Mark Tanner
24 April 2013 0 Comments

Apple is again in the dog box in China, this time for having ‘obscene’ content in its App Store. It was just last month Apple was being slammed for poor customer service and substandard warranty policies. The company that was once elevated to hero status in China, is increasingly being labelled as the villain.

Although many Chinese consumers have limited trust in State-run media such as TV, radio and print, it’s still human nature to be swayed by what they are constantly seeing and hearing. Even the Weibo microblogs, the voice of ‘everyday’ Chinese, are becoming crowded with 176,700 Government organs and official accounts, helping influence opinion in the social spheres. Although Apple has it’s army of tireless advocates in China, the majority of consumers without rock-solid ties to the brand, are starting to be swayed by the media rhetoric. A survey of Chinese consumers found 60% would rather a Samsung Galaxy S4 to an iPhone 5. Influenced by the bad press? Highly likely.

Many Japanese brands have taken a similar hammering of late, with Japan’s share of the auto market in particular, sinking like a stone. Many Japanese brands, scrambling to turn things around in China, are following the lead of brands like Uniqlo. By adapting their products and marketing to appeal to the younger demographic, they’re pinning their hopes on consumers who are more confident, independently-minded and less influenced by Government sentiment than older generations.

No matter who you’re targeting in China, if you’re selling on a large scale, you need to have a presence in Beijing doing everything you can to keep the Government on side. And keep humble. Arrogance is the nicotine habit of China’s business world – it will likely harm your health, even the odd social puff. For the majority of foreign businesses in China, who aren’t yet at that scale, this week’s skinny has plenty of other marketing views and news to focus on. Enjoy!

Chinese consumers Chinese Consumers

Luring Chinese Consumers Needs Direct Engagement: Focusing marketing dollars on distributors, agents and importers isn’t the best use of budget as savvy Chinese consumers seek more than one source of information for purchase decisions. Web & social media are increasingly influencing choices. Marketing support for distributors is essential, but as they may have their own agendas, speaking directly to Chinese consumers is the best bet.

Shanghai Target’s Hong Kong Art Market With License For Christie’s: Christie’s plans to hold an art auction in Shanghai this autumn after becoming the first foreign firm to win a wholy-owned subsidiary license to auction art in China. Prior to this, Sotheby’s partnered with a state firm and could only run auctions in the Mainland through the JV. It’s a sign of the Chinese Government liberalising certain markets and welcoming foreign competitors on a more even playing field.

Chinese Internet Internet, Mobile & Social Media

Apple Ordered To Remove Obscene Content From China Store: The Chinese Bureau tracking porn and illegalities has ordered Apple to remove obscene content from it’s App store. Is this the first step for Apple getting a stunted app store in China, following down the path of Google’s Android marketplace?

Chinese Consumers Prefer S4 To iPhone 5: A better product, better marketing, or influenced by the recent anti-Apple rhetoric? A survey of 5,000 Chinese consumers discovered that 60% would prefer a Samsung Galaxy S4 to an iPhone 5.

Twittering For Attention: Japanese newspaper Asahi Shimbun’s Weibo account has resonated with Chinese consumers, attracting 340,000 followers and posts forwarded tens of thousands of times. It uses creative ways of story-telling, a funny and friendly tone, and covers topics that attract widespread discussion. Other foreign media such as WSJ, take a more serious approach to engage with a slightly difference audience, although with 1.4 million followers, WSJ’s strategy is also working. Many media firms have two Weibo accounts – one in Chinese, one in English. Some organizations whose websites are blocked, use Weibo as a way to reach more Chinese people.

Marijuana Being Sold Online in China, Report Says: First porn on Apple’s App Store, now North Korean ox gallstones, cattle gall bladder bile and marijuana by the gram are being sold online in China.

Why China loves ‘The Daily Show’ : Fifty times more Chinese watch “The Daily Show” online than Americans, as the interest in U.S. issues, affairs and popular culture, and accompanying humour, prove popular with young Chinese Internet users.

Mobile Advertising: Tailor-Made In China: The average Chinese consumer is ahead of the west in terms of smartphone adoption as well as app downloads and continued usage, helped by less stringent privacy laws for contacting consumers on their mobile, according to an Associate Professor at NYU.

WeiboPay: Sina’s Foray Into China’s Online Payments Market: Weibo’s recently launched WeiboPay is providing another eCommerce channel for Chinese consumers, allowing partnering businesses to sell their products directly on the Weibo platform, similar to recent trials from Mercedes and Xiaomi smartphones.

