Interviewing Entrepreneurs in China: A practical guide to finding a niche in the Chinese service market with the help of a branding agency specializing in F&B

China Paradigms interviewed Ben Weldon, a creative branding expert, to learn how to create immersive brand experiences in China, develop a brand strategy for SME in China, and find a niche in the Chinese service market.

Ben Weldon, a brand based creative entrepreneur

Ben specializes in graphic design, creative branding, and brand experience. After graduated from Buckinghamshire New University with a degree in graphic design, Ben joined GURUS to help clients with their website design. That experience, to some extent, has built the foundation for his future endeavors in creative branding. In 2006, Ben co-founded Thread Design, a branding agency specializing in F&B.

creative brand strategy in China
[Source: the portrait of Ben’s Linkedin page, “to develop a creative brand strategy in China”]

Joined the Entrepreneurs’ Organization in 2015, Ben is proud of being a part of entrepreneurs in Shanghai. He explained the difference between making creative business in China and in western countries: Chinese branding agencies are more willing to share ideas, “There are sort of founder-led branding agencies and we all chat and meet up for drinks;” whereas, in London where he used to work, “everyone is keeping their cards very close to their chest.”

Thread Design, a branding agency specializing in F&B

Ben co-founded Thread Design with Louise Lai in 2006. Because of Louise’s background in hotel and F&B, Thread mainly serves the companies in the F&B industry. Many branding agencies’ turnover relies heavily on the number of projects, Thread also faced such circumstances when they have gone through ups and downs in the early years. However, with their professional branding services, Thread is currently running a stable and creative business in the Chinese market.

branding agency specializing in F&B
[Source: the icon of Thread Design, “a branding agency specializing in F&B”]

Thread is devoted to helping clients to create immersive brand experiences in China; they not only provide foreign companies with a feasible brand strategy to enter the Chinese market but also help long-established Chinese local companies to refine their brand experience.

Win attention!  Find a niche in the Chinese services market

According to Ben’s illustration, specialization is what will allow you to stand out from the crowd and make your business famous:

“Branding is all about being memorable for something and having a niche.”

For Thread, to find a niche in the Chinese services market is their key to building client relationships:

“If you just do app development or WeChat management, you don’t own the client relationships. So being a specialist in food and beverage allows us to work directly with the clients rather than being partnered with bigger companies. ”

There are two examples discussed most in the interview: one is Aldi entering the Chinese market. Thread helped them with digital menu and interior design in offline stores. The other case is Yonghe Dawang, it is a Chinese fast-food restaurant, Thread provided services including promotional cup designs, takeaway package design, and digital menu for them. Apparently, they have more advantages in providing F&B-related immersive brand experiences in China, compared with other random branding agencies.

Brand strategy for Small and medium enterprises (SME) in China, participate in a larger picture

Most clients of Thread are SME in China, it is definitely different to provide a brand strategy for SME in China, compared with doing that for large and mature companies that already hold significant market share.

“With a very large company, you may just be working on the branding process for maybe a single product or a single initiative. With these global Fortune 500 companies, you’re doing the same process but it tends to be on a smaller piece. You’re generally not doing their entire brand strategy.”

Large companies have a big budget to develop a brand strategy, therefore, they usually ask brand agencies to pitch a strategy, which is unlikely to achieve for small-scale agencies like Thread. It is partly the reason more SME come to Thread for a local branding strategy because SME understands the strategies without a pitch stage and they trust Thread’s creativity in immersive brand experiences in China. A pitch stage is generally adopted by large agencies where they will spend lots of time and money creating a prototype for clients. Working with SME clients means that there is an opportunity for brand agencies to participate in the entire brand architecture, rather than just being involved in a small piece in serving large companies. SME clients will have you in the whole process of brand strategy and execution. Brand strategy for SME in China will help the enterprises clarify their brand definition, brand voice, and the future trend:

“After working with a branding agency, you should come away pretty clear on who you are, what you’re going to look like, what you’re going to say and who you’re going to say it to. ”


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