Top10 China aims to promote the most energy efficient products to Chinese consumers, but the group needs a better brand and greater recognition before it can succeed.
Let’s imagine that you have an international organization dedicated to changing attitudes of energy consumers. This is a big task for any organization, but especially one dedicated to mass behavioral change. How do you make sure everyday citizens notice AND remember you?
Monday, earlier this week, I attended the ”Top10 China Network- Develop Your Business Through Energy Efficiency” event, in which the event’s hosts talked about the importance of sustainability and increasing energy efficiency in our daily lives. The organizers believed that through the Top10 group, consumers in China will begin to understand and consciously consume energy-saving products. As a result, the organization Top10 China has adopted the characters “节能上品“ or “energy-saving products” in their logo for the Chinese audience. However, their logo leaves much to be interpreted as I kept on asking myself what products are they promoting and what does “Top10″ actually mean?
From my understanding, Top10 is an organization that was started in Switzerland (now expanded throughout EU, USA, and China) to provide consumers with non-biased information on the top energy efficient products on the market (From the Top10 China website, this means home appliances, cars, light bulbs, etc). Their goal is to be transparent, while helping consumers choose products that are better for their pockets as well as for the environment. They also believe they are essentially providing free advertising for manufacturers and retailers in the near future, offering these entities an incentive to innovate and provide only the most energy efficient technology for their informed readers.
Concerns and Criticisms
For most of the event, I struggled in understanding how Top10 was going to have a significant impact in China. For instance, even though they are noble in their objective in bringing transparent data and easily accessible information to consumers, they did not seem to know what channels they going to use to expand their information and brand in China. Moreover, their funding primarily comes from the Swiss government disallowing them any sort of extra allowance to spend on cutting-edge energy efficiency tests or expanding their marketing team. Their powers are limited, and they seemingly function as an extra appendage of the Swiss government in China.
However, there’s a wildcard in all of this: it’s possible that Top10 is so networked and has so much “guanxi” that it frankly doesn’t matter what their strategy is as their affiliated organizations will be doing most of the work for them.
Top 10 China’s Sponsors: Swiss Embassy, WWF, and SwissCham
In Top10 group’s home operations in Switzerland, guest speaker Christian Ruttimann of Euro Group Far East Ltd., suggests that they have worked their way into the everyday lives of consumers. By placing their logo alongside Swiss energy efficient logos on household appliances in advertisements, magazines, and stores the Top10 group has been able to impact consumer decisions. Perhaps suggesting that China should also follow suit.
No Signs of TopTen.ch on the Homepage of Swiss Electronics Vender- InterDiscount
However, as a graduate from a Swiss university, myself and a Swiss friend discussed among ourselves that we have never actually seen the Top10 brand in stores like COOP or InterDiscount (equivalent to Target in the U.S.A.). What was more astonishing was when I questioned Christian Ruttimann about the extent of Top10′s exposure in Switzerland, and he admitted that the impact was minimal and much more needs to be done for Top10 to be fully recognized by consumers.
Five Ways to Improve Top10 China
Bringing energy efficient products to the attention of Chinese consumers is needed, however, I should also point out that I am not alone in sharing these views. In discussing with participants at the event, I noticed that many were asking the same questions and shared the same concerns I had for the success of Top10 in the future.
Below is a compiled list of 5 strategies that Top10 needs to follow in order to succeed in China:
1) Improve Brand Image and Association to Energy Efficiency
2) Leverage Current Relationships to Expand Audience Recognition (as suggested by Taobao’s Senior Brand Marketer- Jing Shengyao)
3) Develop Partnerships with China Mobile/China Unicom (as suggested by WWF’s Country Director- Jim Grandoville)
4) Engage with More Stakeholders to Adapt Quickly to Changes in China’s Market Economy (i.e. policymakers, companies, consumers)
5) Build Top10′s Presence in the Lifestyle of the Younger Generation through Sino Weibo/RenRen/etc. (as suggested by WWF’s Country Director- Jim Grandoville)
In writing this piece, I have considered whether I am being too critical of an organization that just started its operations in China last year. However, from what I saw at the event- top notch event, top notch sponsors, top notch audience- I simply expected more. And that is what we should be doing with organizations that promote a greater good- hold them to a higher standard so that they are better equipped to achieve their goals.
Click here for Top10 China’s website.
Click here for more information on the Top10 China Network Event.
Click here for more information on China’s Cautious Expansion of Nuclear Energy.
Click here for more information on what China Needs to Do to Market Electric Vehicles.