China is the first country to be impacted by the coronavirus, and the impact has been severe. To curb the spread, the government implemented unprecedented measures that essentially shut down the entire country and brought most sectors of the economy to a standstill.
Now, as the rest of the world starts to battle the virus, China is finishing its war. The quarantine rules are loosening, and people are trickling back onto the streets and into their normal lives.
By all looks of things, we have won the war.
It seemed inappropriate in the past six weeks to talk about the coronavirus outbreak from a marketer’s perspective. The articles and blog posts released by trade publications seemed crude, opportunistic and insensitive. Only now, and only for the Chinese market, may a guide about the near future for Chinese advertising and marketing in reaction to the containment of the outbreak be warranted (and necessary).
Much of what will be listed is self-evident and requires very little reinforcing data. But, if anyone who reads this has questions or wants to debate, we will happily accommodate. So, here we go:
10 things for a marketer to do in a post-coronavirus China.
1 - 不要沉溺在媒体红海中
DON’T SWIM IN THE RED OCEAN OF MEDIA.
Look, all of February was wasted and you didn’t spend any of your marketing budget. But, you didn’t make any money either. Now all that pent-up energy (and money) is begging to be unleashed upon your target consumers. You are ready to go, right? But wait, so are your competitors and everyone else.
The obvious thing to do is to spend on the mainstream channels and hopefully get your customers back. However, that is where everyone is going to be spending their budget. Unless you go in with a huge investment, you will most likely be drowned out.
We recommend that you go with smaller, more precise channels to reach your audience. It will take extra work to identify them, but you will earn a lot of extra ROI.
2 - 对用户的迫切需求感同身受
EMPATHIZE WITH THE HUNGER.
Your consumer has been locked up at home for a month. They have developed an enormous appetite for what they used to take for granted: eating at restaurants, hanging out with friends, going to movies, etc. Do not act like you don’t know this. In your communications, relate to them, understand them, and, most importantly, guide them. They are gonna wanna do twenty things at once. Without hard-selling them, help them get organized and prioritize.
3 - 抓住时机吸收消费者
TIME TO CAPTIVATE THAT CAPTIVE AUDIENCE.
Who likes riding on crowded subways? How about standing in line for street food? Before the coronavirus, the answer was “nobody.” But now, thanks to the coronavirus and the lockdown that it brought upon everyone, the answer is “everybody.”
Humans are funny creatures. They get accustomed and desensitized to things easily, until those things are taken away. Now, all these mundane, time-wasting activities seem fresh again, and the media placements around these activities that used to exist on the merit of “there is nothing else for you to look at” now have the opportunities to be reminders of “how great it is to be alive and free.”
You must act quickly to get this type of messaging out there, for this is a limited time offer and the window of opportunity is closing fast.
4 - 对于快递的投诉即将回归
THEY DIDN’T BLAME YOU, BUT NOW THEY DO.
As recent as two weeks ago, it was okay for a consumer to order something from your Tmall store and NOT get the package. Kuaidi services were hamstrung and warehouses were closed. Your customers understood. It was okay.
Well, it is no longer okay. Your customers are either back at work or in the process of getting back to work, and they expect all parts of your logistics chain to be back at work. So, before anything else, ensure that your back-end services are back online or else face an avalanche of customer complaints and chapping in your Tmall listings.
5 - 全球疫情形势逆转
THE TABLES HAVE TURNED.
Many countries restricted travel from China at the onset of the outbreak. One spiteful ad in Australia even joked about how their products were virus-free because they were not made in China.
China is in the unique position of being one of the few countries with declining rates of the coronavirus, while the rest of the world is still concerned and uncertain as to how it will impact them. As a China marketer, there are three things to consider:
1. If you represent a brand that originates from another country, you might want to rally your audience to support that country in their time of crisis. Be sensitive. Be sincere. Be sympathetic. But, most of all, don’t be condescending.
2. If you are in the outbound tourism sector, be sensitive to the fact that most places outside China are deemed dangerous when compared to China now. Therefore, accept that fact, hang tight, and don’t push people to go visit places that aren’t safe.
