In a country where more than 500 new products launch every day, celebrities can help your brand get noticed in China.  They can also give your products credibility, when many other goods go untrusted

Chinese have long looked to the voice of a few to reinforce their decisions.  A little over a generation ago, framed portraits of Chairman Mao hung in many homes where residents studied the leader’s quotations in their Little Red Book.  Nowadays, residents look to video downloads and social media accounts of their idols on Xiaomi smartphones.

Chinese tennis star Li Na became the world’s second highest paid female athlete in 2011 after winning just one major tournament, as brands swarmed for the positive association in China.  A Yao Ming-led campaign to stop the slaughtering of sharks helped sink demand for shark fin soup 82% in a couple of years.  Tasmania’s Lavender Bears became an overnight sensation after celebrity Zhang Xinyu posted pictures on social media, and actress Yao Chen’s endorsement of New Zealand and subsequent wedding there, helped the country become one of the most aspirational destinations for Chinese tourists.

Local celebrities aren’t the only ones with sway in China.  Louis Vuitton invested $80 million in a Korean artist management agency last year, given K-Pop’s influence in China.  When Kobe Bryant visited China, 15,000 fans were already at the venue seven hours before his scheduled appearance

David Beckham is another celebrity who is worshipped in China, further fuelled by his Chinese tattoo.  So it’s no surprise that he is cashing in, launching a line of Beckham-branded products in China.  He has some catching up to do – David Bickham inflatable adult dolls have been selling on Taobao for some time now.

For products without a huge budget to attract A-list celebrity associations, all is not lost. Chinese consumers are becoming more and more sophisticated and will often see through such endorsements, and smarter marketing campaigns will resonate more than those who’ve just thrown a lot of cash at a famous person. 

Many of the greatest celebrity endorsement success stories happened over Weibo, spreading like wildfire to the tens of millions.  But with consumers sidelining Weibo for the less-viral WeChat, the celeb multiplier-effect has lost some of its mojo.

Whether you use celebrities or not to promote your wares in China, like anything, it will be greatly enhanced with some insights-based tactics and creativity. We hope you enjoy this week’s Skinny.

Consumers,: Chinese Consumers

How David Beckham Plans to Become an Even Bigger Star in ChinaBeckham-branded products such as sportswear, footwear, casual wear, high-tech and skincare will be available in China this year in partnership with HK-based Global Brands Group. He may be playing catchup, with David ‘Bickham’ blow-up dolls are already being sold on Taobao for ¥480 ($77).

Watch OK Go’s Crazy Commercial for a Chinese Furniture StoreChinese furniture retailer Red Star Macalline has enlisted Grammy Award winning American alternative rock band OK Go for its latest ad – another high standard commercial to come out of China.

Online: Internet, Social Media & Mobile

Marketers in China Lag Behind Consumer Mobile AdoptionMobile has completely shifted expectations with consumers now wanting to get anything they need immediately, in context. Chinese consumers average mobile expectation score of 62 is much higher the 39 in U.S. according to Forrester research.

WeChat Tests Out Banner Ads and Promoted App Installs in Article ViewReaders of WeChat articles are likely to see more ads, with WeChat testing banner ads on the service with promoters able to select from a list of categories to make their ad relevant.

Premium Food & Beverage

COFCO Adjusts Fine Wine Message to Target ‘Mass Consumers’ at China Food and Drinks FairState-owned food and drinks giant COFCO showed 100 ‘accessible, reliable and good value’ ¥80-¥200 ($13-$32) wines from nearly 20 international producers to the China Food and Drinks Fair in Chengdu last week, amid a period of market adjustment.

Paying the Price For RiceChinese experts are claiming that local rice is just as good as the Japanese stuff, yet Chinese are prepared to pay up to sixty times as much for the safe, imported alternative. Chinese brought in 160 tons of Japanese rice in 2014, roughly triple the 2013 figure.

Disney in Fruit e-Retail FirstDisney has recognised the growing importance of online food and beverage sales in China through its first partnership with an online seller of fresh produce. The company has teamed up with Fruitday to offer Chinese consumers Cinderella-themed oranges online as part of the movie promotions.

