What do Chinese Marketers don’t know ?

Marketers are taught that brands can fail because of different reasons, but usually succeed for the similar ones. The success of these brands is, on the other hand, closely related to the capability and decisions from marketers. Based on our experience, we’d like to reveal some common points that Chinese marketers are often found to miss at their daily work for your consideration.

1) Social Media marketing is more psychology than technical.

Social Media is about humans: it is built on social life and the way in which people live and interact with others. It is more operated with the rules based on human life and experience rather than mere knowledge or technology skills.


As said by Ben Wilson, Managing Director of Reckitt Benckiser, the mother company of Durex, ‘… as for us, social is all about friendship, and friendship is not about to get something back from someone but about to have an engagement with a friend in a long term…’ in a video interview show called Thoughtful China. He highlights that Social Media marketing is about making friends, engaging with people, understanding and interacting with them and then providing them advices and offers as a friend. Durex has done great job in the past five years with over millions of followers highly attached to the brand and its products. This gives us an idea of how to treat social media marketing more from an angle of relationship building, mental understanding, trust and attachment developing rather than statistics.

2) Social media is not a tactic, nor a strategy. It’s part of an integrated marketing approach to market in an age when consumers are more empowered.

Following the topic above, Social Media is never a sole tech to work on by itself; it is rather an effective way or tool to reach potential customers in this information-overloaded era, where most individuals are connected and interacting with each other, publishing ideas, comments and posts with little cost or limit.
Individuals are more powerful than before when they are seamlessly connected with the world. They are able to express, give opinions, complain, diffuse and block. In a word, given the convenience and access of Internet connection, individuals nowadays have the power to build and to destroy a brand.
Therefore, working on Social Media is neither a simple work nor a separate work but requires a clear customer understanding, a thoughtful marketing blueprint, as well as effective marketing content, creativity and materials. Integrating social media work into the big picture can put it into efficient and valuable use.

Interesting: Focus on WeChat for your social media stategy in China


3) Engagement is the Key for social media, not exposure or fans.

It is simple to measure the result by the number of fans or the scale of exposure for marketers; however, given that Social media is ‘impossible to measure for ROI’ (Ben Wilson, Thoughtful China) as ‘it is all about making friends… engage with them… build trust and relationship’. It is not a secret that the number of fans and exposures can be faked with or without paying money to achieve and means nothing for the brands to understand their marketing achievement.


One famous Swiss watch brand has over 50,000 followers on Sina Weibo, the commonest social platform in China; however, most of their content posts there have pathetically single digital number (sometimes even ‘0’) of shares or comments via the users. By a close look at their content and campaigns, it is not hard to find that most of the content are commercialized or simply branding information, where the users will hardly be involved or interested. The inefficient customer engagement could be the dominant reason for its marketing failure.

Read : How to boost your social media engagement?

4) Social Media is not able to save bad product or Business model.

In 2014, there were 3.6 million newly registered firms and companies, while in the same year, the number of companies who got removed from the government list was 3.2 million, which does not include those struggling or with no operation but haven’t been cancelled from the list yet. China is a huge market however also a top competitive market in the world. It has a high cost to step in, to build the brand and to get things moving.


The reason why we believe Social Media can hardly save a bad brand or product is because platforms are built highly on consumer interaction, word of mouth, initiative sharing or comments, etc. Those are merely controlled by marketers themselves, or, if real good results are expected, natural interests towards the brand and products are very important on social media.
‘The brands that do well in Social Media are the brands that look good naked,’ said Don Tapscott in his excellent book Wikinomics . Remember, people only speak of the things they love and interested in, and they can speak anything about anything freely on Social Media.

5) Agencies are more expensive, but more effective (usually).

Marketers will lack energy and efficiency and will become Jacks of all trades but master of none. This tends to be the result when an inbound team has difficulties in facing a long list of must-do ranging from copywriting, designing, strategizing, editing and SEO operating… to name a few. Professionals of a marketing agency are usually trained experts in their specialized areas: they are working efficiently thanks to valuable skills and experience, but also effectively given the sufficient resources and channels.
To hire an agency is pricy in some ways compared to having one or two full- or part-timers, however it is much more valuable when you consider that you have hired a team of skillful and experienced specialists who come with resources and originalities.


6) Most Chinese agencies lie about their customer list.

Agencies do not speak the truth when mentioning their former clients or they try to overstate the work they have done before. The reason behind is to utilize the fame of those big brands to increase endorsement, or to make up its capabilities in order to cater the needs of the client. The major cost of an agency is manpower.
When an agency is small, it can hardly gain big cases since manpower could not handle it.
Given this, most agencies choose to fake or draw a forced analogy with some big names and projects when they are approaching clients, said by Digiday, a digital community of researchers.


7) People understand ads with a consumer approach.

Why should they think with an user approach rather than the producer’s approach? This is a common mistake both brand owners and marketers will make. To be a good marketer you need to learn to think from users’ angle and perspectives.
As the owner or marketer, you know the brand and products so well in terms of their quality, characters, advantages, mechanics and utilization. That is why you usually use words which you are the only one to know, when you try to introduce them to others. The public is different, especially online; people have short patience and it represents no cost for them to switch from one brand to the other.


Chivas, for instance, launched a campaign called ‘win the right way’. It is to advertise a campaign called ‘The Venture’. This campaign calls upon new business owners to join and take the chance to win an award of 1 million USD. The campaign has well matched with the theme ‘living with Chivalry’, it holds up a standard of ‘Modern Chivary’ which states you should suit the action to the word and insist to fulfill your dreams. However, as you may see from the poster above, the real information (brand theme ‘living with Chivary’, website and campaign ‘The Venture’ and poster’s topic ‘Wine the Right Way’) were very vague on the poster and badly mixed with each other, making it difficult for the public to perceive what the brand wants to highlight or even talk about.
The designer and marketer behind this poster may understand and see through the information easily and accurately while the normal public may not do the same.

8) Brand needs to have a coherent message on all supports.

Marketing materials need to be coherent with each other, not conflicting nor differentiating. Customers in this Internet age are very used to receiving massive information in a short moment and thus are much impatient and changeable when facing something they are confused with. Brands need to be consistent with their originality, from icons, colors, image to theme, topics and style which customers are used to. Even for changes, it is better to conduct them in small steps and not making customers confused. This coherence also helps highlighting brand image and eventually building a more stable attachment.


9) Every campaign has problems, you need to identify each of them and improve.

Well, it is not difficult to understand that human beings will make mistakes; while it shouldn’t be that hard either to understand that marketing plans made by human beings are not perfect. No marketing plan or campaign is perfect before trying with real market.

You may find they are either far from your expectation or from the customer’s, or disappointing for both sides. Big brands, such as Chivas in the previous case, can make bad marketing campaigns which lead to ineffective results, the only difference being marketers will learn their lesson and will be able to improve. It is just like developping a new website from scratch: bugs are common. The key is whether or not people know how to fix them, how fast they are fixed and prevented to happen again.

10) Big Brands start from small, what is interesting is how they become popular in China.

5 years ago, there was no Baidu Empire dominating the Chinese search engine market. 10 years ago, Tencent and Alibaba were not formed and you would never have expected them to be the biggest giants in both Chinese and global Internet markets.

Brands start from small and take time to develop. It may take even longer in China due to the huge competition and the lack of new brand acceptance from Chinese customers. It may sound like preaching to say so but indeed, building a success requires great patience, strong tolerance, as well as the courage to stick with the initial mind. Here we would like to use the development of Airbnb as the finish point for this article and encourage every business owner and marketer to achieve their dream.


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