It’s quite well known (although very rarely acknowledged) that TikTok, one of the biggest platforms in the world right now, is a Chinese product. So how did they manage to blow up so much? Well, it’s because unlike the west, their introduction to the internet was through platforms on handheld devices, whereas ours were through desktop computers. It only makes sense then that they would excel in the social commerce business as they’ve had way more time to perfect it.
In this episode of Building Brand Advocacy, Paul is joined by Adam Knight, Co-Founder of both Kaui Commerce - a next generation solution for ambitious brands looking to sell directly to Chinese Gen Z consumers - and TONG - a cross-cultural agency trying to close the gap between people and brands! He is also an Advisory Panel Member for the Fashion and Design Advisory Panel at Regent’s University London, and is also an Adjunct Lecturer at Leiden University!
He is an extremely impressive man and we can’t wait for you to hear what he has to say. Tune in to this episode of Building Brand Advocacy to find out more!
Adam: You look at any kind of comparative study of Chinese consumers versus international demographics, Chinese people will always rank higher in terms of the value of word of mouth or influencer marketing. Influencer marketing really took off in China before anywhere else. It kind of reached that peak saturation and caused a degree of consumer fatigue and pushback. And now the bubble has burst a little bit.
Paul: Hello, and welcome to Building Brand Advocacy. My name is Paul Archer, your host, and I am thrilled to be joined by Adam Knight. Now, Adam is the absolute guru on all things China, and how brands can bring themselves to China and operate in there and actually tap into this massive lucrative market. It's a very interesting, tricky space, but he's here to try and unpack it. His experience is that he founded the TONG agency who are the gurus in helping brands through this and more recently launched Yaso, formerly known as Kuai Commerce to actually help on the more of the technical sides of things. So Adam welcome. Thanks for being here.
Adam: Thank you so much, Paul. It's a real pleasure.
Paul: So let's kick things off. Can you put it into context? Like, how big is the opportunity in China for your average D to C brand?
Adam: Yeah, great question. And I always joke whenever I'm doing one of these kind of things, whether it's a podcast or a talk or whatever, that no China presentation is complete without some very big numbers. To put it very bluntly, the Chinese e-commerce market is, frankly, huge. At the risk facing the obvious. It's as big as the rest of the world put together. It now accounts for well over half of Global E-commerce on an annual basis. I think the numbers that I was reading the other day from 2022 put the total size of the market at about $2.2 trillion, set to expand to about $3.3 trillion by 2025. It's a space that's grown not only very quickly, but obviously also completely cut off from the rest of the world. China has a completely unique platform ecosystem. For anyone not familiar with the term. The Great Firewall, China blocks all of the major Internet service providers and platforms that we're familiar with here in Europe and the US. And instead, what we've seen over the last couple of decades is a wide range of Chinese domestic players that often exist only in China who have grown to, frankly, astronomic sizes, delivering a kind of very wide range, very innovative set of integrated digital and e-commerce services. One of the areas within that that we've been observing in my role as as you said, as the founder of TONG a kind of full service consultancy and agency focused on the Chinese market has, of course, been the rise of social commerce and players like Douyin the equivalent of TikTok, Red, And WeChat highly innovative, content driven, community amplified platforms that really are cut above what we've seen anywhere else in the world in recent years.
Paul: And so if you talk about social commerce, what is that? What does it mean? I think a lot of people have different definitions of it, looking at it from the yeah.
Adam: So the social commerce opportunity in China is more than just social media enabled shopping, right? It's not just buying stuff through a social media platform, but rather it's a holistic and also constantly shifting set of tools, techniques that brands can use to target, acquire and convert customers. And it's very, very quickly become kind of the predominant way of selling online in China. So some comparative numbers here. 84% of Chinese shoppers are already buying via social media in China. That's 84% versus 36% in the US. If we think about a kind of more traditional e-commerce model, one that's quite linear in a way, or advertising driven, where you essentially acquire customers through paid advertising or partnerships or what have you, you funnel those through to an e-commerce landing page or .com website or whatever, and then you convert from there and you gather a little bit of data and you might be able to retarget them if you've managed to capture their email address or what have you. That's quite an old hat way of selling. And what we've seen in China is something that's much more circular in many ways with the customer at the center of a wide range of different tools and channels whereby brands kind of have this process of, first of all, targeting and acquiring customers through kind of the build community. Then once you've got somebody logged in to your social media kind of platform and following your page, you're able to kind of gather a wide range of additional insights and then using kind of high traffic moments. So days like singles day, which some of your listeners might have heard of in China or other retail shopping festivals, at those moments to work with influencers or to do live streams or to run kind of group buying promotions or what have you, to then convert at those particular moments in time. So it's much more than just a tech piece. It's much more than just being able to click a button and buy something through social media, but rather is a true kind of strategic mindset and approach to how you create community and convert community.
