Is creativity the secret to brand success in China?

MetaDesign group creative director Sally Anderson shares her insights from a decade of working in China, including why so many big brands try and fail to crack the Chinese market

As the world’s fastest growing consumer market, establishing a foothold in China is the holy grail for many global brands. But for every business that has found success, there are countless other examples of established brands who have crashed and burned while attempting to crack the Chinese market, be it Google, Marks & Spencer or Uber.

As group creative director of MetaDesign, one of Beijing’s only global design consultancies, Sally Anderson knows a thing or two about how to ensure brand success in China. Originally from Australia, she moved to Beijing in 2013 following seven years at FutureBrand’s offices in both Melbourne and Sydney. “When I wanted to come to China, it was because I could see the brands of the future, or more creative potential to be able to shape them here because they were newer. If I went to more established markets like New York or London, I wasn’t expecting that some of the powerhouse brands would be there at such a volume as they are here,” Anderson tells CR.

Top and above: One of the MetaDesign’s longest standing clients is Volkswagen

After a brief stint at Brand Union Beijing, Anderson was introduced to MetaDesign by the branding agency’s Italian-born managing director Mauro Marescialli. Founded in 1979 in Berlin, today the agency has offices across Germany, Switzerland, US and China, and is known for its work with global brands including Lacoste, E.on and Volkswagen. “On my arrival to the company, Volkswagen was our main client,” says Anderson. “We were looking primarily at helping international brands localise for China, and we spent the first several years doing that. Now our main clients are beyond Volkswagen but still automotive and still technology heavy, which are the primary businesses here in Beijing.”