In today’s post-pandemic new normal, companies are responding to the changing consumer behavior by modifying their business models and pushing for more innovation. A great example of this is co-branding, an increasingly popular strategy in China where people’s appetite for new and adventurous concepts is growing. When two brands with shared values deliver a unique product under the same umbrella, they can create a win-win situation for both. Here is a look at what it takes to launch a successful brand partnership on the China market.
Communicate the public opinion
Chinese consumers take pride in their country’s ability to recover from COVID-19 with less repercussions than the rest of the world. For 1.4 billion people, this is a hard-won achievement worth praising. While Coca-Cola’s spokespeople typically include sports stars like Yao Ming and Liu Xiang, this collaboration between Pepsi and People’s Daily highlights essential workers such as delivery couriers and volunteers as the unsung heroes of our day.
Localize, localize, localize
Crossovers that in the West might seem over the top tend to become wanghong (Internet famous) in China. Jiangxiaobai, a popular baijiu brand for young adults, made a strategic decision when partnering up with Pocky, an iconic snack loved by many across Asia. Through this novelty product, both companies can reach each other’s audience while boosting their individual brand image.
Invest in social currency
Creating social buzz is arguably the most critical point of leverage for a successful co-branding campaign. In China, shopping is considered entertainment and extends to formats such as live streaming and online gaming. M.A.C’s lipstick collection in collaboration with a smash-hit mobile game Honor of Kings taps into the virtual world through storytelling in pursuit of millennial consumers. The collection secured 14 000 pre-orders and sold out across all channels withing the first 24 hours.
Leverage nostalgia marketing
Smart Chinese brands are tapping into positive cultural memories from the past decades to engage with consumers both old and young alike. After launching White Rabbit drinks, ice cream and cakes, the childhood favorite turned to Scent Library for a line of skincare products to be exclusively sold on Tmall. According to Alibaba, over 14,000 items were snapped up in the first 10 seconds after the range debuted.
Understand the needs of Gen Z
Aspiring marketers will learn from Perfect Diary for years to come. The O2O beauty brand expanded much like Glossier in the US by first building a strong following online followed by offline experiences. The brand’s bread and butter has been co-branding with established names such as the National Geographic and the New York Metropolitan Museum of Art. As Kronenbourg 1664 can be found in most F&B establishments from Chongqing to Shaoxing, it made sense for the skincare brand to excite the trendy consumers with a range of lip glosses and passion fruit-flavoured beer.
Take cues from the streets
Streetwear is a lucrative business in China, with consumer spending reaching nearly four times more than other apparel segments from 2015 to 2020. It is an exciting category since Chinese consumers A) have the purchasing power B) are less prone to gender-oriented fashion codes and C) tend to blur the lines between high and low, new and old. For many, finding the golden arches of McDonald’s on a pair of Adidas sneakers makes as much sense as Anta’s collaboration with Sprite. Both fun and recognizable, these brands put emphasis on lifestyle rather than offering a singular product.
When well-executed, co-branding can increase awareness and create a unique point of difference. With the best practices listed above, success is not guaranteed, but they provide an excellent framework for creating the ultimate brand experience. Contact China Skinny to find the best solution for you.
Plant-based foods have arrived in China with such aplomb that even meat lovers are beginning to take note. While this niche industry is having a moment in the West, China’s increasingly wealthier population might be trickier to convert. Yet, the social changes brought upon COVID-19 could just be what it takes to convince the 1.4 billion people living in the world’s second-biggest economy to switch their conventional sausages to meatless ones.
Declining Pork Reserves
Demand for pork in China, traditionally, is remarkably high. Before COVID-19 swept the country, China had to tackle another epidemic which devastated the agriculture sector – African Swine Fever (ASF). In 2019, the incurable pig disease killed millions of hogs and the nation’s pig herd shrank by more than 40%. According to official data, domestic pork prices rose almost 110% while pushing up live hog costs elsewhere around the world. Although the industry has shown signs of recovery, new cases of ASF continue to make the headlines, creating an opportunity for alternative protein sources to gain momentum.
Changing Consumer Behaviour
As the recovery from COVID-19 takes shape, brands across categories need to adapt to the “new normal”. The trends that have accelerated from the pandemic are likely to evolve further, digitization being the main driver. Changes are also happening on a micro level, with food consumption for example. McKinsey’s recent survey found that 70% of respondents will continue to spend more time and money purchasing safe and eco-friendly products, while three-quarters want to eat more healthily after the crisis. Companies producing meat alternatives are well positioned to satisfy these consumer expectations.
