With its original restaurant located just a stone’s throw from Tiananmen Square in Beijing, KFC became the first American fast-food to set foot in China, all the way back in 1987. The three-story branch, with room for up to 500 diners, was KFC’s largest at the time, and the grandiosity of this move set the tone for the success the chain would find in China over the next few decades.
If one were to nominate a poster child for international marketing failures, one would be hard-pressed to identify a candidate more ideal than Walmart. In so many cases over the past several decades, Walmart consistently made the wrong choices when making an entrance into a new market. Walmart’s journeys abroad, whether to China, Germany, Brazil or elsewhere, seem to be met with stumbles at every step — though in many cases, the company has learned and adapted over time.
KFC has made wave after wave in the marketing community due to its resounding success in China. Far and away the country’s most popular American fast food chain, the company is seemingly bulletproof when it comes to its performance with Chinese consumers. KFC became the first American fast food chain to enter the Chinese market when it opened its first restaurant just a short walk from Beijing’s famous Tiananmen Square in 1987. At the time, the three-story branch was KFC’s largest in the world — an impressive start which set the tone for the chain’s continued triumphs in the country.
Expanding into a new market is no small feat. Regardless of your industry, you’ll be faced with the challenge of perfectly synchronizing tons of moving parts in order to truly make an impact. The last thing you’ll want to do is to ruin your grand entrance with an embarrassing faux-pas.
Western businesses have a notoriously bad track record of entering China. Some of them were burning through insane amounts of money while battling local rivals and eventually ceased operations (looking at you Uber). Others were simply banned. However, not all of them has given up on trying to make it. Sharing economy juggernaut AirBnB has announced recently that it is changing its name in China to “Aibiying” (爱彼迎), which can be translated to “welcome each other with love.”