Paul: I love that because I completely agree on that definition and come up against it every day with a lot of people that think that social commerce is commerce on social. It's like I bought a product Instagram ad and went through the Instagram thing, the social element. To me, that means it's a people, it has to have a human involved with it. And the convention conventional channels as people are landing on through e-commerce as it first came out, was the gatekeepers of discovery were Google and Facebook in the sense of the search and the ad. But then, now actually the majority of content from product discovery, from the sounds of things in China especially. But I actually think it's probably wider in the west now, is coming through social media, it's coming through content, user generated content of other people and inspiring you to making purchases due to their authenticity as real customers. How do they differ in the UK versus China? Do you think that the UK will I know that China is far, far ahead. I don't mean the UK. I mean the west. Widely the US. UK, Europe I know China is far, far ahead of there, but how are they different at the moment? And do you think that they will meet eventually?
Adam: Yeah. So from a social commerce perspective, the two worlds are pretty incomparable, if you like. China, as you said, is light years ahead in many respects. And what's interesting is that we're starting to see now so many of the technologies, the tools, the strategies that were essentially innovated in China, created in China, now being adopted, mimicked, copied in other markets and by other platforms. And of course, a key bridge, a key driver of that has been TikTok. TikTok is a Chinese company, despite what they might tell you in all of their PR. It is owned by Bytedance, which is a Chinese tech conglomerate who also owned Douyin. Douyin being the original Chinese version of TikTok short form video platform, which for many years has has allowed for social commerce and indeed has been actively promoting it. Douyin has, in a very, very short space of time, become one of the key players in online retail in China. And if you look at certain categories like beauty, fast fashion, and a few other kind of FMCG verticals, it's pretty much the platform of choice now for particularly niche and emerging brands that want to feel a bit of a march on the competition. So there's the scale, which is one of the things that makes it different. The other thing that makes it different, I think, is just how integrated social commerce has become in China. And I think part of the reason for this is that the way that the Chinese internet developed was mobile first. Right. China, in many ways leapfrogged the desktop era that we all kind of grew up with in the in the went straight to mobile internet. And what that meant is that most people's experience of the internet for the first time over the last couple of decades was through apps and through platforms, rather than in the kind of general search space and website space. What this means is that almost all e-commerce in China now is platform based. It's not done through .com websites, it's not really a brand owned process, but rather a platform managed and mediated process. The brands just have to work around and comply with. And what this means is that by having these walled gardens, if you like, these platforms that in many ways are cut off from each other. You create a very, very integrated, very, very data rich customer experience that allows brands to really know their customer in a much deeper way than you'll find anywhere else in the world, and for them to be able to then use that data to target, to retarget potential customers, and to kind of keep people within that ecosystem. So it's a much more connected space, it's a much bigger space, it's much more innovative and creative space. And as a result, like I said, I think over the next few years we're going to see more and more of businesses, whether those are tech platforms or brands, essentially copying what's going on in China and applying that in a broader context.
Paul: So if I don't want to pull crude analogies, but it's a little bit like in the west, as if there were no brand. There was Amazon, then Facebook or Meta would have their own equivalent of Amazon, which was sales that were made through Instagram. Facebook. There was TikTok, which had its own distribution and purchasing, as does Amazon, but only through TikTok. And actually, no one will go direct to the brand. They'd always be using the third party. Well, we're not talking about third party retailers like Amazon in that sense. It's just talking about the Amazon Marketplace model. Is that right?
