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Skimmer's Guide: What Chinese Want

The new book by Tom Doctoroff, the CEO of ad agency J. Walter Thompson's China offices, explores the tantalizing-but-complex market.
What Chinese Want, tom Doctoroff

Kelly Kollar

The book: What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism & the Modern Chinese Consumer, by Tom Doctoroff; Palgrave Macmillan.

The big idea: Chinese consumers represent a tantalizing but complex market. Marketers must resolve the Confucian tension between the population's ambition and conformism by helping consumers simultaneously stand out and fit in.

The backstory: Doctoroff, the CEO of ad agency J. Walter Thompson's China offices, has lived in Asia almost two decades, working with brands such as De Beers and Lenovo.

When in China: Doctoroff sprinkles his marketing advice and observations with suggestions for companies setting up shop. (Promote good workers at least every 18 months. Consult a feng-shui master before relocating. Be prepared to speak at a lot of funerals.)

If you read nothing else: Part One, "The Chinese Worldview," lays out a complicated commercial landscape. It's a place where consumers require quality only in products that are visible to others, an obsession with stability makes breakthroughs difficult, and marketing is the undernourished younger brother of sales.

Rigor rating: 9 (1=Who Moved My Cheese?; 10=Good to Great). What Chinese Want is generous with facts and figures but draws greater strength from the author's insights and experiences. His description of a visit to the Shanghai Zoo is more revealing of the Chinese consumer than is an exhaustive compilation of demographic data.

Last updated: May 3, 2012

LEIGH BUCHANAN | Staff Writer | Editor-at-large, Inc. Magazine

Leigh Buchanan is an editor-at-large for Inc. magazine. A former editor at Harvard Business Review and founding editor of WebMaster magazine, she writes regular columns on leadership and workplace culture.

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