Recently, it was reported that Google has threatened to end its operations in China if the government continues to censor search results. Summarizing the situation, Normandy Madden shows the beginnings, and possible endings of Google’s attempts to conquer the Chinese search space.
Google’s largest competitor in the country, Baidu, handles more than twice the search business, and remains strong. Madden points out that “Google has never been a big believer in traditional marketing anywhere, including China…”
On the other hand, “Baidu is an active advertiser in TV, out-of-home and digital media”. Other issues referenced include that Google’s strategic execution in China was poor, and that it was not seen as truly Chinese, in contrast to the competition.
Even in terms of branding, the Chinese had difficulty pronouncing and spelling the name. Several cultural factors, and even arrogance are listed as factors that diminished Google’s chances in China. Even so, Madden cites Kaiser Kuo as saying Google’s success was “nothing to sneeze at…. 80-plus million people.”
The conversation over what seemingly went wrong is important, but certainly, Google did not utterly fail in China. They are currently second place. Still, on the surface it does appear that the company could have garnered more market share, if correcting some of its blunders.
How much more is uncertain. “Why Google Wasn’t Winning” does outline briefly several problems and reasons Baidu is winning. However, it’s not clear whether the issues mentioned, in sum, equate to the difference between Google and Baidu.
Whatever the core reasons for Google’s potential departure from China, the distinctions between the two firms in the article are reason to pay close attention. As new American businesses enter the Chinese marketplace and indeed any culturally distinct market, understanding how local firms operate is essential. Being ready to compete requires this much at least.
More importantly, operating ethically and free from human rights concerns is imperative. What the government does in response to Google’s pleas for free speech will be key, and may determine whether we see the next leg of a competitive race, or simply an exit, stage left for the tech giant.
Madden, N. (2010, January 14). “Why Google wasn’t winning in China anyway.” Advertising Age. http://adage.com/article/digital/digital-marketing-google-winning-china/141493/