Biting the Market
A few companies have recently entered China with considerable success. California-based startup Impossible Foods first tested the waters at CIIE in November last year, where they served soy-based burgers and dumplings to 50 000 visitors. Another brand with equal appetite, Beyond Meat, entered the Chinese market through Starbucks last month and saw its shares jump 49%. The coffee retailer’s GOOD GOOD campaign also features healthy options from Hong Kong-based OmniPork and Swedish Oatly, both of which are widely stocked in stores and restaurants. Giants such as KFC do not want to be left behind either. The fast-food chain recently introduced plant-based fried chicken which drew long lines during the limited-time launch.
Taste is King
Recognizing the local palates, domestic plant-based protein companies are giving plenty of competition to international players. Beijing-based Zhenmeat first gained popularity with mock meat-stuffed mooncakes but is now working to 3D print bones for their meat alternatives. Faux oyster sauce, veggie bacon and plant-based abalone producer Whole Perfect Food in Shenzhen is reportedly bringing in $44.6 million from sales each year, highlighting the importance of localizing your product offering.
To add to the above, China has announced new guidelines to reduce domestic meat consumption by 50% by 2030 – a statement that could alone accelerate the clean meat movement. The shifts have already begun, and investors seem equally happy to line up for the next big ‘veggie’ bite.
Every business in China, whether foreign or domestic, should have digital presence on WeChat. What started as an instant messaging app in 2011 has now become one of the most popular platforms for building brand awareness and generating leads. However, there are a few things to keep in mind when crafting a WeChat strategy, especially for a B2B company. Even B2C companies often have an element of B2B marketing, whether it be reaching partners, distributors or sales channels.
While the main focus in B2B is geared towards a professional audience, it is important to remember that WeChat is oversaturated with information – you need to bring something ’different’ to the table in order to stand out. After setting up your WeChat Official Account, we recommend getting started with these simple but effective strategies below. Since WeChat keeps innovating its ecosystem and rolling out new features like Channels, don’t forget to keep an eye on China Skinny’s blog and newsletter for the latest developments from Tencent.
1. Set realistic goals. What kind of results are you looking for – increased followers and page views, an engaged community, or more traffic on your website? It’s easy to get distracted by the record-breaking numbers dominating the headlines about Chinese social media, so try to narrow down your focus and set clear expectations. Remember, WeChat is a marathon not a sprint.
2. Leverage on all the features. Before publishing any content, make sure your WeChat Official Account has all the relevant elements in place. For example, a proper welcome message – it’s the first touch point between you and the customer. Another section that often gets overlooked is the menu tab. The standard practice is to have three columns covering the essentials – About Us / Products or Services / Contact us with up to five additional sub-menus.
3. Think like a B2C company. ROI, efficiency, and expertise might be your main goals, but publishing WeChat content that’s snackable and entertaining to scroll through tends to perform better. Don’t overwhelm your audience with long and extremely technical copy – chances are no one will read it. The aim is to have a healthy balance between corporate and social.
4. Emphasize visuals. Beautiful graphics and well-designed layouts aren’t reserved for fashion brands only. Try including multimedia in your posts to make the content visually more appealing. This technique will also help to boost shares and wow’s. If there’s a trade show on the calendar, why not design a VR-led digital invitation in the form of H5 and encourage visitors to RSVP before the event.
5. Include a call-to-action. WeChat posts that present a clear CTA to the readers generally get more traction. Instead of being didactic with your content, think about sharing interesting case studies, staff testimonials, how-to’s and other useful industry insights.
6. Be consistent. Publishing content regularly will help you to grow followers organically. If the account stays dormant for too long, people might move on and forget about you eventually.
7. Spread the word. It’s far too common that carefully crafted articles end up with 200+ views, which is disappointing. This is where your China contacts come in handy. Ask your team/network to share the good work that has been produced (look up: content seeding).
8. Build a community. It doesn’t cost anything to create a WeChat group and loop in everyone that might be interested in your brand. All you need to do is to provide value – share relevant information and keep up a lively discussion. It takes some time and effort to manage any chat, but your fans would appreciate you going the extra mile for them.
9. Content is just the beginning. With WeChat Moments advertising, Mini Programs and the newly launched Channels, the possibilities to market your business on WeChat are almost endless. As we’ve witnessed the tremendous rise of Douyin during the coronavirus outbreak, we predict that livestreaming will be the next gold mine for Tencent to tap into.
Hopefully that will get you started and focusing on the right things to build your WeChat account following, engagement, advocacy and ultimately sales. To develop a comprehensive, effective, action-based B2B or B2C marketing strategy for China, please contact China Skinny to discuss how we can assist.