How To Successfully Market Your Business In China


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China is the second-largest economy in the world by nominal GDP and one of the most desirable markets for foreign businesses.

Brands must understand Chinese culture in order to expand their reach into this lucrative market.

China, which is a socialist market economy, continues to be a mystery market for many foreign businesses. Despite this, more foreign businesses are trying to enter China as the Chinese government gradually opens up their economy to outsiders. China is now the largest retail market in the world, surpassing the US in 2019. This is due to the rising disposable income of Chinese consumers. Many of these people have made it a priority to conquer the China market.

There are many things to consider when doing business with China. However, a brand’s ability to feel culturally sensitive is one of its biggest challenges, especially in marketing. Recent issues such as those facing The NBA, BlizzardActivision and Dior show this.

Cultural sensitivity is important – Your brand will stand out in China.

According to a Chinese saying, “Men cannot live without their faces, but trees can’t survive without their bark”, the concept (mianzi), of face is closely linked to “dignity” and “prestige.” People are driven to do things that will show their success. This is often reflected in the high demand for luxury goods and services in China. The consumption of a premium brand can be a powerful status symbol. If you are looking to expand your product into the Chinese market, we recommend that you check top luxury branding agencies our list has already been prepared.

This mentality boosts the demand for brand-name products, which is a benefit to luxury brands that sell high-quality, premium goods. China has been the leader in luxury shopping for the past decade. Despite China’s slowdown in growth and crackdown on gifting, the luxury goods market remains relatively stable. China’s retail value for personal luxury goods was around 105 billion Euros in 2017, ranking second to the United States. Non-luxury brands can also profit from the “face” mentality through marketing and product packaging.

Brands can incorporate cultural elements into products by creating exclusive collections that celebrate Chinese festivals. This is especially popular during gift-giving holidays like Chinese New Year when many products are repackaged with red to represent the holiday. Maybelline was the first cosmetic brand to launch their “Red on Fire,” lipstick line in 2019. This set featured a mahjong set with Chinese characters and Zodiac signs.

It was a huge success, with hundreds of Chinese bloggers sharing their thoughts on it. Although many brands struggle to find products that include Chinese cultural elements, Maybelline has proven that it can connect with local culture through its unique products.

Cultural Sensitivity – Select the right medium to convey your message

Cultural sensitivity is an invaluable tool in marketing strategies in China. It helps you choose the right channels and spokespersons to market your brand. 

The Internet and social media are an integral part of daily life for Chinese citizens. The internet population in China has reached 829 million people as of 2019. This is a mere 59.6% of the total population. WeChat is the most popular social media platform . It offers many features, including the ability to pay bills and book taxis. The app was used by 1.32 billion people in Q2 2019, which is close to a 90% penetration rate. WeChat is now one of the most popular marketing tools for companies to expand their digital presence in China.

Social media marketing is generally more popular in China than the rest of the globe. The Chinese internet is more fragmented than the West, however. One example is that users of Sina Weibo, one of China’s most popular social networks, are not allowed to share content on WeChat. It can be difficult to choose which platform to focus on when there are so many popular platforms such as Zhihu (Q&A) and TikTok (the short-video app that is gaining huge popularity among young Chinese people), without knowing Chinese internet culture. When choosing the right channel for their marketing messages, brands should take into account their target audience’s preferences and use behaviors as well as their industry scope.

The rise of KOL (Key Opinion Leaders), also known as influencers, is a result of the popularity of social media. Chinese are more open to KOL marketing than traditional celebrity endorsements. They value peer-to–peer advice and believe that those opinions are more trustworthy and genuine. An Mediakix Survey found that 49% of consumers rely on KOLs for buying decisions. These numbers are even higher among Gen-Z and Millennials!

It is crucial to choose the right KOL for your platform in order to do KOL marketing properly. The right KOL must be relevant to your industry. XiaoHongShu , for example, is a social ecommerce platform that focuses on fashion and beauty. There is a UGC community that allows users to share and discuss shopping tips and product reviews. It would be great to have beauty KOLs on the platform if you sell lipsticks. You can collaborate with big names like Li Jiaqi if you have a lot of money!

To properly market KOL, it is important to choose the right KOL for the platform. XiaoHongShu, for example, is a social ecommerce platform that focuses on fashion and beauty. There is a UGC community that allows users to share and discuss shopping tips and product reviews. It would be great to have beauty KOLs on the platform if you sell lipsticks. You can collaborate with big names like Li Jiaqi if you have a lot of money!

Cultural sensitivity is important – Craft powerful marketing messages

Sensitivity to local culture is essential in crafting a compelling marketing message that resonates with your audience. It is important to understand the culture and to be able to respond to cultural changes. This can lead to a tarnishing of your brand or worse, even getting kicked out from the market. You might consider working with international agencies in Shanghai.

Confucianism influenced gender roles in the past, so women were subordinate to men when it came to gender roles. This belief still holds true in some Chinese communities. However, women are gradually assuming more senior positions in the workplace. Many TV shows feature highly educated women in well-paid jobs.

This is where women’s empowerment comes in. The Chinese, unlike western feminist movements like #MeToo and others are more focused on breaking social norms and achieving financial independence. Alibaba makes these initiatives profitable by making the International Women’s Day into a shopping festival called “Queen’s Day”. Women are encouraged to shop to make their own happiness.

Brands have built positive brand images by delivering relevant marketing messages. SK-II launched a media campaign #ChangeDestiny in 2016 to address the stress and concerns of Chinese “leftover” women, which are women who were not married before the age 30. It celebrated the courageous and inspiring women who don’t let pressure dictate their fate and encouraged them to take control.

This campaign was a huge success, which allowed SK-II to build a reputation for standing up for single women in China and joining the women’s movement. It showed the importance of connecting to Chinese society issues and how brands can make an emotional impact in China.

Although it may be difficult to align with cultural values, it can lead to market losses. However, touching on taboo subjects can prove disastrous as it can lead to boycott movements.

Brands should be more cautious when handling politically sensitive content such as the undisputed topic of territorial boundaries, which is a sign of growing patriotism within China. Qantas and Zara had to update their websites last year in order to list Hong Kong and Taiwan separately from China. After categorizing Tibet and Taiwan as distinct countries, the Marriott website in China was also shut down.

A recent example is Tiffany & Co, a luxury jewelry brand. They were forced to take down advertisements following accusations that they supported the Hong Kong protest movement. A Chinese model was seen wearing a Tiffany ring on one hand and covering one eye with the other. China netizens quickly compared this to the eye-covering gesture that has become a symbol for the Hong Kong protesters.

Vans, a Canadian-based shoemaker, was forced to take out a shoe design that had been created by Tiffany & Co. This shoe design was made in support of Hong Kong’s Pro-Democracy movement. The NBA has lost many Chinese partners since the general manager of Houston Rockets tweeted his support for Hong Kong protesters.

Although being sensitive to political content can be considered self-censorship, brands who are looking to expand their reach in China should keep their profiles low. The backlash that could result from this type of behavior could cause irreparable damage. A local digital agency would be a good option.

About the author

Kobe Digital is a unified team of performance marketing, design, and video production experts. Our mastery of these disciplines is what makes us effective. Our ability to integrate them seamlessly is what makes us unique.