If you were to pick one colour that stands out in this week’s newsletter, you’d probably go for red. It’s just to make you feel like you were walking down China’s streets or going through Chinese websites and apps. Red is traditionally associated with joy and wealth in China, so as Spring Festival is the most important holiday here, people exchange red envelopes, decorate houses, shop windows and offices with red couplets (read more about the holiday here).
If you’re not interested, you can skip the top part and go straight to the regular news below.
One more thing, for Chinese-speaking readers - Wenhui talks about conversion tracking for Baidu PPC in the latest post on our Chinese blog, check here.
Chinese New Year is often being compared to Christmas, because it is all about family gatherings. Before I came to China for the first time, I’d imagined it to be very loud, with fireworks and dragon parade. And in reality, it’s quite the opposite. Obviously, it’s impossible to miss it as everyone talks about Spring Festival and the red decorations are basically screaming at you. Most Chinese people go home, hence travelling is not recommended as train stations and airports are tightly packed with people and all the tickets have been sold out for weeks. Supermarkets are also not the best destination, unless you want to wait in a long queue. Even if you wanted to wait out the festival at home, pop-up ads and special themes are still everywhere on the Internet or apps.
But as Chuxi (Chinese New Year’s Eve), the most important part of the festival, is on Thursday this year, streets are already getting empty. Chinese people are busy at their homes, preparing food and welcoming family members arriving from different parts of the country. On Thursday’s evening, they’ll watch a New Year’s Gala on CCTV and they’ll probably eat at least as much as we did last Christmas.
Most of the stores will be closed for a couple of days, at least. Taobao also stopped deliveries some time ago (til Feb 20). The busiest time for brands in China is over now. And I mean not only Chinese ones, foreign brands have also been really engaged in the festival. Apart from Spring Festival discounts, clothing chains, like Pull&Bear or H&M for example, had even special collections. Not surprisingly, most of the goods are either red or dog-themed as the coming year is the year of the dog. Even brands like Gucci or Adidas introduced their own festival products.
I’m really looking forward to the Chinese New Year Gala as CCTV decided to team up with Taobao this year. It will probably be very creative as Alibaba is trying really hard to catch up after Tencent’s Spring Festival campaign a few years ago (was it 2014?) which was a huge success. During the gala viewers could use WeChat’s “shake” feature to shake out red envelopes - as right timing was the key to get money, everyone was just glued to their phones & TVs.
If you use WeChat, you probably know its users are crazy about stickers. Chinese people often do not even need to use words, cause most of the times they have a perfect sticker to express the right emotions. A Chinese brand, PUPUPULA, took advantage of that and released a new kind of stickers, featuring cats and dogs. Apart from sending the emojis to your friends, you can also easily create a simple family portrait with their WeChat program. As it’s free of charge and ads, many people have given it a try and loved it! The timing couldn’t be more perfect, as Chinese New Year is all about family. That is how you do marketing in China - even if Pupupula was not widely recognized before, now it surely is. Check out our team’s “family picture” below or create your own here. - Read more (Chinese)
There’s one more reason to celebrate this week - Valentine’s Day. I almost forget about it because of the Chinese New Year madness, but its cheesiness and pinkness somehow broke through anyway. Chinese are the biggest Valentine’s Day spenders in Asia-Pacific after all (read more in English).
So, in case you got bored with all those heart-shaped pink cakes and red roses, I found some better ideas for you! Very Chinese-style, that's for sure.
Number one: instead of flowers, just send a red envelope! Alipay prepared some themed hongbaos as "a different way to say I love you". You can add a '520' (homonym of 'I love you') card if you want. It also fits in Chinese New Year time. And no one gets disappointed, right? Well played, Alipay!
And option number two: it's China, who wants sweets if you can get... chicken! No no, don't laugh, I'm serious. I'm pretty sure if we did a quick poll in our office, I'd be the only one to go for chocolate…
No matter how much Chinese government tries to stop the development of cyber currencies (read here), people are still going crazy over them. Recently, some under-aged fans of TFBoys (a Chinese pop group) announced they’d start an ICO (Initial Coin Offering) to support their idols. Whether it will come true or not, it shows how dedicated Chinese young fans are, especially those between 10-18 years old. They are often described as “princes born rich, knights born brave and Harry Potters born smart”. They are quick learners and they’re willing to pay for anything they are interested in - or rather they are willing to demand that their parents do so. Thus many marketers urge to learn their consumption behaviour and needs in order to upgrade a marketing strategy accordingly. (summarized from Weibo)
One of the duty-free stores at Heathrow Airport is accused of discrimination after a social media post revealed Chinese shoppers must spend 12 times more than other customers to get the same discount coupon (£1,000 compared to £79). Many Chinese netizens said they would never shop in the store or even at the London's airport again. - Read more (English)
So far, whenever anyone talked about news apps and AI solutions in China, they probably had Today’s Headlines (Jinri Toutiao) in mind. Well, not a surprise as its personalized recommendation system is a good one. But it might change soon. Xinhua News Agency and Baidu will soon release a new app. It may be a tough nut to crack for Today’s Headlines, because Baidu has more active users. Moreover, a combination of artificial intelligence and Baidu’s advanced search engine gene will probably result in creating a quick and direct way to high-quality, original news. - Read more (English)
WeChat announced it’d had a security loophole that had been fixed in the latest update, the 6.6.3 version. The loophole was found by WeChat’s competitor, Alibaba. An attacker could completely clone the victim’s WeChat account (chat records and wallet payments info included) based on one message exchanged. - Read more (Chinese)
Just as Western companies hope to conquer Chinese market, China’s companies want to do the same in Western countries. Usually, they adapt quickly and turn out to be better than native companies. Well, most of them.
In 2016, LeEco (selling mostly consumer electronics) started international expansion and entered the American market. Soon after they announced they were facing financial difficulties and admitted they “got over-extended in their global strategy”. In the end of 2017, they closed their Hong Kong department and it’s reported their American website is not responding anymore. - Read more (Chinese)
What is the lesson here? If you are to enter China market, make sure you’re prepared for that. Some of you may raise your eyebrows - it’s stating the obvious, right? Not for everyone though. You’d be surprised how often we see people being shocked how expensive it is to do a successful marketing campaign in China.
Chinese government tightens supervision on live-streaming platforms. Lately, ten of them were closed and many hosts got banned from publishing content on any of the remaining ones. The platforms are reported to have released demoralizing content such as drugs, swear words as a means of getting more attention. Moreover, some of them are claimed to have tricked kids into paying a vast amount of money to the hosts they followed. - Read more (Chinese)
That's all for today! And for these of you who celebrate Spring Festival -
Happy New Year!