Richard Chang of Roborock: “Get Your Voice Right”

Get Your Voice Right. Like look and feel, your voice is a reflection of your brand. If you are targeting teenagers, you don’t want to sound like you’re selling enterprise hardware. At the same time you don’t want to sound pandering. It’s a balancing act, but an important one to get right, because what you […]

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Get Your Voice Right. Like look and feel, your voice is a reflection of your brand. If you are targeting teenagers, you don’t want to sound like you’re selling enterprise hardware. At the same time you don’t want to sound pandering. It’s a balancing act, but an important one to get right, because what you say about yourself and your products is how most people will think of you.

As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Richard Chang.

Richard Chang is a visionary industry veteran and a serial entrepreneur with more than 12 years of experience in product development. He started his career as a technology manager at Maxthon Ltd., then a product manager with Microsoft, then Tencent. Afterward, he founded PhotoWonder, an image beautification and sharing app later acquired by Baidu. Prior to founding Roborock, Mr. Chang was in charge of Baidu Maps (China’s equivalent to Google Maps, serving more than 300 million people).

Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I’ve always been interested in the things people need and want. It’s what guided me to a career in product management. When you are a product manager you try to visualize and get a feel for those customer needs and wants, instead of simply building a product for the sake of building it, and it is a joy to see a product you created alive on the market.

When I first got interested in robot vacuums, I was extremely busy and was just looking for a way to save time so I could focus on my career without sacrificing my comfort. I never intended to create a robot vacuum of my own. But, when I found that none of the robots I was able to buy felt like what I believed robot vacuum users really wanted, I felt compelled to try and build something of my own. I was lucky enough to find other people who shared my vision, and that vision became Roborock.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

I can’t think of anything specifically funny which is a mistake, but I can share an interesting story about how we came about the name “Roborock.”
In China, our brand name is the Chinese word for rock. I chose this because a rock is simple, solid, useful, and without gimmicks. When it became time to create a global brand, we didn’t put too much thought into it and simply tacked “robot” onto the translated Chinese name, creating RockRobo. It wasn’t till later that we realized this would be hard for people to say and so we swapped things around to create “Roborock,” which is both much more appealing and it also rolls off the tongue nicely. 
I learned that creating a brand name that is easily remembered, a name that will stick in the minds of our audience, is a very important first step for a brand, and is something that shouldn’t be overlooked.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

I think one thing in particular that makes us stand out is a dedication to giving customers products and features that serve a genuine need. On the product side, this dedication was evident even in our first product, with our slavish obsession with creating real navigation intelligence — earning us acclaim as the best navigating robot vacuum on the market. More recently, the sonic vibrating system we introduced with the Roborock S7 solved a genuine need for more powerful mopping among people who wanted a single do-it-all robot. Another example of this relates to our Multi-Level Mapping feature. Rather than getting into a battle of specs, forcing our robot to be able to recognize 10 levels in a home or more, we decided instead to build it to accurately recognize 4 floors, which easily handles the vast majority of homes and allows us to better optimize both recognition and data handling systems.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

I can’t discuss specifics of future products, but I can tell you we are working on a number of new dock technologies that are unlike anything else on the market at the moment. I’m confident that these are going to give people a level of convenience they never had before.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

To put it simply, product marketing is short term, existing only to sell the product while brand marketing is long term. It is your relationship with every customer you have and every customer you hope to have. Product marketing has its place in an overall marketing strategy, but brand marketing is critical to a company’s overall success. By creating a trusted and beloved brand, you give strength to the claims you make about your products, you organically build relationships with people, and — especially in an extremely competitive segment as ours — it helps your brand stand out and get noticed.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

Without a strong brand, you are almost invisible. You lack the “hook” that captures people’s attention and affection. By investing in brand building you connect more strongly with your potential customers. You make yourself more relevant to people, you can inspire people with your message, you create loyalty, and you can turn customers into advocates who will share your message far and wide. Fundamentally, by building a brand you are telling a story and when you do it well you also turn your customers into storytellers.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. Strive for Honesty. Always to be true to what you say, no matter how difficult that turns out to be. Being honest gives people confidence in what your brand has to say, while dishonesty drives away not just your customers but everyone in your customer’s network.
  2. Listen Everywhere. Listen to people to understand their needs and desires. This gives you the insight to build products they want, and the feedback you need to fix what isn’t working. But don’t just listen to your own customers, listen to the customers of everyone in your segment to unearth thoughts and desires that might just give you an advantage in the future.
  3. Solve Genuine Problems.Particularly in the tech space, it is easy to get caught up in a game of specs, to build not what works better or solves problems better, but what looks better on paper. Fight that temptation and keep your customers’ problems front and center. Only in this way will you make products that your customers will appreciate.
  4. Look and Feel Matters. Every element of your brand should be clearly identifiable as you. From font to colors, to style, and more. Not only does this tell customers what your brand is about, it makes you easy to find so that they can keep coming back for more.
  5. Get Your Voice Right. Like look and feel, your voice is a reflection of your brand. If you are targeting teenagers, you don’t want to sound like you’re selling enterprise hardware. At the same time, you don’t want to sound pandering. It’s a balancing act, but an important one to get right because what you say about yourself and your products is how most people will think of you.