Chinese fashion Fashion

New Generation Of Chinese Consumers Keep Japan’s Uniqlo Alive: Fashion retailer Uniqlo is bucking trends of Chinese consumers going cold on Japanese brands as the store’s results have exceeded expectations. Uniqlo’s clientele are young middle-upper class Chinese, who are more internationally-minded as less influenced by anti-Japanese rhetoric. Uniqlo stores also seem more western than Japanese, with European models in a lot of advertising, and many customers may not be aware that Uniqlo is Japanese.

Chinese auto Auto

Japanese Auto Makers Target Chinese Youth: The Japanese car companies are pinning their hopes on China’s consumers born post-1980, who are more concerned with quality, safety and sustainability, and less swayed by Government relationships with a brand’s origin. Sales of Japanese cars in China fell 14.3% in March from a year earlier. US & German automakers increased by 31.1% and 24.6% respectively .

Bird flu Not Scaring Off Chinese Car Lovers: H7N9 seems to have been sidelined by the masses attending the Shanghai Motor Show, with barely a face mask in sight. A few photos from the trenches amongst the sea of consumers. Our view.

Chinese food and beverage Food and Beverage

Dining Giants Look To Transform Amid Frugality Campaign: China’s corruption crackdown has driven upscale restaurants’ revenues to drop by 35% in Beijing and 20% in Shanghai year on year in January. The slide is seeing some high end restaurants scrap high price dishes and promote cheaper plates.

Oreo Goes Local To Appeal To Chinese Consumers: Oreo signs up one of China’s most popular film directors, Feng Xiaogang, as its new China spokesman. Ironically, one of Feng’s most famous movies Back to 1942, was about the horrific famine in Henan, during the 2nd Sino-Japanese War. The Feng campaign centers around Father-son moments as Chinese consumers “respond better to tearjerker elements than spectacle” and the “Oreo campaign is just another step in that direction.”

Kiwi Cookies For Chinese Tastes: Kiwi Cookies is adapting NZ cookies to appeal to Chinese tastes, such as including less sugar. Oatmeal, raisin & apricot flavoured cookies are the top sellers, although they may be trumped by savoury cookies in development such as mushroom, sun-dried tomato and herb, Parmesan oregano and sesame pecan. Yum!

Chinese tourists Chinese Tourism

Chinese Spend Less On Hotels, Still Flash The Cash: Chinese travellers spend an average of $172 a night on hotel rooms; less than the Japanese, Australians, Americans and Swiss. Much of the savings go towards their shopping extravaganzas. Many overseas trips are to nearby Asian destinations, with HK being the top destination, although the US is the most popular destination outside of Asia, growing 25% in 2012. Paris was number 1 in Europe. The average overseas Chinese holiday costs $1,000 including flights, accommodation and shopping. 57% of travellers expect to spend more on tourism this year than last.

Chinese education Education

Nearly 80% Of Pupils Have Weibo Accounts: Survey: 78% of children in elementary school and 90% in middle school have weibo accounts, according to a Sina survey. Many students use an alias and 72% claim their parents are unaware they’re on Weibo. Their common posts include bullying teachers and homework complaints, homework answer sharing and celebs.

Chinese health and beauty Health & Beauty

L’Oréal Targets China: L’Oreal expects China to be its number 1 customer in two years, with as many as 250 million customers in 10-15 years. Customers are being driven by under-30s, lower-tier cities and many touchpoints for customers including eCommerce, boutiques, airports and railway stations. Chinese travelling internationally are also big contributors.

Yves Saint Laurent Beauty Expanding To China: YSL cosmetics are launching their first beauty counter in China next month, in a high end Japanese department store in Shanghai. It will build on owners, L’Oreal Luxe’s success, market intel and channels in China. L’Oreal currently sells in 972 department stores, 140 Sephora stores & 68 airport shops.

Chinese luxury Luxury Goods

China Retailers Shift From Ostentatious: China’s Government corruption clampdown is affecting everything from flower sellers to luxury watches. Year on year retail sales for Q1 grew 12.4%, down from 14.9% in Q412. Restaurants and catering grew just 8.5%. Ferrari, Pernod Ricard and a slew of other luxury brands actually saw negative growth. In brighter news, China retail sales overall grew 10.3% in March, up from Jan and Feb’s 9.5%.

That’s the skinny for the week!

If you’ve missed earlier news or need to learn more, there’s a library of information about Chinese consumers in prior China Skinny Weeklys right here. You can have this delivered to your inbox each week by subscribing for email updates, or if social media is more your thing, please follow us on Twitter, Facebook, Linked In or Google+, or subscribe to our RSS feed.  If you have any feedback or suggestions for future articles, please let us know.