Toyota’s ad campaign showed the SUV driving past Chinese stone lions, which salute in respect. Huang said the concept might have worked for a Chinese automaker. “In China, because we are a very hierarchical society, some would think this kind of behavior is positive,” Huang said. “China grows so fast because it has a powerful government.”
But Toyota failed to consider the implications of stone lions saluting a Japanese product in China, where many still resent the Japanese occupation. “The next day on the Internet, you see the stone lions angry,” Huang said. “They are smashing the Badao.”
As the backlash spread, Toyota’s CEO had to fly from Tokyo to Beijing to apologize. “He bowed 90 degrees,” said Huang, who uses the story to show the importance of global mindset.
“Every business mistake — every blunder made — is extremely expensive,” he said. “That’s why we say Thunderbird is a very important place to develop what we call the global mindset.