Adam: Yeah, exactly. The brand .com or brand CNS do have a place, but it's a very, very small share of the market platforms like Tmall, Taobao, JD.com. Those are the kind of burst to market, if you like. They're still the big players that drive a lot of B to C online retail in China. And then you've got these kind of slightly more emerging, agile, socially driven platforms like Little Red Book or Red. Douyin equivalent to TikTok? WeChat, with its mini programs function that, as I said, have created these very vertical, quite cut off, insular walled gardens, whereby once you're in that platform, they want to keep you there. And what this has led to in the past is there's quite a lot of protectionism, actually, so you couldn't link from one platform to another. And it was a very basic example. Now, the Chinese regulators have done quite a lot over the last couple of years to try and remove those barriers and increase competition. But all intents and purposes, it's still a very kind of vertically integrated ecosystem where one company or one platform will offer the full range of services. It won't only be a social media platform, but also a live streaming platform, also an e-commerce platform, also an advertising platform, and a hub for influencers, and so on and so forth. And a lot of them also have then their own logistics companies attached to that. And so the data pool gets bigger and bigger and bigger, and the platform become more and more powerful. And it's a model that the likes of Meta could only dream of in a lot of respects. And indeed, that's exactly why we've seen platforms like Instagram starting to experiment with shopping. And I think that, as I said, the future. I think we're going to see a lot more of that kind of inspiration, if you like, from the Chinese side of the world.
Paul: And we'll definitely dig into that in a bit more detail. But just to get it straight in my mind that for a brand that is trading in China, are they taking care of all the fulfillment of orders that come through five, six different marketplaces, or do those marketplaces take care of it entirely and they just sell as if they were on Amazon? Just so I know, because I think the way that you approach that would be quite different, wouldn't it?
Adam: Yeah. So one of, one of the quirks of the e-commerce space in China is that most of the platforms that I just mentioned will not have a direct relationship with brands, particularly foreign brands, that want to list on there. Instead, you're forced to go through intermediaries. So these are quite often referred to as GPS. So Tmall partners in the case of Tmall, or trade partners in the case of many of the other platforms, and these are tall intents and purposes. They're distributors, they'll often buy stock, sometimes they work on consignment, they'll have fulfillment centers, they will operate the stores on your behalf. They'll do a bit of branding, bit of marketing here and there, and then they'll obviously kind of ship product out to the end consumer or Via storefronts that they're managing on your behalf on those platforms. So it's a kind of fully managed service. And from the perspective of a foreign brand, that's just how you got into the market. That's just how it's worked for years now. It's a model, though, that's a little bit broken. And I think if you speak to any brand that has tried to enter the Chinese market over the last five years, they'll regale you with all sorts of horror stories of the pain and the expense and the time that it's taken to get into the space, whether they're successful or not. And part of that is, frankly, just because it's become a very expensive, very complex space to do business. And part of it is that quite often these TPS, their interests, certainly in the kind of mid to long term, are not necessarily aligned with the brand's long term interests as well. TP turnover is very, very quick in the Chinese context. It's not unheard of for brands to have to find new distributors, new TPS, new partners every twelve months or so with relationships going sour. And TPS know that. So their incentive is to kind of stack it high, sell it cheap, be very promotional, drive a hard bargain, and basically pull in as many sales as possible in a shorter period as possible. While that might serve a brand to an extent in those kind of early months in the market. It's no way to build a kind of long term, kind of scalable and sustainable market entry strategy. What we're trying to do now at Yaso is provide a solution to this slightly broken system. What we've observed over the last almost ten years that have been working in this space is that because of these increasing barriers to entry, whether it's complexity, whether it's cost, whether it's cultural confidence amongst Chinese consumers, et cetera, there's a whole generation of direct consumer brands who in so many ways are perfect for the Chinese opportunity. They've got the right product, they've got the right pricing, they've got the right positioning. But because of those increasing barriers to entry, they're getting boxed out of the opportunity. They don't have the wherewithal to have a go at it successfully, and they don't have the China knowledge. They don't have the time or the team. They don't have the cash, in some cases, the risk of slipping into kind of sales pitch mode here. This is what we're trying to do now at Yaso, right? We're applying the ten years experience we've got to finding those brands that are perfect for the opportunity and saying, great, we'll give you the China expertise, we'll give you the time and the team. And in some cases, we'll also put our money on the table as well. And we will take you out to the market. We will run your entire China market entry function. We'll integrate with whatever systems you've got in place here in your home markets, and we'll ensure that China is a viable growth strategy for you in the kind of mid to long term with us kind of aligning with those goals over an extended period of time.