Overseas Chinese Tourists

Chinese Tourists Shun Package Trips in Favour of Independent Travel71% of China’s 109 million outbound tourists travelled independently in 2014, versus 65% in 2013 – an increase of 13 million tourists overall according to Europe was the ‘favourite’ destination that 29% of independent travellers want to visit, with the U.S. at 10%. Women accounted for 62% of overseas travellers overall last year.

Report from IHG Unveils Scale of China Outbound OpportunityIHG and Oxford Economics research found 62% of outbound Chinese will be leisure travellers by 2023. Over 85% will be visiting major global cities, accounting for 92.5% of spending. The study forecasts that Hong Kong and Macau will account for almost half of all spending, although they may not have factored in the recent dive in spending in the two regions.

Airlines Unveil New Deals, ServicesFive new start-up and low-cost carriers entered China last year with new Boeing planes as more airlines compete for the lucrative Chinese tourist market. Delta is trying to appeal to Chinese needs, becoming the first U.S. airline letting Chinese travellers use Alipay when booking flights on their website.

Beauty Health

Alibaba, Other e-Retailers May Foray into Rx Drugs in ChinaThe China Food and Drug Administration could approve Internet sales of prescription drugs by the end of the year breaking Chinese hospital’s virtual monopoly of China’s $149 billion prescription drug market.

Schooling and Education

Xbox Boasts its Education FunctionXbox has teamed up with education provider New Oriental to develop preschool education products. The tools will help children aged 2-8 learn English in an entertaining way, as many Chinese parents place focus on education in purchases for their children. China’s preschool education market is valued at around ¥100 billion ($16.1 billion) a year.

Banking and Investments

Alibaba-Affiliated Money Market Fund Yu’ebao Users Hit 185 Million For 2014185 million Chinese were using Yu’ebao by the end of 2014, 430% more than 2013. After shrinking last autumn, the fund’s asset base bounced back to grow 200% from a year earlier to ¥579 billion ($93 billion).

China Relaxes Mortgage Rules for Second Home BuyersTo help kick some life into China’s slumping house market, the Government has dropped downpayment levels for general second home buyers to 40% from the current 60 to 70%.

Cars &: Auto

Tesla to Localize Production in China in 3 YearsTesla Motors plans to localize production and engineering in China as soon as 2017. The company is still committed to China after having excessive stock due to speculators and scalpers misleading the company about “extremely high” demand.

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

Chai Jing and team, take a bow. Under The Dome was a bold, brave, well researched and magnificently delivered documentary that pulled out all the artillery in the war against China’s deadly pollution.  Whilst it follows a similar mould to Al Gore’s An Inconvenient Truth, Chai’s 104 minute film is rawer, harder to dispute and much closer to home, and will hopefully make a similar impact on driving awareness and action.

There is no quick fix to China’s pollution problem. The Central Government is investing trillions of yuan and enacting countless laws with the aim of bluer skies, but as Chai’s documentary courageously acknowledges, until self-serving energy policies, corruption and a lack of enforcement are addressed, lungs will continue to be blackened.

The real impact from the film is likely to come from the public participation that it inspires. For the most part, the Chinese public take little individual responsibility for fixing the environment. The majority of consumers believe that is up to the state to fix.

Under The Dome was spectacularly distributed to individuals through digital channels, striking a chord at a deep emotional and factual level. In less than a week, the film was viewed more than a 166 million times on Tencent’s platform alone. Although the movie directs the majority of the blame at policy, enforcement and the state energy firms, segments on personal accountability appear throughout the film, with a cartoon at the end clearly demonstrating how the public can alter their behaviour and report violations.

Even if the movie aroused action from 1% of those who viewed the video – say 2-3 million, it would make an impact in addressing China’s abysmal air quality, while demonstrating the real might of Chinese consumer power.

But that may be too much, too soon. Less than a week after airing, the video was removed from China’s major online video platforms Youku, Tudou and Tencent, and deleted from Weibo’s trending topics. State media was no longer allowed to report on it. The move won’t surprise many and will probably temper the hysteria that surrounded the documentary. Fortunately the horse has already bolted. Even if related terms are blocked on WeChat and Weibo, the public will find ways to discuss it and hopefully millions of individual Chinese will take action so we can all breathe a little cleaner air.

