branding in china

Chinese consumers love to shop and are always on the lookout for a good buy. They’ll go with well-known brands like those from Nike or Coca-Cola rather than something niche, even if it’s less expensive (and sometimes also because these bigger names mean they’re guaranteed quality). Local retailers and international brands without established branding in China need a successful branding strategy in order to attract consumers since Chinese consumers tend to pass on products from brands they never heard of.

Although people in the West are shifting towards less known and niche brands and China is slowly following this trend, branding in China is still the most important factor of your success on the market. In this blog post, we will teach you all about visibility in the Chinese market.

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Why branding is so important in the Chinese market?

Online shopping in China has become a smart way to buy products because of the large number and variety available. Chinese consumers are looking for reliability when purchasing online, which leads them to queue up at stores if they have no other option; this is due largely to their knowledge that there may be counterfeit or low-quality goods being sold on sites like Taobao (a popular eCommerce platform).

More and more people are looking for quality instead of quantity. This trend has been driven by Chinese consumers, who care deeply about their health as well as the environment around them- which is why they oftentimes will purchase from brands with good standing in these areas! A well-known, popular brand is often associated with quality, which is usually granted to global brands in opposition to local brands, which are usually counterfeit.

chinese-consumers-critera-to-choose-a-brand - Branding in China

Although the situation is changing nowadays, with many local successful brands taking over the market, especially when it comes to fashion, both domestic and foreign brands need to work on their marketing campaigns on Chinese platforms and Chinese social media so that their target audience will get to know their values and product quality, purchase their products and recommend them further.

Here are some tips for your successful branding strategy

The way to get Chinese consumers’ attention is through digital marketing. They are more inclined than other populations, and they have a habit of searching for most brands online before making purchases which means you need to be very visible and have a marketing strategy that will cover most of the digital areas important for your audience.

Your offerings need to be mobile friendly

In the cities of the first and second tier in China, advertisements are surrounding the landscape, through posters on the buses, persons prospecting across the street, and these visible stores’ signs. However, no rest on mobile platforms either, applications provide options for sponsors who are interested, so their advertising can appear in strategic places.

Also, digital marketing is far more important nowadays in China, as most people look for information online, and they usually do so on their mobile phones. All the applications in China, all the online marketplaces, and websites are mobile-friendly and if you don’t focus on adapting your offerings to mobile devices, you won’t attract any consumers in China.

GMA Case Study: WeChat mobile-friendly H5 interactive brochure presenting the brand in China

Chinese people spend about 3 hours on their phones for social networking and for purchasing. According to the Statistical report on the internet, 95% of people connected to the internet are mobile users. As mobile has become a must-have in China, companies have to adapt their communication to it.

Focus on brand visibility on Baidu

It is important to have a website in Chinese. You should either host it on the mainland or in Hong Kong, as these details will greatly affect your SEO ranking and link-building efforts – which are aimed at increasing the number of incoming links that bring greater authority for search engine rankings from other sites linking back up with yours. Many foreign companies don’t host their websites in China, which is a very bad decision for search engine optimization, so you can beat them in this field.

Starbucks on Baidu

Apart from having a website, it’s also advisable to participate in Baidu forums like Baidu Zhidao or Baidu Tieba, especially if you’re an unknown brand. You can spread your name in forums related to your topic (for example parenting, fashion, natural cosmetics etc.), or you can start topics, to see what your audience thinks of your brand. It also helps in building a more personal relationship with customers.

The last step is to invest in Baidu Paid Advertising. You have many options to choose from, you can learn more about them here or contact us.

Work on your product’s packaging and slogan

Packaging is one of the most important elements of the product. The Chinese market is surrounded by offers. As result, consumers get lost easily and they do not always have or take the time to compare them all. Thus, they often refer to the product’s appearance to decide and make the purchase. Besides the product’s design, the packaging is also often decorated with humorous messages to catch the attention of Chinese consumers.

GMA Case Study: Lyfen snacks limited edition packaging for Autumn Festival

In the same way, the product or brand’s slogan can be a buzz element, work on it. The Chinese do not hold back to share interesting content on Chinese social networks.

Open a WeChat Official Account

WeChat is the most used communication application in China and today it has more than 1.26 billion active users per month. WeChat has developed a lot of features and services on its platform to suit enterprises’ needs.

