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Social Media Portal interview with Laure de Carayon from China Connect

Tim Gibbon (Social Media Portal (SMP)) - 05 April 2013

SMP interview with Laure de Carayon from China Connect

Profiled interview with Laure de Carayon, founder, CEO and organiser of China Connect

China Connect banner imageSocial Media Portal (SMP): What is your name and what do you do there at China Connect?

Laure de Carayon (LDC): I’m Laure de Carayon, founder, CEO and organiser of China Connect.

SMP: Briefly, tell us about China Connect (for those that don’t know) and your conference?

LDC: I launched China Connect June 16-17, 2011, with the idea to:

  • Bridge China and Europe marketing and digital industries

  • Help westerners better identify and understand the stakes, challenges and opportunities in the middle kingdom

  • Help westerners decipher and leverage China’s marketing, digital and mobile “Chineseness” – its rules and its ecosystems

  • Help Chinese players connect with luxury, fashion, retail, cosmetics, FMCG, media communication companies across their European headquarters

CHINA CONNECT 2013 Best Of from China Connect

from China Connect

China Connect 2011 Best Of
from China Connect

SMP: Who are your target audience and why?

LDC: To make it short, it is research, marketing, media, communication decision makers in the luxury, fashion, retail, cosmetics, FMCG, services, automotive, media communication industries because it’s their responsibility to make their business or their clients, succeed in China.

SMP: Tell us about the China Connect conference when and where was it located?

LDC: It was from 28-29 March in Paris, France.

SMP: How long has the conference been going and why is China a particularly interesting region for France and globally?

LDC: 2013 was the third year.  Chinese tourists first destination is France and they spend more abroad on luxury items than they do in China and individually, Chinese  travel more around the world.  I don’t think I need to comment any further why China is important!

SMP: How did you initially attract delegates to your conference, and has that changed now social media is continually growing?

LDC: Through classic channels: partnerships, emailing, social media (Twitter and Facebook) and my network within media agencies, one of which has actually been very responsive in inviting clients.

The role of social media is and will definitely be key in helping spread the word and potentially generate in-real-life (IRL) connections. However, it’s far from being enough. For delegate subscriptions, you first need a good concept, good quality content that stands out, you need to build trust and that is also in building real life relationships.  You need to spend time to explain the relevance, exclusiveness of your project, your objectives, how it brings value to them, save them a lot of time and therefore money. Now that the event is in its fourth year, word of mouth is paramount, as well as the growing media coverage it deserves to build awareness!

I also regularly write articles and share news on China Connect Blog and organise training sessions on marketing and digital in China. Readers and former trainees have become China Connect delegates.

SMP: What do you hope attendees have taken away from the conference and what do you think were their highlights?  

LDC: I hope precious knowledge, very useful and concrete tips, energy and inspiration given the scope of topics, profile and diversity of (strong) personalities.

I can’t speak of their highlights as they depend on their own expectations and objectives in the areas that were addressed: brand content and branded entertainment, consumer insights, e-commerce, m-commerce and social marketing.

SMP: Now the conference is over, what will you be doing to prepare for the next conference?

LDC: The next China Connect won’t be until 2014, but a major rendezvous will be on Thursday 27, June 2013 in conjunction with Baďdu, China’s top search engine (and much more), that will come for the first time in to Paris, France for China Connect InTheCity.

China Connect InTheCity is a one or two time a year premium rendezvous with a personality, or an exclusive workshop with a key digital marketing player which I launched in November 2011. In October 2012 I invited Tom Doctoroff, CEO APAC at J.Walter Thompson (WPP) for the release of his book “What Chinese Want”. I’ll then prepare my next trip to China, with several projects in mind.

SMP: What were the low moments of what you have been doing so far (and in regards to China Connect)?

LDC: Recently, I was very close to getting another great speaker China Connect 2013 (not that those who were there were not high profile, but there are a few big names that are both super relevant, consistent and have the capacity to create a buzz). I initiated contact in August 2012 and I really thought he would make it, so I was super disappointed when he said no a few weeks ago. It was an agenda conflict, so I hope next time.

What were the high moments of what you have been doing so far (and in regards to China Connect?

LDC replies with:

  • I guess it was the excitement of literally deciphering a market from scratch and taking the risk and decision to launch this first ever conference in Europe

  • Trusting my intuition

  • Navigating the Chinese ecosystem, travelling in China, meeting those players and convincing them to come to Paris

  • Gaining respect.  I receive emails and feedback or conversations from attendees to speakers or partners and even media, who are very positive, thankful and encouraging for what China Connect stands for

  • Hearing the Chinese speakers saying they’re amazed of what they learn so far away from home

SMP: What do you see as the biggest challenges and opportunities agencies and brands face and were discussed at the conference (and how does China Connect address these?)

LDC: It’s about understanding and integrating China’s “cultural and business exceptions.”  It’s about China not as a whole, but a diversity of regions. About consumers’ maturity, behaviour, expectations varying across China’s tiers and clusters. It’s about building and enriching consistently, on and offline, a brands DNA in a highly heterogeneous and fast expanding market. It’s about developing awareness and connecting consumers, including 600 millions netizens and 400 millions mobile internet users. It’s about building brands preference and advocacy in a saturated market.  The biggest opportunities are certainly that the Chinese are the most brand-friendly people worldwide, and that their spending power is growing steadily.

