web2.0 era, we have witnessed emerging collaborative innovations, with enterprises integrating social networking and open source culture. In light of this, Huawei has established a new model for engaging the collective wisdom of all our staff worldwide. We call it the Global Innovation Hive. First, we set up a high-level unified goal, then motivate the team through shared interest, and finally gather resources globally to realize innovations. A universal shareholder policy enables employees to become part owners of the company and make enterprise development a shared business operated by all Huawei people.
Does this approach provide other benefits?
That’s also why Huawei can concentrate better on its development without capital constraints. Furthermore, we operate this model on a global scale like never before. We have established a user interface design center in San Francisco, a design center in London, an algorithm center in Moscow, a communication research center in Japan and a software center in India, to collect top-level wisdom globally for innovations. We’ve learned a lot from traditional business models, and also created our own model for the new era.