最近我在一次午餐会上听到一场非常棒、内容非常丰富的演讲，演讲的嘉宾是中欧国际工商学院（China Europe International Business School）的副院长兼教务长约翰•奎尔奇教授，演讲的题目是“数字营销在中国”（Digital Marketing in China）。
这次午餐会由香港美国商会传播与营销委员会（the Communications and Marketing Committee of The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong）主办。身为英国人的奎尔奇教授曾获得过大英帝国司令勋章，是享誉国际的商校教育及管理大师，也是公务员、公司董事和顾问。虽然他目前担任的是中欧国际工商学院的教务长，但这并不妨碍他继续与哈佛商学院保持长久的关系。他曾是那里的资深副院长兼Lincoln Filene工商管理教授，执教世界著名的哈佛高级管理课程，向企业高管传授营销知识。
然而这次午餐会却截然不同。奎尔奇教授是世界级的专家和杰出的演说家。位于香港太古广场楼上的万豪酒店（the J.W. Marriott）又奉上了优质的服务，并为近百位来宾精心烹制了鱼肉。
在这里，奎尔奇引用了宝洁公司（Proctor & Gamble）前老板雷富礼的金句：“客户就是上帝。”
In the Digital World, Some Things Don’t Change
I recently heard an excellent and informative luncheon speech by Professor John A. Quelch, Vice President and Dean of China Europe International Business School (CEIBS), on the topic of “Digital Marketing in China.”
The host organization was the Communications and Marketing Committee of The American Chamber of Commerce in Hong Kong. Professor Quelch, CBE, is British-born; and an internationally recognized business school academic and administrator as well as a public servant, corporate director and consultant. Although now Dean at CEIBS, he retains his long-time affiliation with Harvard Business School, where he was previously Senior Associate Dean and the Lincoln Filene Professor of Business Administration, and taught marketing to senior executives in Harvard’s world-renowned Advanced Management Program.
I knew from Professor Quelch’s reputation and record that his speech would be a valuable learning opportunity, and I wasn’t disappointed.
I have become pretty choosy about which luncheon speeches I attend, with the result that I join far fewer of these than I used to. For one thing, many speakers nowadays seem to think it’s OK to stand up in front a room full of paying guests and give a glorified sales pitch about their company. That’s a waste of everyone’s time, and it’s rude and inconsiderate.
Plus, many hotel ballrooms catering to such events serve awful quality food. I don’t expect free-range chicken or gourmet food, but it seems like the chickens which often end up on your plate must have been raised on a rubber plantation, if the texture of the meat is anything to judge by. For something like US$60 per person, you get to eat a plate of plastic chicken, listen to a sales pitch, and watch another PPT. That is an insult to people’s intelligence. I’d rather go to the dentist.
This, however, was entirely different. Professor Quelch is a world-class expert and an excellent presenter. And the J.W. Marriott in Hong Kong’s Pacific Place obliged with good service and nicely cooked fish for the 100 or so people present.
One key take-away from Professor Quelch’s talk was that although many aspects of the digital marketing landscape are vastly different from the traditional one, requiring new approaches and opening up a whole new range of opportunities, some of the underlying core principles are the same.
I think we sometimes forget this: core business principles are core principles, whether in the digital or analog worlds.
For example, Quelch emphasized that insight into the customer is still a key driver of innovation. The customer is ultimately the driver of cash flow, and as such, of organic growth.
Quelch quoted the former boss of Proctor & Gamble at this point: “The consumer is boss.” — A.G. Lafley
Understanding latent and emerging customer needs — emotional as well as functional — is critical. If we rely on standard market survey techniques, we will yield old data rather than cutting edge, emerging trends. Brilliant innovators are able to anticipate important new trends in consumer needs before the consumer is even conscious of them, which requires a rare combination of insight and foresight.
Another core principle Quelch talked about are the three pillars of brand value, which are emotional (psychological), economic, and functional. These are the critical ingredients of the glue which bonds customers to your brand. This is another aspect of the digital marketing landscape which is unchanged from the old days.
If there had been more time in the Q & A session, I would have liked to ask Professor Quelch’s assessment of how well he thinks these three pillars of brand value have been articulated and implemented by some of the key players in China’s dynamic digital marketplace. My own sense is that it’s relatively early days yet, especially with regard to the emotional and economic parts. At least it seems like the degree of differentiation among leading brands within their peer group is fairly uneven at this stage in development.
Two other very apt and quotable quotes which Quelch shared as part of his presentation:
“A strategy is a sense of direction around which to improvise.”
“You have to be disciplined in order to be creative.”
–Tom Clark, NIKE
Both are worth bearing in mind because improvisation in the absence of strategy is likely to fail, and creativity in the absence of discipline is not likely to be sustainable.
That an innovative global academic leader of Quelch’s caliber, who has served with distinction in a variety of pro bono and non-executive directorship roles at many world class companies and organizations, is now based in China, is also a very interesting sign of the times.
(By the way, for any of Professor Quelch’s students who may be reading this, he has an important Golden Rabbit birthday coming up on August 8; so don’t forget to wish him a Happy Birthday. I learned this from his entry in Wikipedia. The same entry also begins with a footnote to the effect that Professor John Quelch, the distinguished academic, is not to be confused with John Quelch, the pirate. Having this sort of information online is clearly one example of what has changed in the digital world, for better or worse.)
约翰•奎尔奇教授 / Professor John A. Quelch