Q&A: Chinese car brand Great Wall’s marketing manager on launching in the UK

Ryan Young, Marketing manager for Great Wall, talks about expanding the Chinese car brand into the UK.

ryan young Great Wall

Marketing Week (MW): Great Wall is a major car brand in China. How did you manage its launch in the UK this year?

Ryan Young (RY): I work for IM Group, which is the importer for Great Wall in the UK. It works directly with the company in China. We’ve been building a sales network of more than 50 dealerships in the UK by leveraging the global nature of Great Wall.

We started with the Steed, which is a pick-up model. That was the first car from a Chinese manufacturer to launch in the UK. The launch was in the spring and we began selling in April.

MW: Why did Great Wall decide to launch in the UK?

RY: The company is hugely ambitious in terms of both its product plan and global vision. It’s aware of its domestic market potential and while it’s doing very well there, it’s also aware there is a ceiling to that domestic demand. It’s more focused on export and is much more global-thinking than many of its domestic rivals. While the automotive industry generally is growing quite slowly, Great Wall has grown by 30 per cent this year.

MW: Is Great Wall planning to roll out more models in the UK soon?

RY: Great Wall has developed a range of products, some of which are solely for export to markets like Europe and the UK. It definitely has massive plans to launch several models in the UK in the next few years.

We’re looking to launch an SUV in the UK in the second half of 2013. That will be an exciting challenge because it’s a much larger market and whereas the pick-up is for the commercial market, the SUV is for the passenger car market.

MW: How much of Great Wall’s UK strategy is dictated from China?

RY: We have brand guidelines from China but the Chinese have been very good in allowing us to leverage what we do best. In the Chinese market, the demand is much greater than the supplies so in terms of marketing it doesn’t have to venture out as much as we do here.

It has been quite happy for us to take the lead in our market and relay things back to them. The communication works both ways as we hear things from the factory that we need to know about: awards for the company that we can leverage here and so on. We push back to them some of the marketing we’re doing and the different communication methods we’re employing and they love what we’re doing. The UK is one of the most advanced automotive markets in the world so they can learn a lot from us as well.

MW: What marketing strategies have you employed in the UK so far?

RY: We do a lot of below-the-line marketing and have chosen to be very targeted given that it’s the pick-up market. There are some very defined sectors in the pick-up market so we’re well aware of who the audience is and where they are. We’ve done a lot of events and shows that target agricultural and rural pursuits and our press activity has targeted those areas too. It’s been a journey of learning – we wanted to be as targeted as possible and apply those learnings before we launched large-scale TV campaigns or things like that.

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