Capturing the Moment - 4 Steps To Real-Time Marketing In China

Sat, 01/11/2020 - 11:58
Irvin Zhang

Have you had a moment when you looked at your reports and wanted to sigh:

“How do I stay ahead of the pack?”

I have. Especially in China, as the attention span continues to decline, and people become insensitive to your message. Marketers need to step up their game. 

In this post, I’m going to show you some doable Real-time marketing (RTM) strategies for reaching customers in China.


But let’s dive into it. 

  1. What is Real-time Marketing
  2. Set the goal of your campaign
  3. Find out where to capture the moment
  4. Make yourself stand-out
  5. Get involved in conversations
  6. Align RTM to B2B vertical  


What is Real-time Marketing

Real-time marketing refers to marketers timely responding to trending topics & events all around the world, to subtly incorporate brand’s marketing into customer conversations through social media messaging to boost awareness or sales volume.


Benefits you can expect with RTM in China

It offers a solution to one of the biggest challenges in today’s marketing world: “How do I engage with the full-time online customer?”

It is not about the message or the way you’re pushing it; it’s both. 

You should make your campaign smart and targeted. The message you design should be for the right people at the right time, every time. 

Real-time marketing helps you stay on top of things, and your content is fresh and relevant as your customer demands. When done right, your brand can: 

  • Extensively interact with consumers
  • Build a connection with your targeted group
  • Deepen existing relationships with customers
  • Meet the consumers’ need to interact
  • Create content in a fast & effective way
  • Make the content more diverse 
  • Gain instant insight into the audience 
  • Raise awareness or sales 
  • Increase ROI

Speaking of which… 


Set the goal of your campaign

Timing is all that matters. If you can manage your time right, you can achieve your RTM success even with the most basic tools, such as social media.

I’ll explain it later, but for now, let's define the goal of your marketing efforts.

In other words, think about what you want to achieve with Real-time marketing: 

  1. Would you like to create a certain image of your brand? 
  2. Do you want more exposure? 
  3. Or you want more followers, leading them to your social account? 

In any case, it doesn't need to be like 10x ROI, or over 50,000 new subscribers, etc.

That doesn’t sound real, and RTM is certainly NOT what you are looking for. 


Key Takeaway: The basis of RTM is to set up a marketing goal that will help your business grow. It can be a better branding or a surge in sales without being overly precise.


Find out where to capture the moment

This can’t be any simpler. As a marketer, you have to figure out WHY your targeted trend can ignite attention. 

You need to have your ear to the ground and catch the trends before they take-off. Meanwhile, the content you create should naturally blend with it. 

For example, when Shanghai introduced a new waste management rule that sparked a lot of discussion across social media. The one brand that got into the spotlight was Corona, a beer known for serving a bottle with a piece of lime inside. 

NOTE: In Shanghai, beer bottles and limes should be placed in different trash cans according to the current law.

Above is a comment that went viral: 

“Starting today, you can’t drink Corona with lime here in Shanghai. Otherwise, how will you ever get it out? With those two fat fingers?”

Corona was acutely aware that the new recycling law and the difficulty of removing the lime was behind this trend

What’s more, Corona found few people were willing to accept a beer without lime - like it has become their special identity. 

With that in mind, Corona came up with the solution: “1/16 lime slice” method and took advantage of this retweet boom, distributing related content all over the online space.

Corona's 1/16 lime method in China

A night later, their content had more than 420,000 views across the web, and nearly everyone in Shanghai (if not the whole country) was talking about them. 

Some of the posts on Weibo with the "#Corona beer in Shanghai - do you stick the lime or not" tag

We also joined in the fray with a short clip, check it out


The Weibo discourse could have swayed against Corona easily. However, the brand was quick to react. They showed the public that they can adapt to new things, and remove the obstacle for their customers. 

Netizens in China also enjoy interacting with brands on social media in general, Corona surely gained many credits here as well.

Quick tip: Don't invest your time in trends that are not at all connected to what you do. It is just a distraction, and it often gets you nowhere.


Take HEYTEA as an example. It is one of the most “Instagrammable” tea drinks in China. Still, for an unknown reason, they decided to launch a joint campaign with… Durex?

HeyTea x Durex ad

They teamed up and released a poster on Weibo that you can see above. Well, the public did pay attention to it, in a negative way this time. The caption literally says “Don’t leave a drop tonight.” But to Mandarin speakers, the whole thing is more like “I’m gonna f**k you tonight.” 