In your opinion, what is an example of a company that has done a fantastic job building a believable and beloved brand. What specifically impresses you? What can one do to replicate that?

As a tech company founded in China, I almost feel I have to say DJI. In its early days, DJI created a technology that few saw potential in: drones. Yet by leveraging a powerful message of inspiring creativity, paired with rapid product improvements, they created a new consumer (and professional) product category, surpassed their competitors, and went on to become the biggest drone brand in the world. They were also able to extend that message down from the sky and use it to power their entry into handheld products and even their own action camera. What really impresses me about this is how one carefully developed message can tie together myriad technologies and products, effectively creating a cohesive story while also lending the power and reputation of past products to the new ones. That level of success would be difficult to replicate, however, companies can get started on that by thinking hard about what their brand stands for, what message best gets that across, then pushing hard on this message both internally in product development and externally in storytelling.

In advertising, one generally measures success by the number of sales. How does one measure the success of a brand building campaign? Is it similar, is it different?

The measure of success varies for different people and different companies. We try to keep it simple here. When we push out our branding campaigns, be it in digital, social or even our website, we try to measure both qualitative and quantitative success.

Quantitatively, we look at the numbers. Did we reach the goals we set? Have we beaten previous numbers? Did we get the right results based on how much we spent? Obviously, these aren’t details we can ignore, and we make sure to track these.

Our success isn’t only made or broken by a set of numbers, however. We also try to get a feel for our campaigns by looking at the types of responses and reactions we get from our audience and customers. Because at the end of the day, it again boils down to how the people feel. Not just customers, but everyone who interacts with us. These are the qualitative results.

So, we may get a low number of comments on a brand piece, but if they are all highly positive, I class that as a success. Or, we may get high engagement, but that engagement might be negative. That’s not a successful piece necessarily.

At the end of the day, we always try to get a proper indication, across the multiple platforms that we’re now on, about what people think of us as a brand.

What role does social media play in your branding efforts?

These days, social media is probably one of the biggest drivers of brand identity. Essentially, how a brand is perceived is reflective of how it presents itself across its social channels. And it’s getting more important day by day.

We use our social media networks to market our business, ensuring we communicate with our audience, our customers and the people who don’t know us, to make genuine connections. We’ve further strengthened this approach recently, aiming to be even more personal.

Because our brand identity is our voice, we try to ensure we are consistent in how we portray ourselves on these channels. How we do this is by being genuine and real. We avoid ‘corporate speak,’ and instead try to talk to our audience as if they were standing in front of us having a conversation; we address them as humans, and not just as text on a screen.

In the end, what we’ve found is that by doing this, we’ve increased our connection with our audience. Obviously, this is a continued effort, and once established properly, we need to work hard to continue maintaining.

What advice would you give to other marketers or business leaders to thrive and avoid burnout?

At Roborock, we’re trying to build a culture where the team comes first. By this, we mean to build a fun, communicative and open culture. This goes for everyone, not just the marketing team. The approach means that we don’t forget where we came from, and we don’t burn out by constantly focusing on work. I try to be open and communicative with everyone in the business because everyone contributes to the success of the company.

We try to give all our teams a balance of activity along with their work to avoid burnout. One example of this includes our company conference, which we hold to openly discuss all aspects of our business; we take our team out for activities and reward the achievements of the team. Everyone is included in our internal giveaways on this day.

It’s not just big events like this, but also smaller things. Going out to lunch together, organizing activities, getting to know people properly, sending out internal Christmas videos- all these things help to bring our team together, give them a balance of fun with their work, and make them feel valued. In the end, it gives them the opportunity to thrive in their roles.

At the end of the day, I want my team to be one where work is part of their lives, not life being all about work. It’s all about being human.

You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. 🙂

If I could inspire a movement, it would be about a movement towards greater emphasis on quality of life. I think people today are too obsessed with distractions, from social media to tasks at work, to the always beckoning screens in our pockets. For me an ideal world would take the best that technology has to offer, and use that to allow us to be more present in what matters, allowing us to focus our attention in spending more quality time with our family, our friends, and doing the hobbies we love. If I manage to inspire people to change how they value their time and their relationships and live in the present, that would be a huge achievement for me personally.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

There is an old Chinese proverb that I greatly appreciate. It translates into, “Focus on doing the right thing, and not on the results.” It teaches us to focus on doing the right thing, and let nature take its course. In this hyper-intense business environment which is full of uncertainty, it is easy for us to worry about what the future holds, and this quote is a wise reminder to all of us.

We are blessed that very prominent leaders in business and entertainment read this column. Is there a person in the world with whom you would like to have a lunch or breakfast with? He or she might just see this, especially if we tag them. 🙂

It would be with the inspiring Mary Barra, the CEO of GM’s business. The Automotive industry worldwide has long been considered an “Old boys club” and by becoming CEO, Mary Barra became the world’s first female automotive CEO. Under her leadership, the troubled brand is now moving into the future with an ambitious plan to electrify GM’s product range and build an all-electric future. I would love to discuss how she has been able to push for such major change in such a traditionally conservative industry.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I’m not active on social media, unfortunately — but feel free to follow Roborock instead! We are on Instagram, Twitter and Facebook — just search for “@RoborockGlobal”

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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