Paul: Okay, cool. That makes sense and sounds like a super exciting space to be in, I think, giving at the moment. But if you're looking at China as a whole and Western brands launching in China, what are the go to examples that run goes through that these guys absolutely nailed it. The top handful that people want to replicate?
Adam: Oh, yeah, that's a good question. I mean, there have been some really exciting examples over the years. One brand that people used to love talking about and can't really speak to their performance in recent years, but certainly back where they entered, which must have been 2010 or around that time, maybe a little bit after, was Tangled teaser. I think they were on Dragons Den at some point, right? But it's a hairbrush that helps women, or people with long hair, let's say, to essentially kind of pull out any tangles that you might have. And it was a great story because they weren't retailing in China at all. They were, I think, at the time, probably almost solely focused on the home market here. And a Chinese influencer, unbeknownst to the brand, walked into a bolts store here in the UK, picked up a tangled teaser thought this looks interesting. Went home, used it, thought a great product, posted about it online, and they went viral overnight in China, again, without the brand knowing what was happening. Or the first inkling that the brand got that something was going on was that they started getting all of the orders with Chinese sounding names and sometimes like big orders, like multiple hairbrushes going to the same person, which is a little bit odd, right? Like, who needs more than one hairbrush? And they did a little bit of digging and discovered that there had been this post that had gone online and they were getting all of these what are known in Chinese as dai go kind of translates as a kind of representative buyer. People who it's usually Chinese expats or students who will go and buy foreign products, sometimes on command, and then resell them through gray market channels into China. And that's exactly what was happening in this case. And off the back of that, they then explored the different market entry models and routes and had a very successful entry into the Chinese market. And they're a great example of one the power of social media in China and word of mouth marketing. If you look at any kind of comparative study of Chinese consumers versus international demographics, chinese people will always rank higher in terms of the value of word of mouth or influencer marketing versus, as I said, other international counterparts. So there's that kind of social media aspect, but there's also the kind of, I guess, the unmet demand in many ways for that kind of it doesn't have to be a luxury product, right? It can just be something as simple and as practical as a hairbrush, but that meets a certain consumer or market fit, has a good price point, works with the right partners, and we're constantly warning brands that the streets aren't necessarily paved in gold in China, but in some cases, the streets are paved with gold. If you have the right market fit, if you really tap into a particular trend at the right time, the right place, with the right partners in place, there is no market in the world that compares with China in terms of the opportunity and the scalability.
Paul: I'm interested about what you said there around the value of word of mouth because obviously the value of influencer marketing is known to every brand. I'm pretty sure by now in the west, if your surname is Kardashian, you can launch a makeup brand and worth a billion dollars overnight. So there is amazing pool and the equivalent of these super influencers both in both China and America and so on. But how do you think it changes in terms of the non super effect social commerce? First of all, how are they different about the way that the cultures sort of see them? And do you believe that there's a reason why word of mouth is more valuable to a Chinese market than a Western market.
Adam: Yeah, I mean the influence of space in general in China is just, again, unlike anywhere else in the world. You of course got your equivalents of the Kardashians, right? Kind of celebrities who are famous for whatever kind of justification or reason. And then you have kind of influencers who have achieved celebrity status purely by being influencers and content creators. And there have been some real kind of standout stories and mind blowing case studies. So the one that everybody refers to is people like Austin Li, this kind of the Lipstick king, some people call him this kind of cosmetics influencer. And he's responsible for mad cases. Like I think it was probably the year before last, he did a single twelve hour live stream delivered through his channel. He generated $1.8 billion US dollars in GMV in one single live stream. 1.8 billion. That's just mad, right? That's just one example.
Paul: That was all people watching him clicking in platform, making a purchase like everything within this wall garden.
