Glogou helps US companies build brands in China

Updated: 2013-05-17 11:40

By Yu Wei in San Francisco (China Daily)

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 Glogou helps US companies build brands in China

Iris Huang (second from right), director of global marketing at Glogou, with her team at the company's Silicon Valley headquarters. Provided to China Daily

Baidu is the dominant search engine in China. But for any non-Chinese business pining to capture a smidgeon of the Middle Kingdom market, there is a massive obstacle: The search giant's ad management system is only available in Chinese.

Leave it to a group of mostly Chinese engineers based in the Silicon Valley to find a seemingly obvious solution to an obvious challenge.

Glogou, established in 2007 and based in Santa Clara, California, is a startup providing digital and mobile marketing ad solutions for mostly American companies trying to tap into one of the world's fastest-growing markets. It recently launched an interface allowing businesses to manage Baidu ad campaigns in English.

"Baidu dominates the online search market in China. If you are not searchable on Baidu, basically you are not visible on China's Internet," said Iris Huang, director of global marketing at Glogou. "What we do is to make sure a US company's website is included in Baidu's search results."

The company reportedly is the first overseas agent of Baidu, which attracts more than 400 million Internet users in China every day. Glogou also has offices in Boston, Beijing and Chengdu serving more than 65 clients, including IBM, Intel Corp and Marriott Hotels and Resorts as well as universities in the United States such as Columbia University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Though Glogou's client include a list of high-profile companies, Ben Lee, director of customer service at Glogou, said the focus is on small and medium-sized business in the US.

But having an English interface isn't the only obstacle US businesses face in China. They still have to know what sells and how to sell it in the country. Glogou offers a market research to see how viable client's products are and to find the most effective marketing channel to reach target audiences.

The company recently helped the University of California, Los Angeles, with its Empowered UCLA Extension program, which offers an online host of instructors, peers and counselors for students around the world. Huang said she and her team discovered that using social media would be a great platform for the program to build its brand in China.

"We helped them set up a Weibo and Youku page so Chinese students would get to know them through social media," she said.

Glogou also has a product called WAVE, or Web Accessibility and Visibility Evaluator. WAVE monitors whether a US business' website in China is effectively building a presence in China, if the site pops up on Chinese search engines and if there is social media chatter about the company.

"A lot of foreign company website cannot be seen or completely seen in China. We provide this real-time technology WAVE that can help monitor all this accessibility in China. We identify the problem and develop these technologies to help the companies to solve problems," she said.

Lee, the director of customer service at Glogou, said with the company's help, clients' "conversion rates" have improved.

"For instance, a company want to advertise on Baidu and spend $100," he explained. "If $100 brings one customer to the company, the conversion rate can be considered as 1 percent. With our help, a company often spends $100 and brings in an average of 2.5 customers."

Lee said the rise in conversion rates for Glogou's clients is mostly based on the company's knowledge of the country, the Chinese market and what Chinese customers are looking for. One simple example is the company's understanding of what Chinese home buyers want in the Los Angeles real estate market.

In order to sell property to a Chinese buyer, he said, the realtor must not only list a description of the property but give potential buyers information about the location and education environment in the area.

"We know many Chinese people buying property are doing it for their kids to attend US schools. This Chinese 'know-how' allows us know how to write ads for customers to immediately attract more targeted customers in China," he said.

Hobsons, an Ohio-based education solutions company, recently set up its own Weibo page with Glogou's help to promote its upcoming virtual student fair. Within three months, its Weibo account attracted more than 700 fans.

"Glogou and Hobsons partnered to step up social media efforts in China. Glogou seemed the right fit for us: small, agile and quick in understanding our needs," said Daniela Locreille, director of student marketing at Hobsons. "Glogou helped us brand our virtual event fast and accurately and they continue to provide results post-event though social media efforts and in Chinese."

Glogou currently has a total of 30 employees, most of whom are Chinese educated in the US. Huang said the company utilizes their Western and Eastern education and cultural knowledge to bridge the gap between US businesses and Chinese customers.

"Small and medium-sized enterprises in the US doing business in China face many challenges, from choosing the right partner to effectively planning media planning for social media platforms. Local knowledge of the Chinese culture is essential and technological solutions are a must. Glogou seems to offer exactly what is needed for American firms to operate and prosper in China," said Li Hairong, professor of department of advertising and public relations at Michigan State University.

"Most American advertisers need assistance to buy ads from Baidu and other Chinese ad platforms that operate only in Chinese. Glogou sounds like it fills an important need for these advertisers," said Benjamin Edelman, associate professor of business administartion at Harvard Business School.

Edelman said Glogou's products are important because they can also help Chinese advertisers.

"In a world where only Google offers multilingual ad management features, American advertisers will likely resort to buying only Google ads to reach Chinese users. That would reach only a small portion of the Chinese market. Services like Glogou can help incumbents gain more ads and more revenue, thereby increasing their ability to keep the Chinese search market competitive," Edelman said.

(China Daily 05/17/2013 page10)