Although China’s infamous melamine dairy scandal happened 12-years ago, the wounds are still raw for many Chinese consumers who China Skinny speaks to.
The scandal bankrupted domestic brands such as Sanlu, but other local brands are now stronger than ever, particularly the market ‘duopoly’ of Yili and Mengniu, who both sit among the world’s ten largest dairy brands.
On 9 July 2020, a WeChat post by Wang Xiaoqi (pen name) translating to “Disclosing the Six Sins of Mengniu and Yili, Since the Media Dares Not to Say, I Am” sought to expose the truth behind China’s dairy giants’ ascent to conquer the Chinese market. The article claimed that Yili and Mengniu achieved their dominance by manipulating industry standards and silencing opponents with state power.
Although the original WeChat article was swiftly deleted by force, screenshots of the article went viral on social media, before being deleted too. Wang was abruptly arrested, but was released the following day.
WeChat searches for Yili normally sit at around 0.9 million a day, but peaked at 21 million on 20 July. Similarly, Mengniu’s typical 1.5 million daily searches soared to 15 million on 12 July as concerned consumers tried to locate the deleted posts and find out more. Baidu also saw triple-digit surges for Yili and Mengniu-related searches in the weeks that followed.
In the article, the Wang outlined the Six Sins of Yili and Mengniu that he said had manipulated authorities and done evil to consumers:
1. Average UHT milk quality is getting worse and tastes increasingly watery;
2. Between 2005 to 2008, Yili and Mengniu and successfully lobbied the authorities to ban the word “fresh” from milk packaging, preventing consumers from distinguishing between fresh milk and long-life UHT. ‘Fresh milk’ became labelled as ‘pasteurised’ milk which saw its share tank versus UHT;
3. Mengniu and Yili prioritised production speed over quality in 2008 and, much like Sanlu, treated their raw milk with additives such as hydrogen peroxide / melamine, whey powder and penicillin, although they didn’t take the fall like Sanlu;
4. Mengniu and Yili utilized the melamine scandal to lower their dairy products’ quality standard. Their protein has decreased from 2.95g to 2.8g per 100mg now, while the bacteria limits increased from 100,000 to 1 million;
5. Both companies treat dairy farmers unfairly;
6. Whistleblowers have been persecuted, with at least seven people having been arrested for criticizing Yili to date.
Within 30 minutes of the post going live, Yili had engaged KOLs and PR to quash the post’s claims. Mengniu did the same the next day. Even the China Diary Industrial Association released statements, claiming everything in the WeChat post was fake. Rather than convincing consumers, it reinforced the influence that the giants have in the industry, with the most popular comment in the article translating to “I didn’t believe the post until you posted this claim”. Independent KOLs also fact-checked the claims and confirmed them to be true.
The expose will only strengthen the appeal of imported dairy products in China – something that China Skinny will continue to monitor the real impact through our Dairy Tracker. Stay tuned.
Take a tour of Shanghai’s Jing’An Park on a sunny Sunday 21°C (70°F) afternoon on 15 March. Over the past weeks, all confirmed coronavirus cases in Shanghai have been imported, seeing the containment measures gradually lessened. This policy includes reopening Jing’An Park on 13 March along with 197 other parks. By 20 March, almost all of Shanghai’s parks, up to 335, are expected to be reopened.
Many of the new measures continue: standard temperature checks continue – ensuring visitors’ temperatures are under 37.3°C (99.1°F), park numbers are limited, the food & beverage outlet has clear signs noting its sterilisation, and most people wear face masks. Yet small groups of people enjoying some social interaction without face masks illustrating how people are less concerned about the virus than a couple of weeks ago.
Advertising on WeChat Moments can get your brand into Chinese consumers’ most personal of feeds, yet it is not cheap, with the CPM (cost per thousand impressions) north of $20 in bigger cities, with a 20% premium on short video ads.
With costs like that, brands really want to make sure their ads resonate with Chinese consumers to ensure they’re not spending a whole lot of money on campaigns that return very little. In developing ads, it is important to understand one’s target market’s motivations and emotional buttons to push (China Skinny can assist), and to marry that up with learnings from the most popular ads.
