China Marketing Weekly: Western Brands Say Good-Bye to China
Amazon and Forever 21 withdraw from China, Durex trips over their own unsavoury ad, and Miss Fresh plays with fire and gets burnt… what a week!
On a lighter note, Avengers are doing great in China, and so does the top rap song about… noodles!
Ps. We used to send our newsletter on Thursdays, but it seems more of you open it on the weekends. Which do you prefer: Thursdays or Sundays? Let us know here.
Avengers smash box office in China. The series’ dedicated fan base has been constantly growing, as people find the characters inspirational - offering “fresh perspectives on issues such as identity and gender.” - Read more (English)
“Big Bowl, Thick Noodle” is the hottest song in China. Say, what? Back in 2017 in a variety show, the pop idol Kris Wu was asked to improvise in the Xi'an’s noodle restaurant and has been mocked ever since. Yet, he just released an official song based on that improvisation, and the video has been streamed almost 110 million times, only on Miaopai.
The artist not only managed to turn a never-ending stream of memes into a hit, but also triggered a noodle-eating craze. In Nanjing, you can even eat your noodles at the exact table Kris Wu once had his! - Read more (in English)
Another company that slightly snubbed the right message? Surprisingly - Durex. The company has done such a great job advertising sex in a country where it’s a taboo topic. Yet, this time they slipped; following the success of their 2017’s cross-brand Thanksgiving campaign (and many others), Durex kicked off a campaign with a popular milk tea brand Hey Tea for the “Sleepless 419 Night” (April 19). The slogan said “Not leaving one single drop”. Well, Durex is known for smart and subtle word-games, but this time was rather… distasteful? Will we ever look at the milk tea the same way? - Read more (in Chinese or in English)
Grocery delivery app Miss Fresh (每日优鲜) App store score drops from 4.5 to 1.5 as they praise “996” work culture. The 996 has been a heated conversation lately on the Chinese internet. It’s a trend to pressure employees to work 9am to 9pm six days a week. Miss Fresh probably haven’t expected such a backlash, they wanted to get themselves into the conversation, yet failed to convey the right message.
Tait brought it up on LinkedIn, check it here.
China is no longer a “copycat” country. It’s a “fast-follower”, and soon to become one of the main innovators. It’s now heavily promoting innovation economy, and in some fields, it’s already exceeding other countries, 5G technology being the best example. - Read more (English)
China wants to raise awareness of copyright protections but is missing a clear line of powers and responsibilities. After Vision China has been fined for claiming to own rights to the first black hole photo, the discussion sparked online on how similar cases should be handled. Because China was infamous for not protecting copyrights, it is difficult to sort it out now. Especially now that there’s a serious lack of awareness and clear information. For example, a recent topic, also at NMG, was the usage of fonts. They are rarely restricted when downloading, and no information is provided on the Chinese sites on copyrights. Yet, years after, claims arise and professionals and non-professionals are ordered to pay huge compensations for lack of understanding the rules that were never really explained.
It may seem funny to you, but it is a serious issue in China. For example, Microsoft Yahei font in China is not even Microsoft’s. - Read more (in Chinese)
Mini-programs create more opportunities than your e-commerce website and Facebook fanpage. Every day, 230 million users of over 2 million mini-programs can access them in 60 different ways. The main advantage of mini-programs is their flexibility--they serve the purpose you need them to serve. E-commerce? Check. A game engaging your customers? Check. Loyalty program? Check. And they’re all easily accessed through the one app that Chinese consumers use every day - WeChat. - Read more (English)
Amazon quits China. After years of never-ending struggle, they finally decided to give up. In the official announcement, they said it’s not 100% quitting as they will continue their Kindle and Web services- and Chinese customers will still be able to purchase cross-border from overseas versions of the platform. But Amazon.cn will close. It’s tough to compete with Chinese giants such as Taobao or JD.com. - Read more (in English or Chinese)
Ps. Another brand that just released an announcement they quit China: Forever 21.
Taobao rolls out Local Specialty Map as a part of the promotion of their new in-app category: Taobao Food. The app will also strengthen videos as a way of promotion. According to the platform’s data, women account for half of the foodies on Taobao (57%), and 52% of the food consumers are young people under 35 years old. “They love snacks, fruits, instant food and small packaged foods. They love trying the new and love local specialties, as well as ‘celebrity foods’ that trend online." - Read more (Chinese)
Have you ever heard of guanxi? If you’ve ever done any business in China, you probably have! It is directly translated into “relationships” that you build, but in reality is so much more. The term guanxi is not a new invention, it’s been around for centuries. The relationships you build within your closer and more extended circles in China often determine how far you can get and how successful you are.
A part of building a strong guanxi is also a delicate matter of gift giving. It is a true art, especially nowadays with strict anti-corruption laws. It is a real struggle to build a good guanxi when a basket of fruits is all you can gift your business partners without raising suspicion. Chinese New Year is a true creativity battlefield, and a factory of oranges stuffed with jewels (read more in English)…
The Chinese have mastered the art of building guanxi and gift giving, have you though? That’s a topic I’ve seen in many expat groups on Facebook. What to pay attention to? How to make a good first impression? Off the top of my head, when gift giving is considered, here are some notes:
Local specialties work well; your business partners are interested in your culture.
Don’t present them with a local sausage packed in paper straight from the butcher though- no matter how tasty it is! (Real life story behind this one...)
Chinese businessmen often bring luxurious sets of local alcohol or tea sets to Western countries. You don’t want to go cheap.
Show them you’ve done your research, show them you care. Just as it’s in good taste to talk to your business partners about their family, it is also important to show them you care about their well-being.
It’s based on my experience at least. Here you can read more. And if you find yourself in need of a culturally significant gift that is shipped directly within China to your business partners, have a look at www.islesofeden.us (you can use this promo code: “nmgguanxi”).
Funny thing, a few months ago I thought sea cucumbers were a vegetable (no comment), but it is a thing in China. After all, researching, understanding and respecting the culture of your guests is always the most important part of a good relationship, do you agree? Cultural marketing in China is even more relevant than anywhere else.
230 acres of forest planted thanks to Alibaba’s Ant Forest (蚂蚁森林) program since 2016. Their 500 million users collect points every time they choose to walk or ride a bike (instead of using a car), or pay their bills online (not using paper) etc. Then, the company plants a tree on their behalf and issues a certificate. The program is also very popular among NMGers, and brings attention to serious problems, such as deforestation and environment protection in China.
58 Tongcheng (58同城) launches video job interviews feature. The platform is focused on daily life services, such as flat renting, job hunting, second-hand sales, etc. Now, to save everyone’s time, corporate accounts are allowed to recruit employees through video interviews. The meeting can be scheduled as fast as within 15 minutes after the candidate sees the ad. - Read more (Chinese)