Adam: Exactly. That's just one platform, one live stream, one influencer. He's got a big team behind him, but fundamentally it's just him in front of a camera selling this stuff and people buying it and it's crazy. Again, you always come back to scale in China because it really does just stand head and shoulders above everywhere else. But in terms of how the space has moved on, china again, in many ways is slightly ahead of the rest of the world. They kind of got through that. I guess peak influencer saturation a little bit earlier than everybody else. There's already a bit of a fatigue with these kind of big name live streamers and what have you already a couple of years ago. And what we've started to see now is the emergence of a slightly more nuanced, slightly more, I guess, strategic and in many ways interesting form of influencer marketing that moves beyond something that's simply very transactional, such as these kind of live streams, and in China that's called KOCs. Key Opinion Consumers. So KOLs, some people have started to use this in an English language context as well. Kols refer to those big name influences I was talking about before KOCs. It's a kind of longer tail of smaller influencers who I would argue are influential for the right reasons. These are people who are kind of gatekeepers tastemakers within certain communities. They often have kind of specialisms within particular products. For example, there's a trend called the Tian fang tung in Chinese, which refers to kind of the direct translation is kind of like ingredients party. In English we might call them skintellectuals. These are people who have small but very active and loyal followings around very specific trends. So in the case of the Tian fang tung, it's looking really drilling down into these formulations and the ingredients of specific beauty products, testing the efficacy against other products, making kind of very laser focused recommendations on what is good and what is bad. And that style of deep influencer partnership that relies on dozens, if not hundreds, of different relationships with influencers, rather than one or two flagship ambassadors is something that we've seen really take off over the last couple of years in China. People seek out a bit more authenticity, and as people, consumers just get a bit more savvy as well. Right. They're not as fickle as they used to be and really kind of can see through overly commercialized, overly transactional brand sponsorships and everything else. And again, it's something I can see already starting to happen in a European and American context. But once again, China is slightly ahead of the curve. Your second question was around whether there's a reason that this stuff works in China versus other places. I've heard people in the past talk about cultural factors and how there's a little bit less trust in hierarchical forms of communication and distrust in, let's say, government or official sources of data or what have you, which means that people are more predisposed to communicating on a peer to peer basis. I don't know how much store I put in that, but I think it really just comes again down to the evolution of these platforms and of this space. China just went straight to Web 2.0. They missed out that whole Web 1.0 version of the Internet, and it's always been very socially driven, and the platforms encourage that, and it's how they gather their data as well. And it just becomes this kind of, I guess, feedback loop where the more data that's inputted, the more conversations that are going on online, the more purchases being made through social media just compounds. And we get to the point now where these spaces become very self referential and highly kind of peer to peer based.
Paul: Just want to just focus down on that for a second. I'm obviously 100% biased given what I do for a living. We dual power the equivalent of KOCs for many, many brands in the west. But what we see across the board is a massive difference in terms of the ability to convert to revenue from ambassador, an advocate, an influencer, an expert, an employee whomever it may be. The key thing that we see is that the authenticity is what's key. And the authenticity is driven by them being true customers and different, as opposed to someone who's been found through a marketplace says, oh, well, I can pretend to like your product for the right fee. I've got a fashion audience, you're a fashion product. Let's go. Is that the same as that when we talk to brands? This kind of concept is still relatively early days in the west. Is that what has just become much more mature in China or is there something else going on?
Adam: Yeah, no, you hit the nail on the head. It's not miles away from what we're seeing now. Start to work as borne out in the data, as you just pointed out. But China is just ahead of the curve, I think, when it comes to this stuff. And influencer marketing really took off in China before anywhere else. It kind of reached that peak saturation and caused a degree of consumer fatigue and pushback. And now the bubble has burst a little bit, though it is still very bubbly out there. But what we're seeing now is, as you said, a much more kind of a space that is much more driven by authenticity, or rather authenticity is much more rewarded, let's put it that way. And it's not to say that those crazy live streams don't exist where it's clear that a brand has just paid for access and promotion, of course. And I think that will continue to play a very important and large and perhaps oversized role in the general space. But certainly for those kind of emerging direct consumer brands as those niche alt like future category leaders, it's got to be about that authenticity. That's how you differentiate, that's how you carve out space in a very competitive market by finding those kind of more collaborative, more authentic, more genuine relationships with gatekeepers, with tastemakers, who are plugged into a community and are respected within a community for, as I said before, the right reasons, I would argue. And by working with them. Not on a kind of flash in the pan basis where it's okay, just promote my product for X many days or for X many minutes on your live stream, but something that's a little bit longer term where you use them, could be within product development. It could be within the kind of crafting of your marketing messages. It could be selling through their distribution channels, which in China many influencers host their own stores. By doing that and building those things over an extended period of time with the right people, it's a far more cost effective way of building brands these days and is a world away from that kind of advertising model that kind of really drove the first wave of e-commerce in China and around the world.
