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Hisense Sets 3-Year U.S. Market Plan

7/18/2011 12:01:00 AM Eastern

QINGDAO, CHINA – The first westerner
hired by Chinese CE maker Hisense to
head up international marketing is developing
a new three-year strategy to build
the brand in the U.S. and internationally.

The strategy will include “elevating
product breadth” in the U.S. to add midtier
TVs to complement low-end models,
bringing Hisense brand major appliances
to the United States, and stepping up
dealer support, said JoAnne Foist, appointed
recently as international marketing
director.

“We have a timeline on when to grow
the business, and now we’re working on
how to get there,” she said during an interview
here at the company’s world headquarters.
In the U.S., “our primary emphasis
is on growing the Hisense brand while
continuing growth in our OEM.”

Foist said the company began building its brand
internationally and in the U.S. as far back as 2006
but that most of its U.S. sales remain OEM sales to
other suppliers and OEM sales to retailers for their
private-label brands.

One of the keys for any Chinese company to build
its brand is to change the traditional Chinese practice
of “doing things methodically” and “changing
the organization so people will take risks,” she said.

Chinese suppliers in general have played it safe
in international markets, largely by focusing on OEM
sales, but if they become “less risk-adverse,” she
said, their branded sales will “take off” in international
markets.

To build its brand in the U.S., the company plans
such step-up branded products as its first 3D TVs
and Android-based TVs for the U.S. market, perhaps
as soon as Christmas, said Foist. “We’ll push
to have as much as we can this year.”

Hisense offers 3D TVs in China and countries
other than the U.S. Its first Android TVs became
available in China about three months ago.

“We will definitely improve our marketing in the
U.S. and catch up with the technology of the tier
one brands,” said marketing department manager
Rolland Zhang.

Also to build the brand in the U.S., the company
is making changes to its U.S. sales and marketing
team to populate it with more westerners. “Local talent
knows the market,” Foist explained. “Some are
on board already.”

The company will continue to build local team resources
in sales, marketing, logistics, service, R&D,
and the like, she added.

The enhancements will support the company’s
continued expansion of regional and national accounts
in the U.S., where she admitted the brand
has been “hard-to-find.” As part of its distribution expansion,
the company added Fry’s Electronics and
hhgregg as retail accounts in 2010.

“There are no immediate plans to use online retailers,
but when we do, we plan to start with our current
retailers’ online stores,” she added.

Building the brand also requires “a lot more marketing
dollars,” she noted. “You can’t just be a good
brand in the U.S.,” she said. Success requires a pull
strategy as well.

As part of a pull strategy, Hisense will initially
partner with retailers to support their ad efforts on a
market-by-market basis, Foist said. Eventually, “we’ll
have to do consumer advertising,” but the company
needs to build retail distribution first, she said.

For appliances, the company will “continue to
grow and expand OEM business in national accounts
across the U.S. by leveraging our existing
partnership with Whirlpool,” she said. But, she
added, “We plan to introduce the Hisense brand
(refrigerators, laundry, air-conditioning) in the U.S.
with retailers that carry both consumer electronics
and appliances, building on the family design style
of Hisense.”

Foist came to Hisense after working in such industries
as home building, recreational vehicles,
health and fitness, timeshares, and in-home health
care. Her functions included brand management,
identity development, sales/marketing communications,
field sales team training, strategic marketing,
retail merchandising, and product strategy.

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