1980年美国国家展(一):残忍美国人的营销创意 / The US National Exhibition 1980 – Part One



1979年的老北京展览馆 / The old Beijing Exhibition Hall, 1979

残忍美国人的营销创意

1980年秋天,第一届美国国家展在北京动物园旁边的老北京展览馆举行。

这座建筑和上海的展览馆一样,都带有强烈的苏联风格,就像中国当时的外贸体制。那个时候,中国的外贸公司都由中央控制,每家公司垄断一个行业,受中国对外贸易部的领导,严格按照国家计划开展进出口业务。

外国投资一直是禁地。与几年后实行开放政策、开始允许外商投资的时候相比,此时律师、会计师和银行家能发挥的作用仍然十分有限。

首届美国国家展规模庞大,内容丰富多彩。由于是在中美关系正常化之后一年举行的,所以这次展览也颇具历史意义。

很多美国500强企业和中型美国公司展出了各种产品,并通过印刷品和录像对公司进行宣传。在为期五天的展会上,散发了超过75吨的中文宣传册和产品目录。

中国消费者在那几天狂热地争抢彩色宣传手册,因为他们日常接触到的媒体仍然以黑白图像为主。

Creative Marketing by Those Cruel Americans

In the fall of 1980, the first US National Exhibition in China was held at the old Beijing Exhibition Hall next to the Beijing zoo.

The architecture of this building, like its counterpart in Shanghai, had a strong Soviet flavor to it, not unlike China’s foreign trade system at the time. Centrally controlled foreign trade corporations, each a monopoly in one sector, managed directly under China’s Ministry of Foreign Trade, carried out import and export business strictly according to the national plan.

Foreign investment had been taboo, so lawyers, accountants and bankers still had a very limited role to play compared with a few years later, when the Open Door policy enabled the first stages of foreign investment.

The first US national exhibition was quite a big and colorful affair. It was historic as well, since it followed the normalization of US-China relations early in the previous year.

Many Fortune 500 companies as well as medium-sized American companies displayed all sorts of products and told their corporate stories through print and video presentations. More than 75 tons of Chinese language brochures and catalogues were produced and distributed during the five-day event.

Chinese consumers eagerly and enthusiastically snapped up color brochures in those days because their typical daily media environment was still dominated by black and white images.



这个看上去像是困在小盒子中的讲中文的红头发“老外”引起了一些中国参观者的同情。
/ What appeared to be a red-haired, Chinese-speaking foreigner stuck in a box drew sympathy from some trade fair attendees.

一家美国大型卡车生产商想出了一个有创意的点子。他们制作了公司的中文介绍,然后找来一位会讲中文的红头发美国人(他恰巧是我的同班同学),戴上印有公司标志的棒球帽,背诵这篇中文介绍。

他的表演被拍了下来,然后投影到一个小矮人模型的头部,模型放在一个专门为此设计的小展亭里。展示效果就像早期的全息影像:第一眼看上去,仿佛小盒子里真有一个长着红发、戴着棒球帽、会说中文的人脑袋。

这就是当时尖端的视听设备。

由于展台被安放在主入口的附近,因此吸引了大批中国参观者的注意。这些参观者来自各行各业,他们有幸或凭“关系”得到了展会的入场券。

一天下午,我在展台前不远的地方站着,看见两位身穿蓝色上衣的老先生停下了脚步,观看这个讲中文的红头发“老外”的奇特表演。他们默默地看了好长一段时间,百思不得其解。

最后,其中一位老兄对另一个人说:“美国人怎么天天把员工整日锁在这么小的一个盒子里呢?他们对员工实在太残忍了!”另一个人点头表示赞同,随后两人接着看下一个展览去了。

在展会的其他地方,一家美国公司的管理人员也因为在展览过程中引起中国消费者过度兴奋、威胁到公共安全而受到中国有关部门的严厉批评。有传闻说,可以用人民币在这家公司的展位上直接买到便宜的英文学习材料,此后,大批中国参观者蜂拥而至,挤倒了展位的围墙和支架。

One big American truck manufacturer had a creative idea. They prepared their company’s story in Chinese, and then had one of their employees, a Chinese-speaking, red-haired American fellow (who happened to be a classmate of mine), recite this presentation while wearing a baseball cap with their company logo on it.

His presentation was then filmed, and projected onto a mannikin’s head inside a small booth specially designed for this purpose. The effect was like a primitive version of a hologram: it looked at first glance like a real “talking head” inside the small box, but with red hair, wearing a baseball cap, and speaking in Chinese.

This was cutting edge audio-visual stuff at the time.

Since this booth was located near the main entrance, it attracted a lot of attention from Chinese visitors, who included people from all walks of life who were fortunate or “connected” enough to obtain tickets to the show.

One afternoon I was standing near the front of this display and two older Chinese gentlemen in blue jackets stopped to watch this curious display of the Chinese speaking, redheaded foreigner. They watched for quite some time, in silence, and a sense of puzzlement.

Finally one old chap said to the other: “How can the Americans keep their staff member locked up in such a small box all day, every day. They treat their employees in such a cruel manner!” The other one nodded his agreement, and they moved on to the next exhibit.

Elsewhere during the exhibition, the bosses of one American company were severely criticized by Chinese authorities for overly exciting Chinese consumers and endangering public safety in the process. The walls and frame. of their booth collapsed under pressure from the throngs of Chinese visitors drawing close, after a rumor swept the crowd that they were selling inexpensive English language learning products for RMB cash, directly from their booth.


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