China Marketing Weekly: A Digital Frontier Shaped by Savvy Youths
Reality in China, probably more than anywhere else in the world, is shaped online. That’s why marketing is so heavily geared towards Millennials - the West sees them as affluent and ready to spend spend spend! But, I’ve also noticed that foreign brands often underestimate the young, digital-savvy, consumers that they want to market toward; the still fresh Dolce&Gabbana scandal acts as extreme proof of it.
So, the focus this week is on what’s important for young Chinese consumers, and also how fast things change. We also talk about the growing number of restrictions in various areas and copyright protection.
New social app, Zepeto, taps into China’s hype for beautified selfies and online identity. The app was released in Korea almost a year ago, but in recent weeks has grown a strong presence in other countries- including China. The number of Chinese users grew so fast, it crashed the app’s servers… Zepeto is advertised as an app where you create “another you” (I mean... a more beautiful you) and socialize. It allows Chinese youth to attend parties, meet new people, start new adventures - without ever needing to get dressed or leave the couch. - Read more (Chinese)
Oh, and users can now turn their online avatars into online KOLs too. Pictures coming from the game have flooded Xiaohongshu and WeChat Moments; it’s just a matter of time til popular brands will roll out paid packages of their clothes for Zepeto’s avatars.
“Influencer economy” highly relies on marketing hype and appearances, but does it generate quality? The number of KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) backed by brand endorsements, Weibo ads, live-streaming monetization, etc. has rocketed! Be it a milk tea store, a clothing brand, or just a beautiful girl - any social account can become a KOL- and they’re all competing for the youth’s attention. However, as competition grows fierce and content floods online platforms, industry experts point out how superficial the KOL phenomenon is. Relying on a beautiful exterior (packaging or a beautiful face) works fine preliminarily, but with no quality to follow-up, fans will go as quickly as they come. And this is one of the biggest issues the recent influencer hype caused. - Read more (Chinese)
Ximalaya sells 435 million CNY worth of audio content in just 3 days. Chinese consumers, once wary of digital content, have finally dropped their guard as platforms roll out paid subscriptions and content. Ximalaya, primarily a podcast platform, attracted over 21 million users with their shopping festival, and sold 130 million hours of audio content! - Read more (Chinese)
Ximalaya has a vast audience (#1 in China), and is promoted as a place for entrepreneurs to build their audience. Unlike social platforms, popular podcast influencers don’t rely on their “beautiful packaging”, but rather, focus on producing high-quality content, and are a great addition to Ximalaya’s knowledge-sharing idea.
Western brands need to abandon the “colonial fantasy” if they want to avoid D&G’s failure in China. Some say young and Internet savvy Chinese consumers are becoming difficult to market towards, but foreign brands are often guilty of not understanding contemporary Chinese culture and hanging onto stereotypes. Dolce&Gabbana’s campaign was ignorant all across the board; fortunately, there are also overseas brands that are flourishing in China. What’s the takeaway from these brands?
Show your appreciation and understanding of the modern and developed country - everyone’s tired of the never ending stream of red lanterns and dragons.
Engage your consumers in a dialogue! Engage with local influencers, your Chinese customers and students - show the budding relationship, let them inspire you to do things their way.
The Chinese may have their own platforms, but they’re aware of conditions outside of China, and are very sensitive to how they’re viewed abroad. Do not simplify!
Users boycott Chinese version of Steam. As expected, after the world’s largest gaming service entered China earlier this year, its 22% of Mainland Chinese users have to cope with content censorship and rigid review processes. Therefore many of them decide to stick with the American version. - Read more (English)
“(I wonder) if even 500 games out of the 20,000 games on Steam could survive (censorship),” commented a user on Zhihu. Others complain that although the number of users went up since Stream entered China, “old sweats” prefer sticking with the international community.
Baidu fined for illegal advertisement- including pornography, gambling and superstition. They were punished by the government and fined over 80k USD for ads displayed on the platform, such as those promising to tell fortunes based on Chinese zodiacs etc. - Read more (Chinese)
The verification process for advertisers on Baidu is already strict compared to Google - especially in industries such as finances or medicine. Baidu has faced fines and scandals before, so we can expect much more strict regulations now.
Government cracks down on wedding parties as extravagance does not comply with country’s values. Officials say modern weddings are out of control - which is true as regular wedding expenses start with 200k CNY (30k USD). However, it’s yet another way of interfering with citizens’ private lives. - Read more (English)
Literature platforms introduce self-censorship systems to “provide a positive guidance in the age of Internet”. The government recently pushed platforms to take down any content featuring government officials as it has a negative societal impact. The platforms had to revise the published content and get rid of anything “non-compliant with the regulations.” AI- and human-based systems were introduced to most of them so that each piece is revised multiple times before being published. - Read more (English)
WeChat introduces a human copyright committee. Following complaints by content creators that their automatic content protection engine can be easily tricked if some words in the original content are swapped, WeChat decided to build a group of independent people who would review each piece reported as a plagiarism. - Read more (Chinese)
In China, imitation is truly the sincerest form of flattery- it’s a way to learn and admire those deemed “great.” As a result, content plagiarism has plagued various industries and this is but another step towards copyright protection.
Tencent upgrades “traditional browsing experience” adding WeChat mini-programs to their QQ browser. As most people browse the Internet on their mobile nowadays, it’s important to provide a smooth experience for users. Tencent family relies on H5 pages, and QQ browsers now allow for “favoriting” of mini-programs and the ability to use them as in-app widgets. QQ browser is one of the most popular browsers in China, with 350 mln users (as of Sept 2018). Tencent heavily promotes mini-programs, incorporating games, and websites into WeChat in-app experiences. - Read more (Chinese)