NOTE: In Mainland, the number "419" is a code for "one night stand" because it sounds close to "for one night" in English. And that makes April 19 one of the Valentines-like day among youngsters.

Netizens tagged the posts as #vulgar and #brainless. And HEYTEA lost on this for sure, not considering that their customer base is predominantly women, and has been criticized online for being indecent and objectifying females in general. 

That being said: 

DO NOT jump on the trends just because. Find out WHO your customer is, and know your values... Otherwise, it can do more harm than good. 


Key Takeaway: To do RTM well, you need to make sure you’re on the right track and know where exactly to capture the moment.


Make yourself stand-out

It's a marketer's job to keep your eyes on trends happening everywhere, but you don’t have to be involved in all of them. All the brands that have succeeded in RTM have done one thing right: Piggybacking on hot trends to maximize their uniqueness. 

For example, during the Double 11 in 2019, a number of brands released a series of creative posters with the Cat-head theme.

Brands' posters tailored for Double Eleven.

From text to visual images, these brands highlight their characteristics all the time.

Huawei -  “Rename your imagination”

BMW - “Let your inner beast run”

Estée Lauder - “Forever young”

I believe you get the idea now. 


Key Takeaway: Integrate your USP with hot trends, and design your campaign around them to better engage with your target audience. 

Which leads us to… 


Get involved in conversations 

Be ready to take part in and even initiate direct conversations. 

It’s no longer the time for your brands to call the shots; empowered customers do. And they don’t like to see you being high above the rest.  Whether it’s Weibo, Xiaohongshu or other channels. Show up and be where your customers are. Reply to comments, ask questions, and join in the discussion. Be proactive, so that when they’re ready to buy, you’re the most natural option because you’re already there. 

Take the example of Corona again. 

While everyone was busy poking fun at them, Corona made an effort to collect all the memes that appeared online in the last two days, refined and sent to various platforms for netizens to have fun. 

After that, Corona made it clear that they would not have given up on lime via their official Weibo, and rolled out several practical solutions to deal with the problem, setting off a new wave of retweet.

Here, Corona managed to turn things around, but this hype was not over yet.

They found the person who made that joke comment in the first place and gave him a year’s worth of free beer, which no doubt caused another stir online. 

That was a brilliant move as in the age of transparency, Corona acknowledged its crisis and made use of it, through patience and cleverness, turning a possible social media disaster into thousands of dollars worth of marketing win. 


Key Takeaway: While successfully attracting users to participate, the brand itself should be the center of discussion.


Align RTM to B2B vertical 

While it’s safe to say when it comes to Real-time marketing, B2B marketers don’t share the same flexibility as their B2C counterparts do. However, you shouldn’t give up the idea to consider it. 

Take Giti for example, a company that makes tires and sells them to car brands such as Volkswagen and Buick in China. Giti is a good example of a brand that is doing social marketing right by being bold, fun and fast. All essential to RTM’s success. 

When Hollywood blockbuster Transformers 5: The Last Knight became a global hit, Giti started a retweet boom on Weibo with an original trailer.

Giti x Transformers promotion

The video received more than 6M views in the next couple of weeks, and drove sales to rise more than 45% in a given quarter. (Source: the official Weibo account, the post is not available anymore.) The question is, how did they do that? 

First, it took some quick thinking for Giti to identify a proper breakthrough for this RTM campaign: the constant heroism in the Transformers movies over the past decade. 

Then, Giti sent a "mystery racer" wearing its tire team logo to attend the 10th anniversary of Transformers real-life event in Guangzhou, and attracted a lot of attention to the scene with its bumblebee-like costume.

Later in the day, Giti teamed up with several KOLs to launch a curated topic on Weibo, quickly channelling public attention to itself.

But it’s not over yet.

One week later, Giti raised fans' expectations for the movie with a teaser "Giti guards the heroes path" right before the Transformers movie went online, and led two screening sessions in both Beijing and Shanghai, as well as an offline event in Qingdao.

As a result, the video went viral, proving its marketing prowess with over 6 million views and beyond. 


Key Takeaway: Even though your B2B business does not enjoy the same opportunity as B2C does, you can still reach the end customer if you figure out a way to harness the power of RTM. 


Final thought

I hope this post gave you some ideas on how to reach customers in China via Real-time marketing. 

When done correctly, RTM can become your Swiss army knife that helps your business reach deeper in China. 

But to succeed in implementing this strategy, you need to be innovative and carefully align your brand messaging with current trends, paying attention to your customer’s “next step”, and helping your prospects with useful content and showing your relevance.


Irvin Zhang


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