Last month, WeChat launched a poll asking users to vote for their ‘Your Favorite WeChat Moments Ad’ in 2017 – incentivising participants with random red envelopes. Below are the top ads as chosen by more than 600,000 WeChat users casting 1,378,948 votes.
Ads are listed in alphabetical order by Chinese name – click on the ad image to see the full video version:
#Original is never finished
Launched on 15 August, using a short video with local and foreign celebrities including HK singer Eason Chan, Chinese visual artist Chen Man, and American model and TV personality Kendall Jenner. The ad linked to a longer video with the celebs explaining how they pushed themselves to keep original. Viewers were invited to follow the account at the conclusion of the video.
Launched on 8 June, Tourism Australia was one of two winners who used a static image with accompanying text that translated to ‘Let’s explore the coastline in Australia’. Clicking on the ad took the user to a stunning a 30s video with a voiceover from Australian actor Chris Hemsworth, AKA Thor. Viewers were invited to follow the account.
Launched on 29 August, the short video promoting the 2018 BMW X1 combined fun visuals of the car with strobe shots of beautiful scenery and outdoor activities. Clicking on the ad, viewers are shown a longer video and car features, with a link provided at the conclusion of the ad where viewers can link to the BMW website to make an appointment to test drive the X1.
Launched on 13 October, a short video used alluring pink hues and eye catching shots of lips with designs and letters drawn from the new Dior Addict lip tattoo, long-wear coloured tint. Viewers could click on a link in the ad to purchase the lipstick.
Launched 28th Feb, an image showed the Millennial ‘models’ for Spring & Summary fashion photography with the ad linking to a WeChat post that explaining story behind each of the photos from famous Italian street photographer Franco Pagetti.
Launched on 28 April, the ad was an image for a pair of fancy wedding shoes, leading to a WeChat post with embedded video introducing their customized wedding shoes for both bride and groom.
Launched on 23 June, a high-action short video utilized Transformers to announce the Brand Day for Hasbro’s Transformer toys on JD. Clicking on the ad, viewers were taken to a longer ad with embedded links to purchase toys with exclusive discounts.
Australia took out another of the top spots with this ad launching on 27 June. A short video showed that Trip Advisor takes you to view a different Australia with animal, coastal and undersea shots. Viewers who clicked on the ad were taken to a detailed video showing how the featured KOLs experience Australia differently. When the video concluded, viewers are encouraged to download the Trip Advisor app and visit Tourism Australia’s 360-degree visual map.
#Love is everywhere
Launched on 7 September, a short video showed what makes the passengers travelling on metros look up, encouraging people to care about the world and discover the beautiful things around you. Clicking on the ad takes viewers to a longer video which educates viewers about the work Tencent charity is doing such as wildlife protection, poverty reduction and education. Following the ad, readers can find out how they can participate in upcoming charity events.
Launched on the auspicious day of 8 August, a short video introduced Montblanc’s Summit smart watch marking the exclusive WeChat launch. Clicking on the would provide viewers a link to order the watch, with the first 10 customers also receiving a special gift from the Montblanc.
Key themes and learnings from the top WeChat Moments ads:
- Video resonates with WeChat users. Although it costs 20% more, it is much likely to be noticed and engaged. 7/10 of the top ads were short video, and nine of the ads linked to a longer video.
- Recognisable brands are most likely to resonate on WeChat Moments feeds – other brands will need a stunningly creative campaign for breakthrough
- The top brands all had beautiful imagery/video, which is a fortunate characteristic of the popular beauty, fashion and tourism categories
- Call to action was varied: purchase, book/reserve, download the app or just follow the WeChat account.
WeChat Moment ads and other Tencent advertising is likely to continue to become ever more relevant for brands as the platform evolves. In Q3 last year, advertising revenue grew 63%. There’s still plenty of room for growth when you consider Facebook makes 97% of its revenue from advertising versus just 17% at Tencent.
Late last year Tencent announced they would bring together their seven internal units such as WeChat, QQ, gaming and finance to offer smarter, more targeted advertising using better coordinated user data and profiling. This will only grow Moments advertising effectiveness for brands.