iOS app Android app

Tom Doctoroff
Tom is one of Asia's most respected advertising professionals and also a leading expert in Chinese consumer psychology. Born and bred in America’s Detroit and educated in Chicago, he took a detour to Hong Kong in 1994 and never quite made it back to the States. His unique combination of pan-Asian work, plus more than a decade based in China, has made him a leading expert in the cross-border management of brand architecture and brand building.

He has appeared regularly on CNBC, NBC’s The Today Show, Bloomberg and National Public Radio and is frequently featured in publications ranging from the Financial Times and Business Week to the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times. Furthermore, he is a sought after keynote speaker for events such as the International Advertising Association’s global symposium, University of Chicago’s Global Management Conference, the China Luxury Summit and the JPMorgan Asia Pacific Equities conference.

Tom started his advertising career at Leo Burnett in Chicago but jumped ship to JWT (Chicago). In 1994, he moved to Hong Kong as Regional Business Director for clients such as Pepsi, Philip Morris/Kraft and Citibank. In 1998, he landed in China as the Managing Director of JWT Shanghai. In 2002, he was appointed Northeast Asia Area Director (China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Korea) and Greater China CEO. Through diversification into customer relationship marketing (CRM) and trade marketing, promotion network management and brand identity/design, JWT Northeast Asia has emerged as one the most synergistically integrated, creatively dynamic communications networks. Some of JWT China’s key clients include: Unilever, DeBeers, HSBC, InBev, Ford, Nokia, Microsoft and Nestle as well as several leading local enterprises such as Lenovo, COFCO, China Unicom, Yili dairy and Anta shoes.

Tom is the recipient of the “Magnolia Government Award (白玉兰政府纪念奖),” the highest honor given by the Shanghai municipal government to expatriates and was selected to be an Official Torchbearer for the Beijing 2008 Olympics. He is also the author of the best-selling book "Billions: Selling to the New Chinese Consumer" and his most recent title, "What Chinese Want," to be published in April 2012.

Tom completed his undergraduate studies at Northwestern University (Evanston, IL) and his MBA at the University of Chicago.

Entries by Tom Doctoroff

Emerging Markets, Consumer Insight and Business Strategy

(1) Comments | Posted March 4, 2014 | 9:24 AM

Emerging market consumers exist in environments in which institutions designed to protect the economic and political interests of individuals are relatively immature. Civil society is less deeply rooted and safety -- physical, emotional and societal -- is usually not taken for granted. Emerging market consumers focus more on: the scale...

Read Post

China 2014: Too Little, Too Late for Newbies

(3) Comments | Posted November 2, 2013 | 1:33 PM

2014 will be the year leaders of consumer goods producers realize that it may be too late to enter China. If you haven't established significant scale already, you probably never will. The PRC will not be an option for turbo-charging future growth plans for current non-players.

2014 will not...

Read Post

Marketing in China: Twenty Years On

(4) Comments | Posted September 22, 2013 | 11:55 AM

I have lived in China since 1994 and in Shanghai since 1998. When people hear this, the most common reaction is, "You must have seen huge changes." I respond, "Perhaps not quite as much as you might expect." Lifestyles, even attitudes, of Mainland Chinese have evolved dramatically. However, the country's...

Read Post

Back to the Future: Remastering the Timeless Art of Brand Engagement

(2) Comments | Posted June 16, 2013 | 8:04 PM

In the world of marketing and communications, there is unprecedented disorientation, triggered by the explosion of digital platforms that promise to revolutionize the relationship between consumers and brands. The entire industry is intoxicated by the potential of "big data" to maximize return-on-investment. Yes, "measurement" of the effectiveness of advertising is...

Read Post

China in 2013: The Confidence Game

(8) Comments | Posted December 11, 2012 | 9:58 AM

The topography of China's commercial landscape remains consistent from year to year. The PRC is characterized by:

A) A digital universe that pulls an self-expressive yet repressed new generation into its grip. The popularity of new group chat sites such as Tencent's Weixin are a testament to the new...

Read Post

The Ominous Disappearance of Xi Jinping

(5) Comments | Posted September 12, 2012 | 9:01 AM

The mysterious disappearance of China's heir apparent, Xi Jinping, will be unsettling for Chinese citizens.

Rumors are flying regarding what ails him. According to Willy Wo-Lap Lam, a well-connected professor at Hong Kong's Chinese University, he may have had a stroke. But speculation is running rampant, with...

Read Post

Doing Business in China: How to Win

(1) Comments | Posted July 30, 2012 | 12:59 PM

The Chinese consumer is becoming modern and international, but not Western. In my book, What Chinese Want, I outline a few "golden rules" successful businessmen must adopt in order to penetrate China, the world's most dynamic market.

This interview was originally posted in the China Observer, a great blog...

