Chinese heavy equipment companies need more name recognition in US

Source:Xinhua Published: 2017/3/12 18:58:39

Brand barrier


China boasts some of the biggest makers of construction equipment in the world, but these names are barely heard of in the US. The country's heavy-industry heavyweights, Sany Heavy Industry Co, Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology Development Co and Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group Co have stuck to traditional marketing to get their names out, yet remain nearly unheard of across the Pacific Ocean. For its part, Sany has dived deep into social media marketing, hoping that it will be as successful for them as their American competitors.

A worker carries machine parts at a facility of Zoomlion in Changsha, Central China's Hunan Province in October 2016. Photo: IC



Chinese multinational construction equipment makers believe that their biggest obstacle to entering the US market is brand recognition, as they are not well-known in the country.

"I've never heard of them," said Barry Hubscher, 56, a distributor and seller of construction equipment in Chicago, the third largest city in the US.

When given the names like Sany, Zoomlion and Xuzhou Construction Machinery Group Co (XCMG), Hubscher drew a blank.

Sany Heavy Industry Co, Zoomlion Heavy Industry Science & Technology Development Co and XCMG are the top three Chinese manufacturers and rank among the top 10 global heavy equipment makers in the world. They have combined annual sales of some $20 billion.

"Cost and dependability are my two biggest concerns," Hubscher told Xinhua on Thursday, adding that services and financing were also important. "But if the margins are tight, I'm sticking with the American brand."

Branding could be the biggest obstacle facing Chinese companies in the highly competitive US market. So far, their marketing efforts have leaned toward a more traditional model to gain brand recognition.

"I don't think our industry relies on social media like other businesses," Sany America's Marketing Director Tim Rogers told Xinhua.

"The guy sitting in the cab might use Facebook, but other platforms like Twitter, Snapchat, and Instagram, are probably not in his wheelhouse," Rogers said.

Rogers was recruited by Sany in 2016 to beef up its social media marketing efforts that most American businesses employ daily.

A hybrid approach

Rogers' unique approach involves a hybrid of traditional marketing with targeted new media applications.

"Perhaps the Chinese have not recognized the fact that the names Caterpillar, Komatsu, Hitachi, Case and John Deere, are super entrenched here," Hubscher noted.

"It might take a reboot to acclimate Americans to the Chinese players," Hubscher said.

Rogers agreed.

"There are valuable and effective ways Sany can utilize new media," Rogers told Xinhua, pointing to YouTube videos as an effective way to introduce Sany products.

Rogers also said "old school" branding via traditional media marketing was critical toward allowing social media to perform, such as targeted advertising.

"Without name recognition I'm starting at ground zero ... or below," he told Xinhua.

US construction and mining equipment maker Caterpillar and Japan's Komatsu Equipment Co have both tapped social media to promote their brands and products, but Rogers noted that both had been American players for decades.

And with annual sales of $25 billion and $15 billion respectively, the two global leaders in construction equipment sales provide an example for the Chinese to follow.

Caterpillar, the industry leader, was considered the standard bearer for branding, marketing and social media success in the heavy equipment world.

The 91-year-old Illinois company relied heavily on social media channels such as Facebook, Twitter, YouTube and LinkedIn.

'Powerful tools'

These new media platforms were called "powerful tools that allow us to connect with our customers, investors, potential employees and fans," the company's website claims.

"We've been in this market for almost 50 years," said Raleigh Floyd, Komatsu America's director of public relations, "But never dismiss the impact of social media."

Like Rogers, Floyd was recruited by Komatsu for one reason - his experience and acumen in Internet marketing.

"That's why they hired me," Floyd said. "When I got to Komatsu, their social media needed big help," he told Xinhua.

When Rogers joined Sany, China's biggest construction equipment maker, the company's website had not been updated in almost three years, he said.

Prior to joining Komatsu, Floyd worked at Nielsen Ratings, and did "nothing but monitor trends."

"That's what I did before, and that's what I bring to Komatsu - the ability to steer marketing efforts in directions that will identify customer needs and increase sales by addressing those needs," he said.

Zoomlion Vice President Xiong Yanming told Xinhua that his company would also combine new media and old marketing approaches.

"The traditional way for us to do marketing is through exhibitions and local market exposure," Xiong said. "But in recent years, IT has developed very rapidly."

Xiong hoped to utilize social media channels to improve the efficiency of Zoomlion's marketing to make products more intelligent and network connected.

"This is one innovation direction we have already embarked on," he said.



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