For our readers who will be in Shanghai next Wednesday evening 18 March, China Skinny’s Ann Bierbower will be sharing consumer insights as part of the Austcham Digital Media Series: Storytelling in the Chinese Digital Realm.  More info here.    We hope you enjoy this week’s Skinny.

Pollution and the Environment

Fully Translated Under The Dome: Investigating China’s Smog by Chai Jing – Now Banned in ChinaThe online sensation that may lead to bluer skies in China, with English subtitles.

Consumers,: Chinese Consumers

Shanghai Tops China’s Disposable Income List, Gap RemainsShanghainese passed Beijingers to have the highest disposable income per capital of ¥47,710 ($7,611) in 2014. Neighbouring province Zhejiang came in third behind Beijing, with the three cities’ income growing 8.9% last year. Average urban incomes across China grew 6.8% to ¥28,844 ($4,603), almost three times that of rural residents.

China Loses Millionaires as Wealthiest Tempted OverseasMore than 76,000 Chinese millionaires emigrated or acquired citizenship in a foreign country between 2003-2013.

China Business Report 2015AmCham Shanghai’s long-running survey found the overwhelming majority of U.S. companies are profitable, enjoy high annual revenue growth, positive cash flows, and strong market share, however long term outlooks are tempering. Just over two thirds of businesses stated their number one priority was to sell in the China market, with revenue from services exceeding manufacturing.

Marks & Spencer to Close Five China Stores as it Reshapes Asian StrategyMarks & Spencer plans to close five of its 15 Shanghai stores and enter key Chinese cities such as Beijing and Guangzhou from this year. The company will also focus on online sales which grew 200% last year.

Chinese Consumers Most Loyal to Ecommerce Players61% of Chinese are loyal to ecommerce players in a survey by Epsilon. Apple received the top brand loyalty score of 17%. Lifestyle brands directly impacting consumer health such as grocery chains and restaurants, and financial services, also scored well. 26% of those surveyed prefer to interact with brands via WeChat.

You Won’t Believe What Youku and Baidu Have as Their Women’s Day DoodlesWhile Google used images of women such as astronauts, scientists and elite athletes to mark this year’s Women’s Day, Baidu opted for a pretty ballerina in a music box surrounded by jewellery and Youku went with a little girl drinking tea amongst flowers.

Online: Internet, Mobiles & Ecommerce

The Stunning Rise of O2O in ChinaOnline-to-Offline (O2O) services were estimated to generate an additional $38.4 billion in China in 2014. 71% of online Chinese have used an O2O service.

Amazon Opens Tmall Store to Boost China SalesAmazon is launching a store on Tmall selling imported food, shoes, toys and kitchenware. A good decision?

Royal Mail to Join Chinese Ecommerce Boom with New Alibaba Tmall Global Shop FrontRoyal Mail has timed the announcement of its new British Tmall Global store with Prince William’s visit to China. Sales of British products on Tmall surged 94% in 2014. Topping the growth chart was the Tangle Teezer hair brush used by Kate Middleton, which has sold 70,000 brushes at ¥114-148 ($18-$24) since launching in May last year. Chinese accounted for 25% of foreign customers on UK-based online stores last year.

Apple Hits New High in China as Xiaomi Balks at Phones for the WestOne in four smartphones sold in China last quarter was an iPhone, according to Kantar. The 4.7 inch iPhone 6 was the top selling device accounting for 9.5% of sales in urban China, versus Xiaomi Redmi Note’s 8.9%.

Premium Food & Beverage

China Has a Healthy Appetite for Food ImportsChina’s imports of fresh milk grew 73.5% last year. Mutton imports climbed 9.6%, fruit 6.3% and wine imports were up 1.6% – at least they still grew. Online sales of imported fresh food soared 300% on in the 25-day period leading up to Chinese New Year.

China’s Long Food Chain Plugs In: China’s tech giants are delivering solutions in hope of addressing China’s dire food safety.  Chinese consumers can now scan a QR code on food products and track its journey from paddock to supermarket, right down to soil and water tests from the farm it is produced, using a service from Lenovo’s founder. Alibaba allows consumers to buy directly from farmers who follow rules such as limited pesticide use, and Baidu has its smart chopsticks.

