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Huawei Baltics: How to Create Quality Content at Reasonable Cost?

Interview with Dasha Karpilovich, Head Of Marketing at Huawei Consumer Business Group (Baltics). Dasha is the jury member at Balticbest 2019 award competition.

Comparing the three Baltic states, what are the differences in consumer behaviour?

On a broad scale, we are very similar, but there are slight differences from country to country that I have noticed during my years at Huawei. The easiest market for traditional marketing clearly is Lithuania, at least in our sector. For some reason even the most basic promotions still work and bring results. Estonia seems to be more influenced by the Nordics and a clear indicator is the way Estonians perceive brands. They expect clear values, honest communication and most importantly – an ability to live up to the promises or values the brand has put out there. This is, in fact, a global trend, but is felt stronger in Estonia. I’m sure it will be more visible in other Baltic countries in the nearest future. All in all, the Baltic consumer is still a human being influenced by the four P-s (product, price, place, promotion) and it’s not something that can disrupted at this point.

Does this mean you have to adapt your communication according to the country or are you able to implement the same strategy across the whole region?

Paradoxically, the biggest differences are also the biggest similarities across the three states. Every market expects the brand to become local, meaning we cannot use the same visuals nor the same messages anymore. People are looking for familiar faces: local influencers and opinion leaders (especially in PR and social media). It’s a global trend which we cannot ignore.

The combined population of the region is rather small in comparison with other markets. Creating localised campaigns with separate creative lines for every country would skyrocket the costs. Explaining the need for separate campaigns to the headquarters is obviously very tricky, because they see us as equal to unison markets like Sweden or Poland.

Therefore, we must find a balance between global-local and allocate channels that are more flexible for a local approach. This is where PR and social media comes to play. Adapting traditional media would be too expensive at this point.

What is the situation with agency partners? Are you working with a separate agency in each country?

This is yet another big operational challenge for us at the moment. I would prefer to have a local agency in every country, as this provides us with the highest quality of work and a personalised approach. Sadly, the operational cost would be too high, hence, we are working with a head agency either in Latvia or Lithuania (bigger markets) who in turn outsource tasks to other partner agencies. We are already working with 3-4 agencies per country, localising our operations equals to working with 9-12 agencies in total.

Many agencies claim they can deliver quality pan-Baltic campaigns. Would you disagree?

Depends on the agency, but so far, I have only seen media agencies live up to that promise. The situation is different with PR and social media agencies. I have personally witnessed cases where the head agency can be very strong but supporting agencies are not always reliable nor can deliver the quality we would expect. It’s also quite painful to disrupt old ties, hence, it is what it is.

Moreover, the level of quality coming from the same group can radically vary from country to country. If you find a very strong agency in Estonia, there is no guarantee they are as good in Latvia, and vice versa.

I think it just takes time. The majority of agencies are still relying on local clients and are not trained to do pan-Baltic campaigns. We only have a handful of big international clients to begin with. The agency market has not yet adapted. With new global companies entering the market, agencies will start looking for new partners in order to deliver good pan-Baltic strategies.

What is your view on PR? Is it easy to get your content published?

During the past years PR has been severely disrupted. It used to be quite easy to get a decent piece of content out there. That is not the case anymore. Publishers are tired of the same sugar-coated press releases that are flooding their inboxes in obscene quantities. Huawei is currently changing its PR strategy by trying to identify publishers’ needs and interests. The media is looking for a personalised approach, exclusive content and out-of-the-box activities. However, producing exclusive content for 10 outlets in one country can be rather tricky. At the same time, we still need to maintain the same amount of visibility. I don’t have all the answers for you yet, but we are working on it.

What’s your take on paid content?

Personally, I rarely read paid content due to the fact that it is less objective. However, on a professional level, it seems that a good piece of paid content can showcase almost as high CTR as regular news. If the content is good – people don’t care if it’s sponsored as long as you provide valuable information. I wouldn’t focus on content marketing alone, but it’s definitely a good tool in your marketing mix.

Which challenge is giving you sleepless nights?

We talked about this in the beginning. How to produce localised marketing communication whilst keeping the costs down? Whatever the bigger markets do - we need to do times three and the investment level should not exceed the likes of Sweden or Poland. Bear in mind we are working in three if not four different languages. We simply have to cut down the amount of activities or localisation in order to save money. The pressure to deliver localised campaigns is huge and yet, so difficult to do in such small countries.

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