Mark Tanner
Mark Tanner
20 May 2015 0 Comments

Earlier this month, Apple’s Tim Cook and Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi opened accounts on Weibo. Modi’s selfie with Premier Li Keqiang and Tim Cook’s chronicles of his four day trip to China, helped attract almost a million followers between them, providing further validation of Weibo’s relevance in China. 

While WeChat hogs the spotlight in most commentary about social media in China these days, Weibo is still an influential marketing tool.  This is reflected in the 11% growth in its active users over the last quarter.

Before purchasing goods and services, Chinese consumers do significantly more research than Westerners, across a greater number of channels.  Understanding how each of these channels tie into the customer journey can help you optimise your marketing at each touch point to increase engagement, sales and advocacy.

Consumers are most likely to personally engage with a brand on WeChat; but before engaging, they will often do research on platforms such as Weibo.  Weibo is the most open channel in China.  If a brand, product or service is on Weibo, it can be praised or panned by anyone, providing a level of transparency that untrusting Chinese consumers crave.  For that reason, 95% of online Chinese trust a brand more if they have seen it on social media such as Weibo.  Traditional state-run media doesn’t instil even half of that level of trust.

Weibo is also the first port of call for Chinese seeking breaking news.  Whether it is finding out about what Tim Cook or another celebrity is doing, or the latest food scandal, Weibo has become the de facto news source for many of its 198 million active users, and the friends and colleagues who they influence.  If consumers have a complaint or compliment about a brand, they will often say it on Weibo for all to see, so it is a vital channel for fire fighting and steering customer sentiment about your brand and wares. 

Weibo’s viral nature also makes it a great channel for promotions and contests.  Tmall’s brillantly-executed Apple promotion this month, is case in point.

So instead of choosing either WeChat or Weibo, it’s a good idea to look at each channel’s unique benefits and how they are complimentary, and where they fit with other marketing and sales channels too.  We hope you enjoy this week’s Skinny.

Consumers,: Chinese Consumers


Why China’s Consumers Will Continue to Surprise the WorldAlthough China’s consumption rates have decreased over recent decades, absolute consumption has soared, from $650 billion in 2000 to almost $1.4 trillion in 2010. Spending on non-essentials is forecast to grow at a faster rate than necessities, with the share spent on recreation, culture and education expected to rise from 13% in 2013 to 21% in 2030 according to McKinsey.

Alibaba Unveils a Mobile App that Enables Physical Stores to Market to ShoppersAlibaba’s new app, Miao Street, is free for brick & mortar stores who accept Alipay. The app enables shops to send out personal messages and coupons to shoppers based on their location and demographic. A McDonalds pilot sent 2 million free sundae coupons to 18-35 year old women within 3km of a McDonald’s restaurant and had a 32% redemption rate within 20 days. Alibaba plans to roll it out to 500 shopping malls in 15 cities this year.

Playboy Hopes China Can Help Rev Up Its BrandPlayboy magazines have never been sold in China, but the brand has an estimated 97% brand recognition with Chinese consumers. Playboy is increasing its distribution to 3,500 outlets across China to sell bunny luggage, belts, wallets and casual wear.

Online: Internet, Social Media, Mobile & eCommerce


Apple’s Tim Cook Becomes Latest Celebrity to Join China’s WeiboWithin 24-hours of opening his Weibo account, Tim Cook had more than 400,000 followers. His first post received almost 50,000 comments, 66,000 likes and was forwarded 40,000 times.  Lei Jun, Xiaomi’s chairman, and Yu Chengdong, Deputy Senior Executive of Huawei Technologies both retweeted Cook’s first post.

Weibo Kicks Off 2015 With Renewed Growth: In the past three months, Weibo’s monthly active users grew 11.2% to 198 million. 89 million are active every day, 34% more than a year ago.

Apple Top In China As Smartphone Market Dips98.8 million smartphones were shipped in China in Q1 this year, 4% less than the same quarter 2014 and the first contraction in the market since 2009 according to IDC. Apple led the pack with a 14.7% share (8.7% in Q1 2014), followed by Xiaomi on 13.7% (9.2%), Huawei at 11.2% (7.8%) and Samsung at 9.7%, less than half of last year’s 19.9%.