Beauty Health

China Is Paying Top Dollar for American Ginseng That Might Be ChineseFor thousands of years ginseng has been a key ingredient in China’s traditional medications and last year they imported $77 million of it from the U.S.

Clothes and Fashion

David Zhao of Shangpin Says Convince Yourself Before Convincing OthersHow online fashion retailer Shangpin competes with China’s online giants and attracted Top Shop as its sales channel for China.

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

As Chinese consumers are becoming more sophisticated, so are their diets.  Increasing awareness of healthy living and food safety issues, coupled with rising affluence is making Chinese more particular about what they eat.  

Food and beverage imports are expected to grow 15% a year to $80 billion by 2018. Yet Chinese still have many different flavour preferences to the consumers in countries these imports are coming from.

A look at the most popular Western food and beverage brands in China is case in point.  Red Bean Green Tea Frappuccino isn’t exactly a top seller in Starbucks stores in Seattle, and red date-flavoured crackers from Oreo’s Mondalez probably wouldn’t go down well in Oklahoma. Many of the big Western companies such as Nestle and Pepsi Co have set up research centres in the Mainland to develop products that appeal to Chinese palettes.

One of the interesting food and beverage sectors that is likely to see more localisation is China’s fast-growing wine industry. An example of this is a partnership between wine growers in Southwest France and the French Institute of Wine Laboratories who are developing wine growing techniques that will appeal to the unique paletes of Chinese consumers.

Whilst developing flavours and localising marketing strategies to appeal to Chinese can be very effective, it is also an art form.  Asking Chinese residents in San Francisco or Sydney what they think about your product could provide a skewed view. A study into cross cultural perceptions of colour and odour by Plos One drew a surprising conclusion that Chinese living in the Netherlands make quite different associations than Chinese Malaysians.  This illustrates that living in a different environment and culture can influence a Chinese consumer’s perception.  The most robust understanding of Chinese consumers’ preferences will almost always come from the source, Mainland China.  We hope you enjoy this week’s Skinny. 

Consumers,: Chinese Consumers

Cross-Cultural Colour-Odour AssociationsAn interesting international study comparing how consumers associate smells with colours. Although no Mainland Chinese were surveyed, Malaysian Chinese and Chinese living in the Netherlands surprisingly had quite different perceptions.

Chinese Consumers Turn Less ConfidentChinese consumers’ sentiment dropped from 114.8 to 113.3 between July and August according to Westpac Bank’s confidence index. This is 6.4% below its long term average, and a stark contrast from improved confidence among Chinese companies. Consumers were less positive about their financial position and more concerned about their jobs outlook last month.

China’s Toilet Paper Makers Flush With CashChinese used 4.2kg of toilet/tissue paper per capita in 2012, well below HK’s average 10kg, Japan’s 15kg and 24kg in North America. But as Chinese consumers get wealthier and move to cities, consumption is growing – up 12.1% in Q2 this year. China created toilet paper in the 6th century – one of the lesser-known great inventions from the Middle Kingdom.

Digging For Diamonds Among China’s ‘KOLs’China’s KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) aren’t always what they seem, and its best to look across their online presence and engagement, study previous work with other brands and consider ‘micro-influencers’.  An updated draft to China’s advertisement law says celebrities should use products before they represent them.

Online: Internet, Mobile, Social Media & eCommerce

Marketing in China: Ecommerce Not Just a Way to Shop—It’s a LifestyleeMarketer speaks to China Skinny about eCommerce in China, some of the powerful new insights Alibaba is obtaining, shopping apps and a handful of smaller businesses doing it well.

WeChat and Alipay Ramp Up eCommerce Race With New Features for Online and Offline MerchantsWeChat and Alipay have both launched new features enabling businesses to better take advantage of China’s mobile commerce boom. Features are focused around travel and hospitality, bricks & mortar stores and loyalty/promotional deals. The average Chinese smartphone user has more than three Tencent apps installed compared to almost one Alibaba app.

Alibaba Posts Surge in Sales in Advance of IPOAhead of the imminent IPO, Alibaba’s revenue growth grew 46% in Q2 to ¥15.8 billion ($2.6 billion) with net profit almost tripling to ¥12.3 billion ($2 billion). Mobile sales have helped drive revenue, accounting for a third of all sales, compared with 12% just 12-months ago. Smartphone shoppers grew from 136 million in December 2013 to 188 million in June this year.