Read Post

What Chinese Consumers Want

(51) Comments | Posted May 27, 2012 | 3:45 PM

Apple has taken China by storm. A Starbucks can be found on practically every major street corner in coastal cities and beyond. From Nike to Buick to Siemens, Chinese consumers actively prefer Western brands over their domestic competitors. The rise of microbloggers, the popularity of rock bands with names like...

Read Post

The Top Ten Myths of Modern China

(79) Comments | Posted May 18, 2012 | 9:08 AM

The China hard landing drum is beating louder now than it was at the beginning of the year. Their call from an investment standpoint has been a lucrative one. But fundamentally and over the long haul, China's place as the world's No. 2 economic power is secure. In fact, China...

Read Post

The Saga of China's Blind Dissident: Let Obama Be Obama

(20) Comments | Posted April 30, 2012 | 8:22 AM

The flight of dissident Chen Guangcheng from the confines of his house arrest, a stunning turn that has taken place shortly after the embarrassing purge of rabble-rouser Bo Xilai, is worthy of a spy thriller. Mr. Chen is a blind man dedicated to human rights. His crusade against forced sterilizations...

Read Post

The Pragmatic Purge of Bo Xilai

(22) Comments | Posted April 12, 2012 | 9:20 AM

Bo Xilai, the populist former Chongqing chief recently purged from China's Politburo, was a dangerous, recidivistic force in Chinese politics. His fate, archaic execution notwithstanding, should be cheered.

Yes, his ouster reveals the dark side of the country's cloak-and-dagger leadership. Beyond Internet rumors, the public is still in the...

Read Post

Is China Inc. Corporate America's Enemy?

(130) Comments | Posted March 30, 2012 | 9:43 AM

Just because China will not collapse does not mean it will take over corporate America. Chinese corporations will continue to do what they do best: leverage colossal size to slowly but surely crawl up the value chain. Economies of scale, combined with a growing domestic market, will ensure that its...

Read Post

American-Style Individualism in China? Looks Deceive

(6) Comments | Posted March 17, 2012 | 7:12 PM

A Chinese new wave? China's rock scene, underground but dynamic, is loaded with bands that suggest a new, post-1990s rebellious spirit. Their names fly in the face of collective harmony: Hutong Fist, Tomahawk, Catcher in the Rye, Twisted Machine, Queen Sea Big Shark and Wild Children. Indie singers are, collectively,...

Read Post

The Myth of Chinese Military Aggression

(35) Comments | Posted February 5, 2012 | 9:51 AM

The list of military "provocations" grows longer: outlandish territorial claims in the South China Sea, and vilification of Hillary Clinton who has the temerity to challenge them; installation of more than 1,000 ballistic weapons aimed at Taiwan; confrontation on the high seas with Japan, Taiwan, and the Philippines; year-on-year military...

Read Post

Modern China's Spiritual Crisis: Does it Exist?

(27) Comments | Posted January 22, 2012 | 9:00 PM

China was founded to ensure survival, not as an Earthly manifestation of God's moral covenant with Man, the latter blessed with a divine right to pursue happiness. Indigenous schools of Chinese philosophy -- Daoism, Confucianism, and Legalism -- are mechanistic, concerned with values as a means to an end --...

Read Post

A Chinese Century? Not Quite

(307) Comments | Posted November 28, 2011 | 7:19 PM

In the narrowest sense, a superpower has the military might to force the world to acquiesce to hegemonic resolve (for example, the Soviet Union). Then there are economic superpowers that influence capital flows and global growth rates. When they struggle, the world does too. Finally, there are soft superpowers, nations...

Read Post

China's Communist Party: Not Losing Control

(32) Comments | Posted October 3, 2011 | 10:51 PM

The relationship between the people and the Chinese government is, to say the least, ambivalent. The country's wealthiest citizens scurry to obtain foreign passports as a hedge against future uncertainty. As evidenced by populist outrage after the Wenzhou train disaster, the little guy rails against bureaucratic corruption, particularly when his...

Read Post

Food in China: Survival and Success

(38) Comments | Posted August 31, 2011 | 9:40 PM

China's relationship with food is a window into basic instincts. The country's cuisine is a manifestation of a civilization that has never taken survival for granted. An understanding of what and how Chinese want to eat is a quick way to know China. With the ever popular dim sum of...

Read Post

E-Commerce in China: Patriarchic Benevolence

(0) Comments | Posted August 14, 2011 | 10:10 PM

The growth of China's consumer e-commerce sector is breathtaking, doubling year on year. On-line shopping is more than a trend; it is a phenomenon. But it took a while for things to take off. It was not until two fundamentally Chinese business essentials were addressed -- the benefits and reassurance...

Read Post

Advertising in China: What's New, What's Not

(1) Comments | Posted June 2, 2011 | 12:07 PM

It seems many of the big Chinese ad agencies are not headed up by Chinese people. Why is this the case? Did Westerners bring the "advertising industry" with them?

The first clients who advertised big -- i.e., with any degree of professionalism -- were the large FMCG companies such as...

Read Post