Sophie Lees
30 August 2013 0 Comments

“Be agile, adapt and redefined to the change that is China marketing” says Adil Zaim, CEO of Carat China.

There are an abundance of stories about how difficult the China market is to tap into. Yes, it is complex, yes it changes constantly and yes consumers are becoming more educated and harder to please, and there is the constant reminder of those big companies that failed. So, how have some companies managed to conquer the mainland and succeeded in marketing successfully to Chinese consumers?

China Skinny utilises numerous insights and techniques to assist its clients in winning the hearts of Chinese consumers, but it’s always good to see how others are doing it. China Skinny’s Founder and Managing Director, Mark Tanner, interviewed Adil Zaim the CEO of Carat China to find out his views on how companies can use effective marketing strategies to crack the Chinese market.

Don’t replicate a foreign model

China Skinny Question:“It’s well known that China is unlike any other market and many large multinationals have struggled to replicate their overseas success here in the Mainland. How has Carat approached the China market differently from other markets?”

Adil: “Normally when you go into a new market as a multinational, you just bring in everything from another market and try and replicate that model. In China, because of the complexity of the market itself, that doesn’t usually work.”

“We invest a lot in local talent to understand the market very well and have the right insights and really know how to engage with local clients. And then we bring in our global best practices and processes, the tools and the systems. This combination really allows us to have a very different approach in China as compared with some of the other markets where Carat operates.”

Use social media insights over pre-conceived trends

China Skinny Question:“Web and social media have become some of the most effective channels to reach and influence Chinese consumers. However, it’s not just a case of buying advertising, online influence often needs to be earned. Can you give an example of earned media and how it’s worked really well for your client?”

Adil:“It was for the Mondelēz client for one of their products, Chips Ahoy. We took advantage of the April Fool’s Day which most of the people would normally not think is a big thing in China, but actually if you go into the social media space it does resonate. So, we took advantage of that insight and we deliberately developed a campaign built entirely on the social part.”

“So what we did was essentially took advantage of the April Fool’s Day buzz on social media, produced content, seeded it in the media itself and then amplified it with some bought media around those social media platforms. So that’s a very good example it was very successful both in generating buzz as well as generating sales for Chips Ahoy.”

Send the right message to the right person

China Skinny Question:“China has become one of the most competitive markets in the world. The average Shanghai consumer is bombarded by three times as much advertising as their British equivalent. How does Carat best ensure that their solutions break through the clutter?”

Adil:“Our strategy is built on two solutions. One is what we call performance marketing; all about delivering the right message to the right person. So, instead of delivering a mass message to a mass audience you essentially select and filter the right message for the right target audience.”

“The other one is called branded content or content strategy [which] essentially allows the brand message or the product message to be inside the content that the consumer is consuming.”

More for your money on social media

China Skinny Question:“The majority of Western businesses here in China aren’t those deep pocketed multinational corporations; there are a lot of small medium businesses just trying to win some hearts of Chinese consumers. Can you give an example of one of your clients that may not have had such a large budget that’s actually achieved quite a lot with that?”

Adil:“We actually do work with a lot of clients who don’t necessarily have very large budgets. I can think of a campaign that we did recently for a client with a relatively smaller budget. For this client, we just used social media only. The only budget required for that campaign was just a production budget, there was no mass media or any kind of bought media support for it.”

“The campaign itself ran for 4 weeks on Sina Weibo and I think the last 3 weeks it was a top trending topic, both the product itself as well as the topic, within the buzz index on Sina Weibo.”

China Skinny Question:“Could you quantify that?”


Adil:“The budget given to us by the client was almost 10 million RMB.”

Well there you have it. It’s always great to see how other market leaders are approaching marketing in China. Not all budgets need to be in the millions to be effective and China Skinny would welcome the opportunity to discuss how we can work within yours to achieve your objectives.