Paul: That's fascinating. And if you're looking at the way that a brand works with these influencers, these key opinion consumers, these advocates, as you say, are they involved in collaborating on products? Are they doing various different involvements with the brand on an earlier stage? How are Chinese brands managing that, particularly because presumably they have to be working with considerably more than just one super influencer who's going to do a live stream? Is this a whole different approach that the brands have to be operating in? Do they have different teams? Have their kind of the way that the brand structures have been structured, has that changed? I'd love to know where we're heading. If this is the way, if China is just further ahead of the curve, and I don't know if you've ever seen that. Gartner hype cycle, which has the very steep Hype cycle into it, then it reaches its height and then it drops massively and then it gradually climbs back up again. If we are at the bottom of it in the west, and China has passed through the bottom of it to the kind of like the normalization phase of it, then the plateau of productivity or whatever it is gartner call it, what is in store for brands if we are in the same direction as China.
Adam: Yeah. Well, I'll give you another example. I'll give you a business case study. I swear to God, this should be in like they should teach this in Harvard Business School. It's the case of a Chinese company called Ruhan or Rune, I think their English name is. And it's a great example of kind of vertical integration within this creator economy. So this is a business that I think they started as like an influencer management agency, kind of what we call in the Chinese kind of an MCN, right? A multichannel network. They manage a whole range of different influencers. They act as the agent, they negotiate with brands, they sell advertising slots, et cetera, et cetera. I think that's how they started. And then from there they've then added on different pieces of the puzzle. So if you look at their kind of proverbial kind of office block or what have you on the top floor, you've got the influencers sat in. I've seen videos. It's literally just like cubicle after cubicle after cubicle down a corridor of live streamers, each with 30 different mobile phones, all live streaming at the same time with these huge ring lights in front of them. It's quite dystopian in some ways, but fascinating in others. So you've got that on the top floor kind of live streams going off constantly. Let's say a floor below that you've got all of the kind of strategists and analysts and data scientists and everything else crunching all the numbers as they come in. That's then being fed almost in real time down to a floor below where you've got product developers, product designers rather, and everything else kind of working up new lines, new colors, new iterations, new SKUs of all the products that are being sold through floors up by the live streamers that's then being manufactured. And then down in the basement you've got all of the logistics and the fulfillment. And so what some of these live streams are doing, they're essentially a B testing. Do people like this red T-shirt or do they like this blue T-shirt? And then that stuff is being depending on the sell through rate, is then being mocked up, designed, sold out, manufactured, and then shipped in the floors below that. And you get this one company that has this incredibly powerful engine and we started to see this kind of model being exported. Look at companies like Xian, right? It's a Chinese company fashion label, the kind of epitome of everything that's wrong in fast fashion world. But that's a whole separate debate, who have started to take this very socially driven model of e-commerce and export it around the world, and they're now giving H&M, Zara, Primark a new look, giving them a real run. For their money in terms of not only the kind of not only cost, obviously, but also design and being very responsive to social media trends and everything else. And like I said, that's a Chinese company that doesn't actually retail in China, but retails in many European countries now, and it's starting to look quite interesting. So, yeah, I mean, in terms of where we're going, it's got to be something like that. A Western business that can nail that kind of combination of marketing, content creation, with data analytics, with product development, with manufacturing, with logistics and fulfillment. Sign me up.
