China Marketing Blog

China Marketing Weekly: Have KOL's Reached Their Peak and is it Time for a Drop?

Wiktoria Marszałek — Fri, 03/01/2019 - 08:00


This week our main focus is authenticity- primarily on Chinese social media. It’s now quite difficult to trust content creators- AKA “KOLs.” Brands should carefully check KOL authenticity before they decide to engage influencer marketing, and note that netizens also become suspicious as official accounts focus on earning money and followers are just a medium to that.
At the same time, social media platforms and content marketing are still rising up and over search ads which face major decline.
What else? A very particular cup became an overnight sensation, same as a Taiwanese horror game- except with different outcomes...

Dig in!



Overnight queues, fighting over products, and a higher price with every web page refresh - nope, it’s not a new iPhone. It’s a new cat paw cup released on Tuesday by Starbucks. It’s “cuteness” won hearts- and as some stores lacked purchase limits- led to brawling! Typically, with limited offers in China, people rushed to distant Starbucks stores to buy as many as they could. True businessmen will always see an opportunity, right? So, as the original price was 199 CNY (30 USD) and are no longer available in stores, they can still be bought second-hand on Taobao for… 1,300 CNY (195 USD). It was hard to witness the hourly price inflation. - Read more (Chinese)
Some netizens ridiculed the madness asking if Starbucks remembers they were supposed to sell coffee. But most people did not get discouraged, quite the contrary! Even if they had not intended to buy the cup before, they’re probably on Starbuck’s final 3,000 cup bidding list.

- Sesia

The Forbidden Palace opens a hot pot spot - and it’s an instant hit. Because it uses an original recipe, unchanged for centuries, Hot Pot was chosen for the premier dining spot at this cultural heritage place. Every nook and cranny of the restaurant is perfect for pictures to post on social media.
But that’s not it! There’s also a newly opened milk tea store next door. On Saturday, there were over a hundred people in line! People in the queue said the location is a little pricey, but they mostly came for the atmosphere. Obviously, both places have Forbidden City-themed merchandise that only adds to the Forbidden City fever that’s lately infected China. All a part of the “creative culture promotion”. - Read more (Chinese)
- Sissi

Taiwanese horror game taken down right after it takes China by storm. The game absolutely charmed gamers in China becoming a trending topic on Weibo last week. However... it was just banned for hidden insults towards Xi Jinping. There seem to be quite a lot of hidden “Easter eggs” such as a reference to Winnie the Pooh. It’s now banned on Steam and social media platforms. Some netizens fear it may cause Steam’s shutdown and influence the whole industry. Gaming companies already face very strict regulations when it comes to release and promotion in China. The government also stopped local authorities from granting permission to monetize video games. - Read more (English)
- Wiki


Social Media

Up to 80% of celebrities’ fans on social media are fake, according to CCTV- Chinese State Television. At present, CCTV’s News is focused on investigating Weibo. - Read more (Chinese)
There’s actually a huge industrial ring behind the phenomenon. Many users buy followers, shares, and likes from data trading companies, allowing them to quickly enter “trending” status - and with a snowball effect, that’s how they become well-known.
There’re also companies that specialize in “dehydrating” social media users - based on their activity, they mark users “real” or “water army” at the platform’s request. The assessment is not always accurate, but it’s a step towards cleaning up social media platforms.
That’s why it’s so important to evaluate influencers that you plan to work with carefully in order to avoid losing lots of money.
- Nara

Popular China’s blogger taken down as she drives readers’ hopelessness. Mimeng became popular in 2015 and gained popularity among young netizens as she discussed “hard truths” holding down young people in China. However, she was also described as “toxic chicken soup for the soul” - something seemingly good, but in fact harmful. In fact, her articles were driven by clickbaits and misinformation and her WeChat account went down after questions over her authenticity arose. - Read more (English)
- Wiki


Search Engines

Baidu’s advertising net profit drops 50% by the end of 2018 compared to 2017, according to their own reports. The company’s revenue is still increasing, but there are reasons for the net profit downfall. - Original report in Chinese, or read more in English
One side is that Baidu indeed invested a lot in self-development in 2018. AI technology, Xinxiliu (Newsfeed), and Baidu APP promotion; they also heavily invested in video platform iQiyi’s paid memberships. Another reason is the continuous decline of search advertising - hence Baidu’s push to promote “search+newsfeed ads” and its content platforms. Raising popularity of mobile devices over desktop and the changing habits of Chinese users did not help. The winners in the situation are social media platforms, especially Douyin, who “grew up” in the mobile era and therefore adapted better.
- Phoebe



The market for household electrical appliances grows 17.5% and reaches 58 billion CNY in 2018 - most of the sales were via e-commerce channels. holds 60% of the market share, with Taobao and Suning Yigou following.
These platforms push strongly into towns and rural areas, but people there, especially elderly, don’t trust online products just yet. - Read more (Chinese)
- Lillian



Meituan becomes the world’s most innovative company, according to an American business magazine. The company was recognized for the ability “to thrive in today’s volatile world.” It’s one of China’s super-apps combing food delivery, ride hailing, travel planning, bookings, etc. - Read more (English)
- Wiki

Alipay mini-programs officially open beta for individual developers now. There are still some limitations, but it creates more opportunities for brands- similar to options provided by WeChat. For now, the released industries are: food/beverages, sports, travel, express delivery and personal development. Personal accounts do not support payments yet. - Read more (Chinese)
- Olivia


Other News

Chinese consumers are expected to become more concerned about data privacy. Best to play it safe for now. Besides, China’s data privacy laws are said to be at least as strict as Europe’s GDPR.
Meanwhile, if you’d like to be as secure as a Western reporter, this article has you covered. He recommends using multiple VPNs, two phones and no laptop.
- Tait

Huawei plans to increase its investment in Canada regardless of recent diplomatic tension. Simultaneously, UK and New Zealand announced that the company is still considered an option for their 5G network upgrade. As the company has been in international hot water for the past few months, such statements may be a chance for a turn (read more in English).
What’s interesting, the tension’s only boosted domestic sales. Chinese consumers often turn against foreign brands and support their own when facing backlash abroad. You know, there was even that propaganda performance of Chinese children singing “Huawei the Beautiful” last week. But another trending topic was a CNN poll where American audience said that Huawei scandal was “politically motivated”- and for the first time in a while Chinese netizens agreed with something! - Read more (English)
- Wiki




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