As we get closer to the end of 2018, it seems like a time to start summing-up! Not everything at once, but how about learning more about what trends shaped Chinese social media and marketing over the last few months? I’m happy to discuss- let me know what you think.
We also talk about the latest Canada-China conflict, a serious issue caused by “water army” gangs in China, and for a lighter tone - what hilarious mistake foreigners make when they first arrive in China.
What are the most popular Chinese keywords/trends of 2018? Can you guess?
“Earthy flavours” (土味) - popularised by a short-video app, Kuai Shou. Kuai Shou is like Tik Tok (Douyin), but often described as more “authentic”. The app is focused around less “pretty” kinds of culture, including: eating, “social shake” dancing videos, Peppa Pig-like phenomenons, rap music, etc.
“National wave” (国潮) - taking a turn from what’s foreign, young people now often choose national brands which are also promoted worldwide (like NYFS), thanks primarily to Alibaba. The trend also pushes niche brands and streetwear over classic luxury brands.
“Recall the past” (缅怀) - Millennials felt extremely nostalgic this year, with many iconic figures (both domestic and international) passing away in 2018. Chinese social media was booming with hashtags related to remembering the 90’s. Many brands popular in that time were brought back to life too.
Tittytainment (奶头乐) - as economists have been shouting China’s economics are slowing down. However, consumers are still willing to spend (“lipstick effect”!). The obvious proof seems to be a raise of Peppa Pig and short-video apps such as Douyin and Kuaishou, a switch of popular travel destinations to domestic ones, and a booming popularity of Answer Tea.
“Rectification” (整风) - the tightening grip of censorship on content has shaken online platforms in China this year. And although it’s said to be all about “improving the quality of content”- beware! It’s better to avoid sensitive topics, and localize your content to Chinese market… and regulations.
“Sinking crowd” (下沉人群) - the term refers to Chinese netizens from 3rd-tier cities, towns and villages, that are gaining strength as consumers in China. They have more free time and are more sensitive to price than people from 1st-tier cities, therefore marketing to them is different. Brands rely on group buying platforms, such as Pinduoduo, gamification of their campaigns (instead of ads) and recommendation-sharing between friends.
Zillennials (Z世代) that are becoming a growing spending force in China, however their demands are different from Millennials beloved by brands.
Online celebrity stores (网红店) - the term refers to brands that managed to leverage their popularity online to the extent it’s a faux pas not to have a picture taken in their stores on your social media! Examples? Answer Tea, Luckin Coffee… But they’re also defined by short-longevity in general.
What else defined Chinese marketing and social trends in 2018? - Read more (Chinese)
Forbidden City launches a line of themed cosmetics that sold out immediately! The Palace Museum has stepped into the modern era and opened their official WeChat and Taobao stores, promoting themed products such as lipstick, palace cat figurines, etc. Chinese netizens, as always, have different opinions, but they mostly praise the marketing team for using “new” to promote “the old”. - Read more (Chinese)
Trending both on Chinese and foreign social media, this video shows the most common mistake foreigners make coming to China. I couldn’t help but laughed seeing the Chinese woman’s reaction, but I must admit I’ve seen it a lot and did it myself when I first arrived. Do you know the issue?
In Chinese culture, the dishes are placed in the middle of the table for everyone to share. Everyone should place some of the food in the tiny bowl in front of them. Foreigners grabbing a plate full of meat or a whole fish… it’s an out-of-this-world image for Chinese!
Chinese government fights “water army” gangs that have become a serious problem in the country. So far, “water army” was associated with fake fans that are paid to boost an account’s popularity. However, the gangs are well-organised groups that, among other activities, publish malicious comments and reviews on official accounts and then extorting them to delete the comments. So far, the government detected 28 criminal cases, arrested 67 people, and closed 31 websites and over 1k accounts. - Read more (Chinese)
Tencent limits external links shared on WeChat Moments, again. After cutting down on possibilities to share Taobao links to product pages, they now seem to be aiming at short-video apps. Some users noticed that the links to videos from Baidu Haokan were not visible to others on their Moments. Tencent claims they only limit content that violates their rules, which, in this case, was online profiting (a very broad term). But it’s not a surprise that Tencent wants to keep users from leaving their apps. - Read more (Chinese)
Alibaba looks into China’s “lazy consumers”. According to “Lazy Consumers Report”, among “always laying creatures” and “household duty-skippers”, the top ones are Zillennials (the generation born after 1995). What does it really mean? That the demand for devices making lives easier is constantly growing, including effortless rice-cookers, smart vacuum cleaners, etc. Also, let’s not forget about the growing demand for eyebrow stencils, slimming machines for couch potatoes, slip-ons (shoes), etc. Apparently the laziest regions are Sichuan, Hainan and Guangdong. - Read more (Chinese)
Alibaba and Tencent named two fastest growing advertisers in the world, followed by Alphabet, Amazon, and Netflix. The advertising spending of the top ten companies on the list increased by 29.6% last year, while the remaining 90 companies only increased their advertising spending by 2.6%. - Read more (Chinese)
51Talk plans on hiring 100k (!) Filipinos for its online English-teaching platform in addition to 16k they already employ, to meet the growing demand for English teachers in China. Effective communication in English is a huge issue for Chinese students although they tend to pass standardised language exams with good scores. - Read more (English)
Two Canadians detained in China days after Huawei’s Meng Wanzhou was arrested in Canada. Michael Spavor and Michael Kovrig are “being investigated on suspicion of activities that endangered China's national security."
Meanwhile, Global Times - Chinese state-owned newspaper - posted: “What's certain is that Canada cannot fool China with its simple excuse of an independent legal system, and the move will not bode well for Canada in many aspects. And so far Canada has done little to correct its mistake."