China is a great market, welcomed by the international, especially European and American countries. However, brand marketing is also an important part. Skeyou, a worldwide multinational advertising and public relations company, is devoted to being the bridge between the international market and China market. It gave people some good suggestions on brand marketing.
Online Retail Transaction (B2B/B2C Value, 2019)
Here are 6 key points from Kevin Ke, founder of the branding strategy company SKEYOU that you need to know:
#1 Only a Focused Category Enter China Market
Entering China market is a new start, if you want to identify the right product and getting it to the right customers, you need to make choices of focused category, knowing your customers’ needs and the problems your brand or product can solve. And build the trust between brands the consumers at the same time. The idea of getting all categories to China in the beginning is extremely harmful to the brand and difficult to make a successful new market.
For example, Mattel entered China with the introduction of Barbie. The company spent millions of dollars making a six-story paradise to introduce and sell the ‘Barbie Lifestyle’. The store included a hair and nail salon, cocktail bar, spa, and restaurant. But the shop was over the top and confusing between the mix of Children’s toys and adult pleasures (fancy martinis, bust-enhancement treatments, etc.) They failed to understand the market and what makes the Chinese tick. For a brand that’s making its first introduction into China with a flagship product and make a good foundation with Chinese audiences.
#2 Become A Leading Brand in A Focused Category
Chinese consumers compared to consumers in other countries, they have stronger brand awareness, and they are more inclined to buy products from leading brands. A big reason is that they are willing to pursue a sense of honor and the superiority that leading brands bring to them. So those on category-leading brands are often easy to obtain an unshakable commercial advantage.
A classic example of a category-leading brand is Tesla. Tesla decided to break into the electric vehicle (EV) marketplace with a luxury sports model. At this time, the electric vehicle market valued economy over form and function. Tesla decided not to compete with the Chevy Volt or Toyota hybrids and instead to be the leading brand of the electric vehicle.
#3 Emphasizing The Connection Between The Brand With The Country of Origin
There is a fact that purchase behavior among high-end consumers is changing, with fewer transactions being made in Paris, London or New York, and more in China. It’s reported that purchases in Mainland China grew at least twice the rate of spending abroad between 2016 – 2019. A brand’s country of origin constitutes an important piece of branding that, in many cases, can be so influential it overtakes the brand’s other reputation builders.
What we are going to do is that when Chinese consumers think of a foreign brand, they immediately have a direct impression of its country of origin, so that the brand will leave an impression of authentic, trustworthy, and high-value to them.
For example, when consumers buy a new iPhone or iPad, they buy an American product with American quality and they are ready to pay a price for it that corresponds with the U.S. as a country of origin, even though the products were manufactured in China or India. Also when buying an Audi car, the consumer buys a “German” car despite the concrete origin of the particular car/model. The same is true for thousands of other products being manufactured in developing countries around the world but bearing the popular and credible brands originating from positively perceived countries.
#4 Emphasis on Social Media Marketing
By the end of 2019, over 830 million people had access to the Internet in China, resulting in a fast-growing mobile app market in the country. Besides, The number of mobile Internet users in China ballooned from some 45 million in 2007 to over 810 million in 2019, and it continues to grow. Now, more Chinese people access to the Internet via a mobile device than via computers. And they are particularly active social media users (673.5 million social media users in China in 2019) – 91% of the internet users in China have a social media account in comparison to just 67% in the United States. Chinese citizens are also more than twice as likely to interact with brands on social media platforms as US social media users. It is estimated that 70% of Chinese born after the millennial generation will directly go on social media to purchase products or services. So emphasizing social media marketing become more and more important.
China’s Netizen Pop. (Millions)
Although, the KOL market is an important part of China but establishes your brand’s social media matrix is necessary, especially making an official voice, which is basic for communication with Chinese consumers. There are several popular platforms for brand exposure in China, and each platform has its unique purposes such as WeChat, Sina Weibo, Tik Tok, Little Red Book, etc.
Popular Platforms For Brand Exposure in China
Here is an example of Starbucks with Wechat:
WeChat is China’s answer to WhatsApp and is a leading messaging app with features like shopping and gaming. With 438 million monthly active users, WeChat has grown impressively since its start in 2011. Because WeChat is a messaging app, brands can target consumers more accurately and use location features. Once consumers access the company’s WeChat page, they can begin messaging with the brand.
WeChat is used for 29 percent of total payments made at Starbucks. Consequently, Starbucks takes WeChat as one of its important marketing platforms. For instance, Starbucks created a WeChat campaign that asked fans about their mood. Customers could respond with any of WeChat’s 26 emoticons, and then Starbucks would reply with a song that corresponded to that mood. 130,000 users joined in the months after the campaign and shared 238,000 emotion messages. Starbucks also saw a 9% increase in fans on its Sina Weibo page, demonstrating the interconnected nature of social media platforms in China.
Starbucks also has individual conversations with consumers through WeChat. When users begin following Starbucks’ WeChat official account, they are asked how they can be helped. Customers respond with an emoticon or specific questions to receive further messages. WeChat functions as a direct messaging channel for questions regarding products, promotions and store locations. If a user agrees to receive future messages, Starbucks’ WeChat account will update them when new products are released and provide seasonal coupons throughout the year.
#5 Value The Brand Building to Against Product Imitation
When a new product launch in China, soon there will be a lot of imitations on the market. It took its products or designing from other more mature brands, so it’s easy and simple to get imitation in China. More recently, it is developing in radically new ways, many of which are unique and invisible to brands without experience in the country. Chinese factories can make products that resemble ones made by prominent brands and which is one third even half cheaper. At this time, the awareness and recognition of the brand in consumers’ minds become particularly important.
For example, Rubik’s cube is very popular. But the vary of imitation of Rubik’s cube is even more popular in the Chinese market. It’s not just the quantity of imitations that are giving brand headaches, but the low prices. Many of them are one-third or even one-fifth of the price, compared to the original cube from Rubik. A big reason is that Chinese consumers are not aware of the brand Rubik, and most of them don’t know the difference between imitation and the origin.
#6 Find The Right Local Cooperator
Despite the marketing tricks, it’s also important to find the right cooperator, who is not only savvy in the marketing area but also knows China market and Chinese culture well. Which at least can provide the brand of consulting services, social media operating, media buying, designing, corporate communications, etc. There are two trends of marketing in China, one is to cooperate with big international agencies such as Ogilvy, Havas, etc., another one is to work with local independent agencies.
International agencies dominate many aspects of China’s marketing industry, they know the western culture well, and the team might have better English skill. And local independent agencies know the Chinese market better (mixture of marketing & culture know-how), especially when localizing the products, and they are able to get moving fast, the most important is that choosing a local independent agency is normally cost-efficient. In the end, there’s no doubt that marketers must make the best of this golden opportunity and deploy the most effective marketing strategies to establish a firm position in the China market.
Edited by Kevin Ke
* Kevin Ke
He is the first brand marketing expert in China who created two unique concepts for marketing called “Socialized 3D Network Marketing” and “Brand Get Heard”. He then went on to publish two books discussing these concepts in-depth called WeChat Brand Marketing and Get Heard. For many years, Kevin Ke and his Skeyou company have worked with international brands such as Hermes, Rémy Martin, Saucony, Ping’ an Group, AIA, etc.
Skeyou is a worldwide multinational advertising and public relations company. The headquarters are located in Shanghai, China, and Xiamen, China. It was founded in 2013 and is devoted to being the bridge between the international market and China market. Skeyou grants Chinese brands with a strategic business plan to give them an advantage in the China market and also help them reach success in the international market. It helps international brands that have an interest in entering the China market.