Success Of Samsung-Sponsored Play “Dream Flower” May Encourage More Global Companies To Invest In Arts
Earlier this year, Jing Daily looked at the phenomenon of major companies sponsoring art exhibitions and cultural activities in China, focusing on recent arts-business partnerships like the Ullens Center for Chinese Art and Minsheng Bank and Deutsche Bank’s sponsorship of the recent Hong Kong International Art Fair (ART HK10). For companies — particularly foreign names looking to make a name for themselves among Chinese consumers or domestic upstarts looking for third-party validation — strategic investment in the arts is worth its weight in good PR.
This week, Samsung became the latest company to sponsor a large-scale cultural event in China, lending its name to the production of the opera “Dream Flower” (梦里落花) at Beijing’s National Center for Performing Arts. The timing of this sponsorship, however, is what really takes this story from the sort-of-interesting to the fascinating, since — according to an interview with Samsung Marketing President Jin Rongxia (Korean name transliterated to 金荣夏 in Chinese-language articles) — it is all part of a more intensive, sustained push on the part of Samsung to localize its products by imbuing them with Chinese cultural elements.
Interviewer: Why did Samsung decide to sponsor the production of [“Dream Flower”]? “Dream Flower” is a work that’s filled with the essence of ancient Chinese literature. We can say it’s “very China.” As a Korean company, is there any particular reason why Samsung chose this play?
Jin Rongxia: Samsung Electronics has been deeply involved with Chinese cultural and sporting events for a long time, from the Beijing Olympics, Paralympic games and torch relay to the preservation of cultural relics from the Silk Road. Samsung has always poured its great enthusiasm into these events, not only due to our love and support for art but also out of our identification with and respect for Chinese culture.
As you said, “Dream Flower” is “very China.” It displays a thriving vitality and is infused with Chinese culture, and it coincides with Samsung’s pursuit of a “China Disposition” (中国气质) strategy, in which the design of many of our products pulls inspiration from traditional Chinese culture.
Jin goes on to say that Samsung intends to take “Dream Flower” — which wrapped in Beijing on June 6, to more domestic Chinese audiences in Shanghai, Wuhan and Guangzhou over the course of the year as part of its ongoing cultural sponsorship program. All very interesting, but what we were intrigued by in Jin’s interview was his mention of Samsung’s so-called “China Disposition” strategy, since we’re suckers for a good localization story.
According to this Qianlong Online article (Chinese), the strategy hinges on localizing not only products to appeal to Chinese consumers, but also localizing management and training “to further integrate into Chinese society”:
Through its recent cultural [sponsorship] efforts, Samsung is making an effort to better understand Chinese culture and cozy up with Chinese consumers. Chinese culture has provided Samsung with a good measure of creative inspiration, which we can see in their recent product designs, which incorporate more and more Chinese elements derived from Chinese watercolors and traditional paintings. These include the decorative patterns on the Samsung “Xin Yun” and red wood “Dan Yun” refrigerators as well as the Chinese traditional red lanterns, calligraphy and modern fashion elements we see in Samsung’s new S563 mobile phones.
Samsung hopes that through their efforts, products with more Chinese cultural characteristics will appeal to Chinese consumers.
Amid Samsung’s efforts to put in place its “China Samsung” process, the company isn’t limiting the incorporation of Chinese elements only to product design. Perhaps more importantly, Samsung’s instating a cultural shift within the company itself. In order to better integrate into Chinese society, Samsung is adjusting its use of key staff and corporate systems, and has already completely revamped its training process according to the Chinese style. Year after year, Samsung has also boosted the intensity of its staff training efforts, so that even in the midst of the global financial crisis of 2009 Samsung continued to increase its R&D staff in China.
Not only has Samsung localized its talent-training and cultivation strategy, it has also created a Samsung with a true “Chinese disposition.”
As [Jin Rongxia] said, “If we don’t care about or lend our support to the Chinese people, our enterprise will never develop [there]. Henceforth, we will continue to support and pay attention to China’s cultural activities. As a company that cares about social responsibility, we will use this form to give back to society.”