Paul: Yeah. And probably easier as well in the west, because you don't have the walled gardened, platform based things you can set, like Instagram will tip up. Most of those are being directed to the brand, and so it's probably going to be even easier for the Western brands to be able to actually take control of it. This is fascinating. I think that we are coming up on time. One of the things that I was keen to do, Adam, is to really get a blow by blow on the how brands can launch in China. And I think if that's something that people are interested in, please ping us or comment on that or get in touch saying that would be something you like to do. We can go a really granular interview, maybe another time, but for now, I'm kind of conscious of your time on this. I wanted to know just a little bit, just but before we kind of sign off, though, just like a final parting question. In terms of what are the biggest learnings that brands need to take on board that brands in China should have. So on two sides. One, the learning that every brand in the UK should know that has been fully learned by China. And the second one is what is the biggest pitfall that brands should be aware about if they're thinking about going into China.
Adam: Yeah. So, as you can imagine, I can talk for a very long time about all of this, but I'll keep it short and sweet. I often answer this by talking about the four C's. It's a little glib, a little bit silly, but I think it helps to kind of frame some of the challenges that businesses face when they're getting out to the market. And kind of what you need to keep in mind when thinking about a market entry. And the four C's in my mind are culture, compliance, competition and cost. If I try and create typologies of all of the brand failures that we've seen in China over the years, they typically fall into at least one of these different categories. So culture is the first one, right? Chinese consumers are becoming increasingly I would call it culturally confident. Some people would call it nationalistic, whatever. We've seen a whole bunch of brands that have fallen foul of this. They've essentially found themselves canceled in recent years. If you Google Dolce and Gabbana China, if you Google H&M China, you'll find very, very scary case studies of what can happen when you fall foul of what is quite a sensitive consumer space. And in the interest of time, I'm not going to go over why consumers have become more culturally confident. But the point is that it's no longer enough to just rock up as a foreign brand. Slap a Union Jack on the side of a box or a star in stripes or a tree color or whatever, and expect that people will just want to buy your product purely because you're a foreign brand. That might have been the case ten years ago, certainly not now. And actually what you need to do is develop kind of very localized communication strategies that remain sensitive to these kind of emerging social norms, but also kind of essentially just meet the consumer on their own terms. That's the first C. The second one is compliance. The retail space in China is highly, highly regulated. So whether it's IP, product testing, taxation, data protection, brands pay a very high price for not playing ball. And again, so many brands that have fallen foul of this IP is the classic issue. But China again, this is a topic for another podcast. China is light years ahead, actually, in many ways, in terms of consumer protection and data protection. You might not expect that, given what we all think about China, but actually, Chinese privacy laws and everything else are far more advanced than GDPR in many ways. And again, making sure that you're not doing something stupid is really key. The third C is competition. It's a big market, but you're not the first brand to think that maybe I can go and make a quick buck out there. It's a very, very saturated, very, very competitive space. It's not just international and global brands out there, but increasingly it's domestic brands. A few years ago, Chinese brands might have only really been competing on price. These days, they're not only competing on price, but on quality as well. And because of that increased cultural confidence that I mentioned a second ago, there's actually a whole trend for made in China and a positive spin on products that have been designed and manufactured in the country and are being sold by Chinese brands. There's a Chinese word for it. It's called guacao, means national trend or national wave. And it's essentially kind of an increased interest and preference even for local motifs, local designs, local ingredients, local materials, et cetera, et cetera. So you're not only competing with your typical competitor set on an international basis. But you're also competing with very, very smart domestic brands who are often funded to the teeth and are, frankly, a lot closer to their end. Consumers who are able to adapt much more quickly. And then the final C is the big one, which is because of everything that I've just talked about, it's a very expensive place to do business. Very high operating costs, significant amount of investment needed in things like brand building, marketing, compliance, everything else. And frankly, as I said before, this kind of boxes out a lot of brands. The barriers to entry are just simply too high. And again, not wanting to slip into sales pitch mode, this is what we're trying to do. So we're trying to find those brands that should, by every right, be doing well in the Chinese space. They've got the right product and everything else, but because of these forces, they're frankly, just not able to make a success of a market entry. And so for us, it's about finding them, putting our money on the table, investing alongside those brands, and ultimately entering and scaling them into the market in a profitable way.
Paul: Adam, what a wonderful way to close things out. This has been truly fascinating for me. I really appreciate you making time for this, and I hope everyone finds this as informative and exciting, I think, as I do. Thank you so much.
Adam: Thank you, Paul. And great to be on here.
We can't wait to meet you.