3. Keep up with your daily news and be aware of the millions of event cancellations that are taking place around the world in order to avoid the mistake of relating to or associating with an event that will no longer happen. For example, now is not a good time to be giving away free tickets to SXSW.
6 - 某些美味就是无法在家烹饪
SOME THINGS YOU JUST CAN’T COOK AT HOME.
The sad truth is that China’s beloved F&B sector was heavily damaged by the outbreak. 93% of restaurants halted business, and prominent restauranteurs such as Jia Guolong, the founder of Xibei, warned publicly that their businesses did not have the cash to stave off bankruptcy. For us who live in a culture that is so obsessed with food, it would have been heartbreaking to see our favorite eateries go out of business because we could not leave our homes.
Well, the happy news is that people are going out once again. Friends must be met, clients must be wined and dined, and team lunches must be reinstated. There will be a surge in demand for dining out, and this should not concern only those in the F&B sector. Rather, all Chinese marketers should align their brands with this renewed passion and behavior.
7 - 肖战陨落艰难再起
XIAO ZHAN HAS FALLEN, AND HE CAN’T GET UP.
With too much time on their hands during the past month, Xiao Zhan’s fans managed to get AO3 blocked and a bunch of, uh, artistic content purged from this universe. In turn, their idol has taken the blame for not being able or willing to “control” them, thus losing his attractiveness as a brand spokesperson overnight.
Two things we have learned from this strange turn of events:
1. Lofter is still around, apparently.
2. Reporting inappropriate content to the government works really well.
1. 即使我在家里隔离，吃着自制的烤焦煎饼，我是否有办法更快地紧跟娱乐动态？ 2. 我是否制定了危机管理流程？当我的明星代言人/网红陷入困境时，立即解除关系是我唯一的解决方案吗？
Bringing this back to the main topic of this article, there are two questions you should ask yourself as a marketer in relation to this incident:
1. Do I have ways to keep up with cultural dynamics faster, even when I am self-quarantining at home eating overcooked homemade jianbing?
2. Do I have a crisis management process in place? When my celebrity spokesperson / KOL gets into trouble, is instant disassociation my only solution?
8 - 低价惊喜
Millions of people had to take reductions or pauses in their paychecks as cash-strapped employers struggled to survive. As an immediate consequence, many of the previously freewheeling and consumeristic people that brands have grown accustomed to will become cautious and frugal spenders.
The desire to purchase is still there, but the ability to purchase has been weakened. To address this issue, we recommend readjusting your sales priorities and highlight your lower-cost, entry-level products for the next three to six months.
9 - 促销来袭
Authoritative economists such as Zhang Anyuan are predicting very low GDP growth for China in Q1 2020. This means that many consumers may have to deal with unfavorable personal financial situations in Q2 and possibly Q3.
The knee-jerk reaction for brands might be to shun those with financial difficulties and focus their energy on the lucky few who are unaffected by the economy. We do not think this is the best approach. Instead, we recommend a contrarian strategy in which brands maintain relationships with their wounded customers by periodically offering product trials, steep discounts, and financing programs.
10 - 疫情会结束但绝不会被遗忘
GONE BUT DEFINITELY NOT FORGOTTEN.
COVID-19 might be physically departing from our lives, but memories of it will remain. Things like obsessive hand-washing and ritualistic mask-wearing will not go away for a long time. These new habits should not be ignored - they should be accepted and embraced as facets of a post-coronavirus society.
We believe that there are many opportunities for brands to embed these new habits into their upcoming product designs. Challenge your R&D department. Believe that you can be the next trendsetter. There is nothing keeping you from becoming the brand that is synonymous with hand-washing and mask-wearing in the years to come.
In China, in the war against COVID-19, we may have won. But the war for us as marketers, the war for hearts and minds, the war for share-of-voice, the war for share-of-wallet, in this post-coronavirus market, has just begun.
Take a deep breath, face your duty, and go forth and make our economy great again.