China Connect is a two-day conference and can only partially address those challenges and opportunities. It does in selecting renowned, local and experienced talents and companies, as well as identifying emerging trends and players. If it resonates, it generates enthusiasm, discussion and the job is “done.”

Photograph of Laure de Carayon, founder, CEO and organiser of China ConnectSMP: What’s the next big step for agencies and brands in this space and what role may marketing technology have in this?

LDC: I wouldn’t bet on one big step, there are too many depending on one’s industry, background, size, stakes and objectives.  Some big steps will need to be adapted to address the ever changing and more competitive landscape.  In addition to this they will need to change to meet the needs of rapidly maturing and discerning consumers to embrace e-commerce expansion in such a huge country.  Finally, to accelerate mobile integration to serve an increasing proportion of on-the-go consumers and the boost of smart phones sales.

SMP: What was the most challenging part of building of China Connect’s presence in digital environments (including social media)?

LDC: Independently of channels, it was first and foremost, building China Connect in itself, when everybody in Europe is just looking at the US!  It was identifying and generating curiosity, interest and trust among a few online media resources and influencers.  Being the only one on board, I did and do pretty much everything on my own and had to make investment decisions. For this third edition, R&C Media assisted China Connect in its marketing strategy.

SMP: What do you think are going to be the most interesting and vibrant channels for the Chinese market over the next 12 to 18-months?

LDC: E-commerce, social commerce, mobile and retail digitalisation. For the latter, China almost starts from scratch, so room for growth is kind of obvious. For mobile, a key issue is 3G-penetration growth so that brands really want to dive into it for maximum reach and business efficiency.

SMP: What’s going to be the most interesting aspect regarding social media / technology for the next 12 to 18-months (what impact could this have in China)?

LDC: It’s going to be enhanced social media integration to deepen engagement - time spent and sales referring and conversions. We’ll watch consumers’ attitudes/usage towards both Sina Weibo and WeChat, how (much) e-commerce and social commerce will challenge traditional retail… and, obviously how much the government will lighten censorship, or not.

SMP: What are your top five predictions for social media for the next 12 to 18-months?

LDC replies with:

  • Chinese social media is more mobile, as internet access moves from desktop to mobile and time spent on social media networks via mobile is four times more than spent on desktops

  • Chinese social media is a growing multi-screen phenomenon: while watching TV, browsing the internet, watching online videos and surfing on mobile

  • Chinese social media is more ROI focused: a key driver to online sales. In December 2012, a single tweet on Sina Weibo generated 1.3 million bookings, 810,000 comments, 2.33 million retweets, and in the end 55,000 Xiaomi phones sales in +5 minutes…

  • Chinese social media will cost more: promotion, ranking etc., like everywhere else

  • Chinese social media is become more international: Tencent’s Weixin mobile app, called WeChat, a mix of video, photo, text and group chat is growing rapidly in APAC and within the US in particular

SMP: What are your top five tips for brands in making the most of channels in China – whether social media or otherwise?

LCD replies with:

  • Devote enough resources for e-commerce given the market size and opportunity (localised hosted website, payment options, 24 hour delivery, call centre)

  • Leverage the social nature of netizens/online shoppers: Give them the opportunity to create, curate, share content, win tips and discounts

  • Harness the power of mobile users, as they are more social (have more followers and follow more users compared to desktop-only users), generate more earned media (more retweets and conversation and brand engagement), and use LBS and QR codes to drive traffic to store and enhance shopping experience

  • Be transparent: brand advocacy is a click away as the internet is the primary place for products information and opinion

  • Be social! Everything is social in China

SMP: Best way to contact you and China Connect?

Twitter @ChinaConnectEU

Now some questions for fun

SMP: What did you have for breakfast / lunch?

LDC: Rarely have breakfast; the day I answered these questions I had Norwegian eggs benedict at Coffee Parisian in Paris, France

SMP: What’s the last good thing that you did for someone?

LDC: Not for me to say

SMP: If you weren’t working on the China Connect what would you be doing?

LDC: I love my business. I’d still be in the brand content business, telling brand stories – but after having been on the agency side, advising and producing, I’d rather take responsibilities on the client side.

Otherwise, I’ve always been interested in news, diplomacy and foreign affairs and I’ve got an eye and I like to see things through a lens; I often have a frame in mind for photography, filming, news reporting and writing. So I’d be a photojournalist or a grand reporter.

SMP: When and where did you go on your last holiday?

LDC: Italy, for both work and holidays.

SMP: What’s the first thing you do when you get into the office of a morning?

LDC: Check emails, Twitter, LinkedIn, Facebook page feeds and calling China. Since I lived in the States when I was in my twenties, I’ve always read international news daily, I browse on the New York Times  and have a look at the Chinese version to check advertisers… and I zap on France24, Euronews and BBC on my laptop.

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