Facebook’s next challenge

With a simple and brilliant idea Mark Zuckerberg (and the others) turned social network Facebook into the most successfull venture of our generation with over 750 million users. Magazine Time was fully right when they elected him Person of the Year 2010. Facebook did and is changing the world.

But what’s next? Recently, Facebook launched integrated business network BranchOut in an attempt to get a piece of the pie that LinkedIn is baking really fast. But is it wise to add a business platform to a social network? Do these two go together? Can you shift your positioning just like that? I’m not sure.

Then there is Google+. Can somebody please tell me what the pros and cons of this platform are? For techsavvy persons like my brother it’s probably very clear. But I bet 99% of the people don’t know what Google wants or what the features exactly are. What I do know, is that I get the idea they’re trying to tap into both the social and business networks. (Check out this poll on Campaign Asia about FB vs. Google+. Guess who I voted for?;-)

My point is: social and business networks are still early cycle. With a huge members base as Facebook and Google have, you might think they just launch anything they like and try if it works. But at the same time, you do have a brand that you’re building. You don’t want to confuse visitors. And brands need a lot of attention, especially when markets grow up.

And that’s the phase online networks are in now. The pie has to be shared with more hungry competitors and positioning becomes key. There are so many others around already. I just mentioned the big three, but for the smaller ones it’s at least as important. Branding and marketing will be on top of the list. What’s the competitive edge? How do you distinct yourself? Facebook didn’t need a slogan so far. But they might in two years time from now.

Facebook will probably stand out, because of its ridicilously huge members base. On the other hand, they grew big, because they focussed on social network alone. Will adding a business network confuse their members?

Just look me up on Facebook, Mark. I’m happy to discuss.

New group on LinkedIn: Marketing Asia

Started Marketing Asia on LinkedIn two days ago. It’s a networking and knowledge sharing platform for professionals in marketing, communications, media and PR, based in Asia.

I hope it will bring on lots of discussions on challenges, issues, successes and experiences and new networks, so the group can help bringing marketing in Asia to the next level!

Patrick van Hees’ road to happiness: goals, relationships and recharge

The great advantage of having your own blog is that you decide yourself what to write about. Although it’s not my habit, I want to promote the debut roman of my good friend Patrick van Hees’: ‘De Geluksprofessor‘, published in the Netherlands on The Happiest Day of 2011: 17 June. The Happiest Day? Yes, academic research has shown that the last Friday before the actual summer starts, is the happiest day of the year. And on the 17th there’s still some money on the bank as well. Makes sense.

In his book, Patrick describes the road to happiness in three steps. The first is to set clear and realistic goals for yourself. Goals get you started and keep you going. There’s always this perspective you’re dedicated to. Next to this, you have to build true relationships with people, instead of just having superficial contacts. Last but not least, one should on a regular basis ‘recharge’. Get new energy from things that you really like to do and not just because it’s fashionable (if you happen to like the hip and happening, that’s fine of course;-): do sports, go to the beach, walk, have a massage, play cards, spend a long night with your girlfriend, anything you like.

Next to being a writer, Patrick is a successfull marketeer and entrepreneur. That’s why I also asked him to become a member of the Advisory Board of my agency C-People. A great honour to me that he was delighted to do so, but of course a great honour to him as well;-)

Buy the book here.

Sony remains Asia’s most popular brand

Survey today revealed Sony remains Asia’s most popular brand. It’s an Asian party, with Panasonic and Samsung at top rankings. Remarkably, the full top 5 are all consumer electronics brands. This sais all about current consumer behavior in Asia and the phase of the consumer cycle.

Campaign Asia conducted the yearly survey together with TNS. Check out the full ranking here (subscription needed).

Will GBU kick McDonalds’ ass in Asia?

Like in any big city, new concepts are popping up everywhere in Hong Kong. The latest newcomer is Gourmet Burger Union (GBU), a hamburger chain, also serving salads and hot dogs.

Claimed to be more healthy and natural (natural reared, grass fed, free-range), the chain now has four places in the city and will without any doubt expanding quickly in the regio. The quality of the meat and the fresh salad on top do give the burgers a healthy taste to them. Still with the unhealthy look to it, it’s a burger after all.

All places are in the center or close to the nightlife areas of Lan Kwai Fong and Soho. Some of them have a bar-like outdoor area, so you’re sort of eating your burger on the street.

The concept still needs some improvements. Especially the smaller places, quite often are sold out in some products. Also, their pay-off is ‘Build your own burger’, but I bet most people order straight from the menu; there are already like ten on there.

Enough talking, just try it!

China doesn’t slow down

The news wasn’t being picked up that big, because we’re getting used to it. But I think it’s worth to stand still just a second at the unstoppable Chinese machine. Simply because we are witnessing a revolution here.

China’s GDP grew another 9.7% in the first quarter of 2011. Look at the amazing figures in the graph below, especially during the crisis and make a comparison with European figures: Q2-2009 China +6.2%, eurozone -4.6% = 10.8% difference in growth pace. And 9 or 10% every year, means a larger absolute growth every year. On the side, China announced last week that foreign-exchange reserves exceeded $3 trillion!

Chinese don’t like Barbie

Although the Chinese adore Western brands, it doesn’t mean all succeed. Prada and Louis Vuitton were among the commercial superstars, because they symbolize Western capitalism and luxury. And that’s what all Chinese are reaching for. For more commoditized products, the key marketing rule also goes for China: think global, act local. And thus, market locally. Reinvent Western marketing hits.

Today, FT reports on the closing of Barbie’s pink store in Shanghai, only two years after opening.

Things work different in China than they do in the West. People think different. People eat different. People play different. And there happen to be 1.3 billion of these people. If you wanna tap into this mega market to compensate declined growth in the West, you have to think East. Add a bit of patience to it and the reward could be as sweet as a Barbie. ‘Cause remember, only 0,5% of market share already gives you 6.5 million customers, which is nearly 50% of Dutch population…