Tencent Profit Rises to Record as Games Lure Users to SpendActive monthly users on Tencent’s WeChat have grown to 549 million, helping Tencent’s mobile online gaming revenue grow 82% in the last quarter, accounting for 20% of all revenue.  Online advertising revenue rose 12%.  Mcommerce still doesn’t appear to be making an impact on Tencent’s income statement. 

Alibaba Seeks International Expansion, Hitches With ‘Avengers’ in ChinaAlibaba’s new CEO, Daniel Zhang, says international expansion is the company’s top priority. Meanwhile, the company teamed up with Walt Disney to handle marketing and merchandise sales on “Avengers: Age of Ultron”, aligned with the film’s record opening this month.

Anger as Racy International Nurses Day Promotion Misfires in ChinaOn the day that is meant to honour the hard work of the often unsung profession of nursing, JD’s promotion of racy nurse outfits and lingerie, vibrators and condoms unleashed a storm of criticism. One Weibo post from a doctor mocking the campaign received more than 14,000 reposts.

Premium Food & Beverage


Tmall’s Clever Apple Campaign Sells Out of 60,000 Units in Two HoursTmall’s beautifully-executed and low budget Weibo campaign sold out of 60,000 units of New Zealand imports.

Chinese Consumers Shifting Towards Mainstream Wine: Wine Intelligence’s 2015 report has found there are less ‘adventurous connoisseurs’ and ‘prestige-seeking traditionalists’ than before among China’s 38 million wine drinkers.  A new classification of ‘developing drinkers’ accounts for 19% of the market. Consumers in this category are typically in their late 20s and early 30s, university educated and in high earning professions.  They’ve usually picked up the wine habit through business dinners but are now branching out on their own, drinking wine as part of their personal life.

Consumer Trends Driving Innovation on Show at SIAL China : Asia’s biggest food and beverage show SIAL China saw a 20% increase in attendance this year from 2014. Health, wellness, organic, convenience and Westernized food and snacks were out in force. Dairy’s presence increased, following the 50.7% growth in imports between 2013 and 2014.

Farmers Markets with Chinese CharacteristicsFarmers’ markets may be considered ‘progressive’ and fashionable in the U.S. and other Western countries, but in China they are increasingly viewed as problematic and ‘backward.’ A survey found consumers trusted dried goods, oil, and processed foods more in supermarkets, but prefer farmers’ (wet) markets to buy fresh produce.

Strawberries and the Hype Over Unsafe FoodAnhui’s Changfeng County Strawberry Growers’ Association is one of the groups planning to file a lawsuit against China Central Television following losses of more than ¥150 million ($24.17 million) in their county. A report on CCTV in April found eight random samples of strawberries in Beijing contained excessive amounts of the carcinogenic herbicide Acetochlor. Subsequent tests from Beijing agricultural authorities found no traces of the herbicide, however strawberry sales have not yet recovered.

Outbound, Chinese Tourists


As Chinese Tourists Spread Their Wings, the Benefits Fall to AllFrench officials went the extra mile to tempt a Chinese billionaire to bring 6,400 of his employees to visit. The Louvre museum was closed for them to have a private tour, and luxury department store Galeries Lafayette shut for a morning so that they could shop uninterrupted. The French also helped with travel arrangements such as booking 140 four and five star hotels in Paris and 79 in Cannes and Monaco.

Cosmetics, Health & Beauty


China’s Vitamin Market Harder to Crack for Western CompaniesChina’s market for vitamins and supplements almost doubled between 2008 and 2014 to ¥101.7 billion ($16.4 billion), with 49.8% of consumers regularly buying them. While Pfizer’s Centrum brand is the most popular in Tier 1 cities, Amway’s Nutrilite tops the Tier 2 and 3 cities.  Local brands such as By-Health are catching up thanks to high profile marketing campaigns and expansive distribution networks. Revisions to China’s food safety laws on October 1 should simplify the approval process for new health and wellness products, opening up more competition.

Finance &: Investment & Migration


Chinese Prefer Fiji to Australia for Expensive PropertyAlthough Australia is the second most popular destination for Chinese second home buyers, it doesn’t feature in the top-10 list of highest average prices according to Juwai. The average price Chinese paid for an Australian property was US$444,000 versus the overall average Australian house price of $358,000. Saint Kitts and Nevis in the Caribbean has the highest average of $9.7 million. Indonesia, Monaco, Saint Barts, Fiji and Jamaica were also in the top-10.

That’s the Skinny for the week! See previous newsletters hereContact China Skinny for marketing, research and digital advice and implementation.