Gucci WeChat Store
Brands and companies can use it in several ways:
  • By creating a subscription account, where users can subscribe and follow the latest news and information about the company.
  • Brands can link their WeChat account to their own WeChat mini-programs with interactive brochures and stores with a WeChat Payment method
  • WeChat’s advertising platform: it allows the promotion of the official account to get more followers, to send users to the brand’s website (outside WeChat’s platform), or to download the page of their application.
  • Create events on WeChat: for example, it is possible to create groups and organize a conference by audio or video

Be present on Chinese social media platforms

In addition to WeChat, which is far more than just a social media platform and a definite must-have if you want to do business in China, it’s advisable to start accounts on platforms like Weibo and Xiaohongshu, to reach more potential consumers with different content formats.

Among the most used apps in China, Little Red book (Xiaohongshu in Chinese) is the one that has grown the most quickly these years. This application is a mix of online community and e-commerce. Users share their experiences on different kinds of products, tips, and the latest trends. It also allows users to purchase the desired product on its platform.

Toys Market - Social media platforms
Toys on different social media platforms in China

Depending on your product type, you can also start an account on Weibo, which is a very popular micro-blogging platform in China, often compared to our Facebook. You can publish photos, videos, discount events, lucky draws, influencer collaborations, and so on, attracting many new customers to your brand.

Promote your brand through videos and live-streaming

The use of short videos (around 15 seconds) in particular, becomes more and more popular. They are simple and quick to view. In addition, there are a lot of applications (Douyin, Kuaishou, Meipai …) and platforms (Weibo, WeChat …) that enable the creation and publish them. It’s a very fun way to bring messages to consumers and also encourage sharing online. Videos with funny and entertaining content are even more appreciated.

GMA Case Study: MEL Science on Douyin

Videos have become a real marketing tool in China and maximize the return on investment. In addition to videos, another big trend in recent years are live streams, which are promotions of products. It’s advisable to collaborate with Chinese influencers to leverage the live-streaming option the best because they can attract their big followers’ bases to your brand.

paid marketing analyze ROI
Live-streaming on Kuaishou

Collaborate with Chinese influencers

As we already mentioned, influencers are a big hit in China in recent years. They have huge influential power over the shopping decisions of their audience. Word-of-mouth marketing is the best form of marketing in China. As we mentioned, Chinese people don’t trust official promotion channels that much, because there are a lot of scandals and counterfeiting problems in the country. Therefore, they trust recommendations and product reviews far more.

YSL Key Opinion Leaders campaign

There are different types of influencers in China. Big brands usually work with the biggest celebrities (Key Opinion Leaders), working as brand ambassadors. They have millions of followers, bringing huge profits to the company, but they are also expensive.

Smaller companies often chose nano-influencers or Key Opinion Consumers, who are ordinary users of products, that they promote further on their social media. It’s a good solution for small brands, as they are not that expensive, but still can bring great results, because they have a very engaged audience and good reputation, bringing a positive impact to the brand.

GMA Case study: Louise Misha kidswear influencer campaign on Weibo

Choose a good geographic location

When you already build a presence in China and are able to set up your brick-and-mortar store in the country, it’s important to choose your location wisely.

Settling in first and second-tier cities is very useful to become visible to Chinese consumers and gain their attention. Due to this, although in China there are a lot of online commerce opportunities, many brands choose to maintain a physical presence in big cities. A brick-and-mortar shop is often unprofitable, but it is a support for communication and customer relationship.

It is also interesting to consider third and fourth-tier cities. They are developing at a high pace in China, following big cities’ growth. It is cheaper to implement a business in those cities because the amount of investment needed is lower. Also, the government is supporting their development, welcoming new players to enter the market.

In addition, the visibility of a new foreign brand will be higher because it makes the difference from local brands while in big cities, it would have been drowned among many other competitors.

Need help with branding in China? Contact us!

Digital is the most effective way to reach an audience and communicate with it. However, simply translating the content of your website into Chinese is not enough. Entering the Chinese market requires it to make effort and adapt to its consumers’ consumption habits.

GMA is the most visible digital agency, located in Shanghai. We propose to you our knowledge about the Chinese market’s functioning and its consumers. Our team is made up of experts digital marketing field, and Chinese culture.

Here are some of our services:

We helped more than 600 small and big brands in China. Feel free to contact us now, or take a look at our services for mobile commerce in China.

Some of our case studies include:

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