ZTE’s Summer Chen Zhiping on the brand’s pioneering digital transformation journey

The topic of digital transformation is no longer owned by technology leadership, it has become the marketing and business leader’s focus as consumers pull brands into a more connected journey. For ZTE, a forerunner brand of the digital economy, the time is now to help bring industries and stakeholders into a more innovative future.

ZTE’s general manager of branding and communication, Summer Chen Zhiping, has worked at the company for over 20 years, and has been at the heart of innovative wireless technology development, such as 5G. She speaks to The Drum about ZTE’s journey as one of the pioneers of digital transformation, and how it is positioning itself through its marketing and communications strategy as a leader in 5G.

Q: What does ZTE stand for as a brand and how has that journey translated internationally?

Summer: With a mission of “Enabling Connectivity and Trust Everywhere”, ZTE, in the past 36 years, has been working with more than 500 global operators worldwide, serving over a quarter of the global population with cutting-edge telecommunications products and services.

To better serve global customers, ZTE has established multiple R&D centers around the world and set up offices in major countries and regions with local employees. The company has been providing customized services in line with the characteristics of these different countries and regions, thereby achieving the globalization of product R&D, sales, and brand promotion.

Q: Your role is branding and comms for the company, tell us a bit about the brand strategy and some recent examples of how you’ve communicated these exciting developments.

Summer: Brand image is of great importance for an enterprise. My responsibility is to make ZTE well perceived and recognized by our customers and the public.

As the world evolves into new normal, ZTE has been utilizing innovative marketing and communication channels to ensure they can effectively reach the stakeholders. ZTE adopted VR webinar, virtual exhibition, online meetings, live stream product launch conference and other innovative means to facilitate interactions with global media, customers, and different stakeholders.

We see great results from our efforts in expanding communication channels. ZTE is committed to enabling connectivity and trust everywhere by leveraging its technologies.

For instance, ZTE has deployed the first operational 5G network in Austria and completed the first voice and data call over a standalone 5G network in Spain, in partnership with Orange. In Belgium, ZTE has implemented smart port applications together with its customers. In Africa, ZTE has achieved energy saving and fast network deployments by leveraging simplified sites.

Through branding initiatives, we aim to make ZTE well perceived by telling the public the mysteries behind our star products and customer success stories.

Q: 5G is a major topic for businesses around the world, what’s ZTE’s focus for 5G?

Summer: As we know, what 5G changes is not just transmission rate, but also the way to open a digital society.

ZTE actively participates in the ecological construction of the 5G industry. The company is a major contributor to 5G technology standards and the development of industry alliances. It strives for the prosperity of the industry and the promotion of 5G applications.

Currently, ZTE has teamed up with more than 500 partners to explore nearly 100 5G innovative application scenarios in fields like transport, energy, healthcare, finance and so forth.

For example, in May 2020, ZTE and Guangzhou Mobile jointly implemented the world’s first 5G SA wireless Physical Recourse Block (PRB) hard isolation slicing solution, enabling the application of 5G slicing private network technology in the subway field. ZTE has developed partnerships with other international tech companies such as Qualcomm/Intel to enhance greater vertical industry growth and create a more efficient ecosystem. And there is more to come in partnerships in 2021 and beyond.

Q: How has the COVID-19 pandemic shifted the need for these technologies?

Summer: The huge uncertainty brought by the pandemic deeply impacts all the aspects of our society. For instance, amid the pandemic, the working mode changed from offline to online. Under this circumstance, remote work and distance education put forward higher requirements for network communication capabilities and digital capabilities. Therefore, to some extent, the pandemic has greatly accelerated the process of digital technologies directly.

During the pandemic, ZTE has been working with the operators to build networks for many hospitals, including production and delivery, network construction, network communication reliability, on-site services, and service applications.

In addition, ZTE has been teaming up with industry partners to deploy innovative 5G industry applications like new media, remote work, telemedicine, distance education, Moving forward, ZTE will remain committed to helping achieve a brighter life leveraging our technologies.

Q: What should we expect to see from the ZTE brand in the coming year?

Summer: In the era of the digital economy, with the acceleration of the digital transformation of our society, we know that technical solutions mainly focus on digital innovations, but so does our brand communication.

The mission and vision of connecting people and creating a better world are what pushes us forward. We are dedicated to conveying our innovative visions and brand stories with the most effective approaches, through online and offline channels. In terms of brand communication patterns, we will invest more in video and other diversified branding strategies.

From a B2B marketing point of view, ZTE will continue to expand its business across different vertical industries, despite recent global challenges. To do so, ZTE is planning to conduct various branding campaigns across the vertical industries.

For instance, for the upcoming MWC 2021 in Spain in June ahead, we will showcase our latest innovative strength in cutting-edge technologies and solutions both online and offline. Besides the offline brand communication activities in Spain, we will also set up a special online ZTE booth, where there will be some activities including hot topic interviews, virtual visits to ZTE’s showcases and labs, forums, etc. These activities will be synchronized online and offline, thereby bringing a wonderful experience to everyone who can’t be there physically.

From a B2C perspective, one of the key objectives has been to establish the ZTE brand with an all-round image, by adding a “human touch” for the brand and allowing consumers to feel its sincerity. To do this we created videos, such as micro-films and flash videos, to foreground how 5G technology can change people’s lives for the better. We also leveraged 5G holographic remote screen technology and 5G AI conductor program at exhibitions to allow the public to really feel the impact of the 5G technology up close.

For example, at the beginning of 2021, ZTE collaborated with world acclaimed director Zhang Yimou’s team to launch a new ZTE brand video named “Go Forward, ZTE Will Always Be With You”. The film talks about the hard-working life of ordinary people and how they tackle challenges in life with optimism and positivity. The video also showcased how ZTE is a responsible technology company, helping people solve their daily challenges, to bring out the emotional support aspect of ZTE and create resonance with the public.

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