MBA Students from Professor Scott Galloway’s “Brand Strategy” Class Travel to Shanghai
— November 18, 2011
This article, written by MBA students Keren Mizrahi, Johanna Pesso, and Ari Wolfe, originally appeared in The Stern Opportunity. Visit SternOpportunity.com for more coverage.
Sitting on a plane throughout the 14-hour flight back from China, we kept asking each other, "Did this really happen?"
Nine days earlier, we had been presented with the opportunity to fly to Shanghai to represent Professor Scott Galloway's "Brand Strategy" class, the L2 Think Tank and NYU Stern at the inaugural "L2 Clinic: The Social Graph China." The following 72 hours were a blur of activity as we located our passports, booked flights, secured Chinese visas and along with two of our other classmates, Asha Shivaji and Dorottya Lovy-Csegezi, headed off to the Paris of the East.
After studying the emerging Chinese luxury market throughout the semester, it was fascinating to hear experts discuss the growing, important yet increasingly fragmented state of social media marketing in China. Sitting in an audience filled with brand representatives (Estée Lauder, L'Oréal, Calvin Klein), social media practitioners (Chinese Internet portal Tencent and e-commerce website 360Buy) and fellow MBA students from CEIBS, we learned how brands are leveraging the different social media platforms in China to increase brand awareness and engagement and improve their bottom lines. We also heard from Professor Galloway and L2 Director of Research Maureen Mullen, who shared their rankings of the digital competence of 100 prestige brands in China.
One of the more interesting takeaways of the conference was while brands in the US interact mainly on Facebook, Twitter and YouTube, brands in China have to choose from dozens of different platforms, including Sina Weibo, Renren and Youku. Because Chinese luxury consumers are more digitally native than their US counterparts, Western brands need to acknowledge these differences in order to compete effectively.
After the conference, we took steps toward understanding the core of Chinese culture – the food! We made it our business to eat food from as many regions of the country as we could in two days. We experienced the cuisines of five regions – spicy Hunan food, Xinjiang food influenced by Central Asia, Cantonese noodles, "you tiao," fried dough from Shanghai, and Sichuan hot pot – and only barely scratched the surface of what China's diverse regions have to offer.
Another highlight of the trip was simply wandering around the streets of Shanghai and seeing how much culture and history the city exudes. We had lunch on the 91st floor of the Shanghai World Financial Center – one of the tallest buildings in the world, with a great view of the contradictory Shanghai architecture exploding throughout the recently-developed Pudong district. We battled hoards of tourists at the Yuyuan Gardens and the Jade Buddha Temple, experiencing the beauty of more traditional Chinese construction. We wandered the streets of the French Concession, feeling alternately in China and in the winding streets and alleys of Venice. And we got a drink at M1NT, a club full of ex-pats and the Chinese Nuevo Riche, featuring its very own 50-foot shark tank in the hallway.
China is a country of contrasts and Shanghai clearly exemplifies this. The stark disparity that exists between the old and the new is not something we normally experience in the US. As demonstrated through its economy, architecture, languages, food and social media landscape, China is a vastly diverse and rapidly evolving country that has much to offer for both tourism and business. Having the chance to experience this culture first-hand was an incredible learning opportunity that we will not soon forget, and we will certainly carry the lessons of what it is like to "do business in" a different environment throughout our future travels.