China Tycoon Reinforces Message By Singing – Could You Do This, Too?

21-Jan-2017 Intellasia | Forbes | 6:00 AM Print This Post

This week China’s richest man, Jianlin Wang, the chair of property and entertainment conglomerate Dalian Wanda Group, brought extra emphasis to his business message by… singing. The video of Wang singing the Chinese rock tune, “Nothing to my Name” has gone beyond viral, representatives of the company said, receiving more than 300 million views (and 8 million views via Facebook) so far.

Even the Wall Street Journal has covered it.

Okay, I have to admit that my first thought, when I heard about the video phenomenon, was a deja vu memory (in a bad way) of William Hung, the Hong Kong born American singer who went suddenly viral in 2004 after his comically terrible rendition on American Idol of “She Bangs.” Hung rapidly gained a cult following. He appeared on television shows across America, released several albums and sang at a Golden State Warriors halftime for 20,000 listeners. In 2011, he retired from music to become a technical crime analyst for the Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department, telling Time Magazine in 2012, “I showed that even the Average Joe could succeed,” and that he had no regrets.

For an executive to step out in public to do something uncharacteristic such as sing or dance or recite poetry is, by anybody’s estimations, a risk. (Queue HR warnings about the true story of a CEO who broke his ankle while attempting to breakdance at a holiday party event). Recently, Facebook founder Mark Zuckerberg tried his hand at informal acting in the highly produced Facebook video about home AI Assistant “Jarvis”. The results? Awkward. Perhaps it is not a coincidence (or a tragedy) that YouTube shows the video to have garnered only 26 views.

In contrast, Legos CEO Jorgen Vig Knudstorp was so delighted with company performance in 2015 he sang and danced for employees and visitors at the annual shareholders’ meeting to music from “The Lego Movie.” Attendees loved the performance. Social media loved it as well. Upon his retirement, Ning Gaoning, known for his 15 years at China’s largest food conglomerate Cofco Corp., marked his departure by writing and performing a poem. Other CEOs in China have performed musical renditions as well – The China Record has assembled a small collection here. For Wang and The Wanda Group, was his performance a brilliant marketing maneuver or a PR mistake?

In The Wanda Group’s case, the business message of his annual meeting was that the company, known for commercial real estate, successfully diversified in 2016 to a new and growing emphasis in entertainment, tourism and sports. The results were spectacular, with a total increase in assets of 21.4 percent.

In my opinion, Wang’s musical performance works for the following reasons:

The medium – musical performance – meshes well with the message of entertainment.

The company’s financial information was positive. So the performance and the attention highlighted the genuine mood of exultance, as opposed to being a glitzy way to divert attention from lackluster results.

The huge attention the video is receiving – coverage in WSJ, etc., in addition to views – is an effective means of spreading visibility beyond Asia to an international and global audience for the Wanda Group. Through the video’s acceptance he was able to “show” instead of “tell” the message of expanding exposure, which is increasing the power of the PR result.

The number was highly produced, showing that Wang and The Wanda Group took the opportunity seriously and prepared well, which reduced the possibility of mistakes and showed the company’s readiness for an international stage.

Wang’s only claim about his musical renditions is that it is a hobby for him; nothing more. Had he been boastful, he’d have increased the risk of detractors.

As marketers, it is always important to remember that a story or video that is purposely contrived to be a “viral hit” will generally flop. Whether Wang has “singing skills to match his business acumen” as the company’s press release stated is for listeners to decide. But as a PR move, the maneuver is a definite win.


Category: China

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