Huawei’s international and domestic success is one of the biggest demonstrations of the speed of development in China. Having only launched its first Android smartphones in 2009, it is now the world’s third-largest producer, with the scale to take on Apple and Samsung.
The public face for much of that extraordinary success has been Glory Zhang, who heads up marketing for the company’s global consumer business.
She was the company’s first spokesperson, establishing its public relations team. As marketing director for the company’s Honor value brand, she helped it sell 20m smartphones across 57 markets in 2014.
Huawei, however, is not happy to remain a value choice and is now making the move to premium. It was the only Chinese brand in Forbes Most Valuable Brands of 2017, with a value of $7.3bn, up 9% year on year, with strong placings on other brand valuation rankings too.
From a brand perspective, we have a beautiful story in terms of the company and the culture that needs to be told to the western world
That’s reflected in the success of its mid- to high-end products – the most recent premium handset, the Mate 10, was launched in Germany in 2017, with the ability to use AI to take better photographs than many of its competitors. Huawei shipments of smartphones have been on an upward curve for many years, hitting 139m in 2016.
Central to the ongoing success of the company is the need to boost awareness and familiarity in order to gain a place on the consumer consideration list. Speaking at the 2017 Cannes Lions, Zhang revealed that the company is preparing to address that challenge by telling its story aggressively in the West "We want to let more people know us and know us in a better way," she said.
Part of that story is the company’s unique structure – its employee ownership and rotating chief executives. "From a brand perspective, we have a beautiful story in terms of the company and the culture that needs to be told to the western world," she said. "We have a culture that celebrates the collective wisdom of the company and our employees."
This journey to global brand is one that it has already made in its home market. When Zhang first started working there, her mother needed to be reassured that she was working for a "real company". Its roots in the business-to-business side of the telecoms infrastructure – relationships that have helped supercharge its consumer business – means that its profile was necessarily low. The success of its smartphones means that era is over.
United in the digital world
Zhang and her teams have hired brand ambassadors, actor Scarlett Johansson and footballer Lionel Messi. Out of home expenditure has been heavy in Europe where the brand has taken the number two position in markets such as Finland, Italy, Poland and Spain.
Other efforts include a partnership with the UK’s Saatchi Gallery to examine the continuing rise of the selfie from Van Gogh and Rembrandt to today’s phone-taken images.
Zhang believes that there is more that unites us in the digital world and that is what will give Huawei, which has invested heavily in artificial intelligence, a further advantage as 4G and 5G networks launch and expand.
Speaking at Cannes, she revealed her belief that the distinction between east and west is increasingly redundant in the digital age. "As we move from physical world to the digital world, it’s not divided between eastern and western." She said. "A lot of people want to live in that pure digital world – human beings are ushering in a new era. We can play a role in driving in that new era."
The other nominees for the WFA's Global Marketer of the Year, in association with Campaign, are:
- Marc Pritchard, chief brand officer, Procter & Gamble
- Raja Rajamannar, chief marketing & communications officer and president – healthcare business, Mastercard
- Hans-Christian Schwingen, chief marketing officer, Deutsche Telekom
- Jane Wakely, chief marketing officer, Mars, global petcare
- Keith Weed, chief marketing & communications officer, Unilever