Friday Forum – We bring the hottest questions from the Chinese Social & Digital space to our brightest minds.
How can brands stand out creatively in 2020 in China?
Senior Creative Director / We Are Social
Today it’s necessary for the brands to know who they are to stand out in the Chinese market. Like a person, the brand must consistently establish its image in the minds of consumers. Only in this way the brands can establish an emotional connection with their target consumers, and achieving a deeper interpersonal relationship.
Firstly, what brands choose to communicate needs to be meaningful to the target audience and be able to tell fascinating “stories”. More and more people are resenting ads, but everyone appreciates a great story. You can only create a meaningful connection between the users and the brand spirit/product features if it is mixed with a good story.
Secondly, cross-brand/IP collaborations can always inspire unique and fun ideas and showcase the brand’s inner friends circle of like-minded brands. Additionally. It gives brands the chance to expand their reach to new fans, and these fans in return will reach out to new people.
Lastly, clever activations of the fan economy can have amazing results when the fans of influencers/KOLs become fans of the brand itself. A great example is Nongfu Spring Vitamin Water sponsoring Idol Producer. From an ordinary drink, it became the key element to help the idols realizing their dreams. On one occasion, the product even went out of stock.
Creative Director / We Are Social
Expand on the dialogue between brand and consumer.
Tap into the real-time conversations and establish a clear identity.
The young consumers are flooding the market, promoting a new type of youthful mindset and attitudes towards life across all consumer groups. Other consumer groups are inspired by the youth and are establishing connection-points with them.
Build spaces where consumers and brands can meet.
Brands also have the chance to create immersive experiences such as VR-experiences at physical spaces or pop-up stores that allows the consumers to try out the products in unique and never-seen-before ways. These immersive experiences can be done in collaboration with brands/IPs to showcase new and trendy ways of shopping such as surprise grab bags/boxes. It can stimulate the consumers’ relationship with the brand and buying desires.
Create engaging topics and inspire users to generate more interactions.
Pay attention to and utilize the shaping of high-quality UGCs. Embrace and nurture loyal users with strong voices and a sense of fashion to represent the brand. These “micro-influencers” can be a part of the overall communication that can be shared by others more authentically.
Creative Director / We Are Social
Three issues must be considered for the creative construction of a brand.
Firstly, does the brand have the ability to embrace new technologies quickly? Because it determines the limitations of your brand development.
Today, with the developments of AI, 5G, Cloud, and IoT, we will be able to connect and interact with everything through technology. It will allow for the concept of “everything is media” where creativity can be unleashed at a greater scale.
Secondly, how to distinguish the audience?
Traditionally, the audience is divided into male, female, student, white-collar worker, upstart, middle class, etc. But now through technology and big data, the audience can be sub-categorized in real-time, such as Buddha-like people, poor guys, unreliable men, happy fat otaku, lazy youth, etc. Niche cultures can become popular and generate new opportunities for growth.
Finally, how can a brand communicate with consumers?
GenZ might be the most difficult target group to persuade because they are more or less immune to the advertisement and can filter out information they don’t care about. Besides, they are exposed to so many choices and products with access to a massive amount of information. What becomes necessary is to allow the users to proactively be a part of the brand construction, and develop the brand together.
In conclusion, in this era, brands that can quickly embrace new technologies and keep maintaining the interaction with audiences will certainly take upon the role as a vital brand in the market.
Creative Director / We Are Social
It is easy to enter the Chinese market, but difficult to master it. What it comes down to is the ability to understand Chinese consumers’ needs and desires to remain successful in the future. Chinese consumers know the importance of their market for global brands. Therefore, the consumers expect more than before which requires more radical strategies among the brands.
举个例子，过去有许多品牌为了迎合中国消费者，经常把一些肤浅的中国元素、甚至是 I ❤️ CHINA 之类的文字直接印在商品上，就美其名是中国特别系列。但这种做法在今时今日怕是行不通了，毕竟中国品牌也在世界崛起，越来越多人开始在社交平台上共享知识，并且因为共同的兴趣而聚成派系。强烈的民族自尊心，让他们已经无法满足于过去一些品牌肤浅的表达。
For example, in the past, many brands often used superficial elements to connect with Chinese consumers and culture. Even words such as I❤ CHINA could be found directly on the products. This doesn’t work anymore. Chinese brands are starting to compete with world-leading brands that have a good understanding of the Chinese culture, people are changing their perception about advertisement through social media, and the national pride has made them demand more sophisticated branding.
Therefore, brands must have a deeper understanding of China to stand out. It can even be achieved through official partnerships with local entities and brands which is more recognized by Chinese consumers.
Brand creativity and strategy should not be
adapted to influencers/KOLs. China’s social media is facing the issue of having
a few influencers/KOLs providing the content to the platform. The decline of
certain social media platforms is often due to the few content producers leave
Especially millennials have a stronger sense of individualism and the need to be unique. Unwilling to follow the trends, their interests constantly are changing.
Therefore, what brands should do is to produce quality content that consumers can resonate with. Stop blindly trying to utilize or impact influencers/KOLs, and ignoring the importance of having a natural connection between the influencer/KOL and the brand/product. If the relationship with influencers/KOls is not done carefully without caring about how they match the brand, it may lead to public resentment of the brand.
Although high-tech and internet allow for great interaction with the consumers, it might not be the best solution to create immersive experiences together with the brand. It can be worthwhile to invest in more offline activities that are less about selling products, but more about closing the distance between the consumers and enhance the brand relationship that can benefit the decision makings.
Furthermore, with the increase of social phobia and real-life communication, offline experiences should be utilized for the chance of experiencing the brand in a more intimate level among the consumers, and gain a better sense of the brand voice.
Associate Creative Director / We Are Social
With China’s massive size and differences between regions and cities, it doesn’t exist a one-size-fit-all advertisement strategy. The gaps between the high-income and low-income target groups mean different acceptability of what type of advertisement that works. People with limited income are less picky and seek cheaper products, so it is effective to focus on repeatable price-sale advertisements.
Consumers from first-tier cities have higher demands on the advertisement from an aesthetic perspective. They not only want to understand the technical features of the brand/product, but it needs to resonate with them on a spiritual and emotional level.
As for advertising, if a brand wants to succeed in China, it needs to be aware of the cultural differences between target groups from the low-tier and high-tier cities/regions. Focus on function and price in the low-tier markets, and emphasize on the functionality of the product and emotional attributes in the high-tier markets.