General Mills China CEO Cynthia Chen on Moving “China Fast”

Headshot of Nadine Dietz

Cynthia Chen, CEO of General Mills China, is on the cutting edge of all things “China fast” and radically different marketing approaches to grow a global brand.  In a world where Häagen-Dazs, owned by General Mills in China, is considered a lifestyle brand that earns 2.4B impressions in a single event, and where red pleather pants and dumpling-decorated red hats are co-created with General Mills and their partners, it’s easy to think you are living in an alternative universe.  Some could argue that China is indeed another world when it comes to marketing, and the lack of data only increases the need for risk and speed to keep up with the tremendous growth.

As Cynthia shared, the GDP of China is at a 28-year low at only 6.8%, which is still double the U.S. GDP of 3.2%.  And even though the GDP rate is slowing, China is still the best source of growth for any global company.  The options for partnerships are limitless, as clearly displayed with Cynthia’s red pants and hat.  The competition is sometimes a new channel you traditionally wouldn’t think of, as is the case with dumplings and food delivery services.  And the speed to market of any new idea occurs in months, not years.

Yet, with as much progression as we’re seeing in China, some things are still slow to change.  Cynthia often walks into a room with her male direct reports, who are greeted first with the assumption that they must the “big boss.”  She laughs this off as her direct reports are quick to correct, but just further underscores how important it is to have more role models like Cynthia in leadership positions.  In fact, one of Cynthia’s personal missions is to support women not born in the U.S. and help them see that they, too, can have a seat in the C-Suite.

Tune in to hear more from Cynthia on her global experience and personal choices which took her to China, as well as how she continues to grow “China fast.” Nadine Dietz is chief community officer at Adweek and host of the CMO Moves podcast.