Some time ago, and I don’t remember when, I worked on an international marketing project for a major investment bank. They wanted to use China’s high speed railway as a symbol of their forward-looking approach to banking, and to convey a sense of smooth transitioning into the future.
I immediately knew it wasn’t a good idea. Among other reasons, the then Minister of Railway had just been arrested on charges of misconduct, and being someone familiar with the bureaucratic jargons, I understood it could mean corruption.
So I promptly advised my client against the idea, for it could be anything but a smooth transition into the future. What could it mean when the project chief of this lucrative high speed railway system is accused of corruption? With some research, I found that the high-speed project was too hasty and its management too shambolic for a reputable bank to bank on.
My client didn’t want to give up that idea – they thought it great, for it embraces the future of China. Understandably, that’s what everyone in the business world wants to do now. But I stood firm on this one, and spent hours convincing them that their brilliant idea could become the biggest irony in the history of financial advertising.
Sadly, my worry turned into reality yesterday, though it’s not known whether my client had made a timely escape for I wasn’t informed of their decision. But I’m glad I made a shrewd judgement, which wouldn’t have been possible were it not because of my insights into the Chinese society, AND my position outside of their ‘internet Great Wall’, which gave me ready access to unlimited information that sometimes insiders cannot reach.