For Wang, in China, a key concept for moving forward is 人情. It will be understood differently depending on the context (feeling, relationship, human feeling). In his environment, the development of a brand in China, this word meant for him the feeling, the feeling to be aroused in the other to get along well and go further. Below is the presentation of the colourful character and the story of a training session between two cups of tea that I attended in 2017.
The rise of Wang
Wang, in the initial phase of the conversation, ejects words and phrases with punctuation of laughter and smiles without giving you a break. With a bite of crab, he will calm down and let his interlocutor take over. No coke or coffee to turn him on, his drugs are money, success and fame. Exhilarated by success, short on legs and with a broad chest, he has been waving his 161 cm and his limbs for more than a decade in a large distributor in southern China. While he was trying to place an insurance policy on a newly rich entrepreneur who was trying to expand a franchise network throughout China, he was recruited as early as 2005 by this boss who absolutely needed a marketing manager. A marketing manager with a very specific definition of China. The business barely reached 50 million yuan (7 million dollars) in turnover, a decade later, the 500 million are exceeded. Of course, he has contributed greatly to this rise in the country’s measure. Its monthly income, which was around 2,000 dollar, has been multiplied by 15 officially and with the grey zone at least by 30.
On this morning of November 2013, the temperature flirts around 10 in the province of Canton. At 9:30 am, he welcomes a young recruit at the head office who, he hopes, will be able to assist him efficiently. Like any newcomer, she sits on the couch with measure and a concentrated gaze. She has already rolled her hump somewhat in this world of chiaroscuro distribution without touching the upper layers of the managers-cashers too much. She knows her basics, but Ling Ling hasn’t yet evolved into the subtle and unspoken arrangements between friends. Many Chinese brands like to employ a man and a woman to spawn with friends, who will not be insensitive to the charms of the opposite sex.
The weight of department stores
Most of the high-end distribution is done in department stores which can sometimes make rain and shine on your sales by giving you a place, if possible a good place, showing the most important customers, VIPs, the way to your store, directing shopping cards to your brand, and the opposite too, if your brand is not powerful enough and especially if you do not arrange with the right friends. Wang, in front of the alert eyes of the young woman, launches into a succinct explanation of a crucial point.
The three words
“In China, with the levers of power, be it from various governments or department stores to get what you want, there are three words to keep in mind: sentiment, relationships and money. Listen carefully and remember what I’m about to tell you, that’s the basics.
First word: 人情, feeling. The current must pass with the person in the department store, whether he or she is the CEO or simply responsible for the brands. They need to “feel” you well to consider a relationship with you, they know they can trust you to share a few secrets. While everyone knows that in certain key positions everyone is affected, you have to remain discreet to avoid waves and possible complications.
Second term: 关系, Relationship. From the moment the first light turns green, a relationship can be established and built. But you can’t take anything for granted, you’ll have to nurture it with some attention. Signs of attention, small gifts, a visit before the New Year with a small envelope or a shopping card at a party.
Third word: 钱, Money. When the first two conditions are met, you can address the issue of sharing the money. Of course, the stronger your brand, the less you give. And even if they really need you, they’ll come looking for you, and conversely, they can contribute to some expenses. This is sometimes the case for big foreign brands. We, as a Chinese brand, go to the cash register and follow the laws of the game, much less so in recent years. Second mode of distribution: the key person in the department store has a relative or a trusted person, who has an outside company and who will be the manager, 托管商. In theory, he will take care of the management of the store, which will allow him to receive a 7% commission.
One, two, three, feeling, relationship, money, 人情，关系，钱, it’s simple, right?
This afternoon, when I was updating this paper written in 2018, I came across this relevant note by Lu Xuefei, which goes in the same direction.
May 19, 2020