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How Huawei is leveraging digital marketing in the face of controversy

May 22, 2019

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Great crisis management is all about controlling the narrative. If you don’t speak up then people will either speak for you or make far worse assumptions about your silence, with the belief that ‘there’s no smoke without fire’.

I wanted to write a quick post today off the back of all the ‘trade war’ chat and speculation about the US’s / Google’s decision to sanction Huawei – barring it from some updates to the Android system. Now, this post isn’t political in the slightest or designed to shine light on who is right and who is wrong in this debate. This post is purely about how Huawei is pulling the various levers of digital marketing to communicate its side of the story to the world.

This is interesting to us here at Venture Stream because they’re leveraging the same blend of digital marketing channels that we leverage here for many of our clients. It’s a great demonstration of the simple and effective use of paid, social media, content marketing and straight-forward development all together. If you’ve not spotted it, then here’s a breakdown:

Development & content: Huawei quickly created the sub domain so that they had a dedicated landing page / platform on which they could publish content that communicates their narrative. On there, you can find a plethora of content – from official press statements to Q&As making it easy for both press and public to read the Huawei narrative.

Social media: Rather than just publishing this content or sharing it through the main Huawei social media accounts, the company instead has a dedicated account to both push this content out and retweet / share the opinions of business influencers that echo the Huawei narrative (such as Sir Alan Sugar). This account has already been verified (unlike other official region-specific Huawei accounts set up at a similar time and that have more followers such as @Huawei_Europe) named @HuaweiFacts on Twitter.

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Paid: While the drama unfolds, Huawei are using paid advertising across social media to ensure that the masses get to see their side of the story.

Forget ‘build it and they will come’ – Huawei has built it and put it right under everyone’s noses by pulling these levers.

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We’re living in interesting times when it comes to the mass communication of any message online. In the average article written about Huawei in the press the company will typically only get a few paragraphs at best in which to communicate their message. Likewise, on TV they’ll get a couple of minutes at most.

This is a complex topic with many facets to the debate and conversation, so Huawei have instead created their own platform where they can share multiple messages and drive an audience of considerable size through the power of paid. The pros to this for Huawei are obvious, but whether everything published on the sub domain is factual or not, the danger is that this can feel a bit like propaganda – branded accounts, verified by Twitter, labelled as factual and peddled by the company with (I assume) no independent third party verification and forced out to the masses through paid…

We will leave that debate. But regardless, with the internet and social media holding 100x the captive audience of TV and newspapers combined, it’s hard not to think that having a cross-channel digital strategy is key and should form the main part of any communication strategy, supported by the likes of traditional PR.

These are just some thoughts so far but we’ll watch with interest how digital marketing is used by both Google and Huawei when it comes to sharing their respective company standpoints.

Written by Andy

Andy is Venture Stream’s Chief Operating Officer and has over 15 years’ experience in ecommerce consultancy, design and retail marketing.

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