14% of Chinese Digital Consumers Shop Online EverydayA PWC survey found 14% of online shoppers are buying every day, versus 5% globally. 62% purchased weekly, compared with 21% globally.

Interview: Inside Google Brain Founder Andrew Ng’s Plans To Transform BaiduA long and thorough interview with former Googler Andrew Ng, who has been hired as the chief scientist at Baidu’s Silicon Valley lab to focus on Artificial Intelligence.

Premium Food & Beverage

Wine Co-Operatives to Target Taste Buds of US, Chinese ConsumersA cooperative of leading wineries from Southwest France is partnering with the French Institute of Wine Laboratories to develop techniques to produce wine that will target the unique palates and aromatic preferences of Chinese and US consumers. [Not viewable in China]

Chinese Retailer Introduces Infant Formula InsuranceRetailer Suning Redbaby has introduced insurance offering consumers up to ¥2,000 ($325) per tin if their infant Formula purchase becomes subject to a recall. Insurance will be free for the first 40,000 tins sold, then can be purchased online.

Chinese Consumers Slightly More Confident in Milk ProductsChina’s confidence in liquid milk crept up slightly to 75.9 out of 100 in 2014, up 0.5 points from 2013, but still below the survey-high of 76.2 in 2009. 56% surveyed considered the brand over other factors when buying milk products. Price was most important for just one in 10 consumers.

Overseas Chinese Tourists

Chinese Tourists, With Korean Drama Stars in Mind, Flock to Seoul for Cosmetic Surgery56,075 Chinese visitors had medical treatment in South Korea last year, rising 26.5% from the previous year and up from just 4,725 in 2009. Although a breakdown of 2013 visitors has not been released, 10,000 Chinese had plastic surgery in Korea in 2012. The 15-story BK Hospital cosmetic surgery in Gangnam employs 30 Chinese-speaking staff.

High End Fashion

Vipshop Active Customers and Total Orders More Than Doubled in Q2 2014Helped along by the acquisition and integration of cosmetics retailer Lefeng, Vipshop’s revenue grew 136% to $829 million in the year ended June 2014. Customers increased from 3.5 to 9.3 million. More than 90% of orders came from repeat customers in 2013. Vipshop had the third-highest revenue from mobile shopping for China’s B2C stores, after Tmall and Jingdong.

Banking,  Finance

Winning Over Financial Consumers in China’s Gilded AgeAccenture estimates that one third of conventional bank revenue will be eroded by non-bank sector competitors by 2020, due to products such as Alibaba’s Yu’eBao. To compete in China’s finance industry, players should focus on areas such as providing personalised service, adopting an omni-channel digital strategy and thinking beyond traditional industry boundaries.

That’s The Skinny for the week!  We’d love to discuss how we could help with your marketing, online initiatives or research to take advantage of China’s opportunities.  Just email us at or call us at +86 21 3221 0273 so we can learn more about your objectives and let you know how we can help.

If you’ve missed earlier news or need to learn more, there’s a library of information about Chinese consumers in prior China Skinny Weekly’s 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 TwitterFacebookLinked In or Google+, or subscribe to our RSS feed.  If you have any feedback or suggestions for future articles, please let us know.

It will be interesting to see how the Fonterra milk fiasco pans out in China. Not just for those peddling dairy products, or New Zealand businesses trading on the ‘clean green’ brand, but for any businesses operating on scale in China and those whose marketing builds on their country’s image – which makes up a large portion of foreign businesses in China.

Although Chinese consumers buy ¥9.8 billion ($1.6 billion) worth of Fonterra’s dairy products annually, Chinese consumers aren’t buying it because of their love for Fonterra, or its specific brands, they’re buying it for its ‘pure’ New Zealand origin. With milking New Zealand’s clean and green brand, comes the responsibility for Fonterra to ensure they play their part to ensure that image isn’t put at risk. As the latest bacteria scare and a number of other issues in their homeland show, Fonterra could do better shouldering this responsibility.

Fonterra got off lightly from its 43% ownership of Sanlu and the Melamine scandal in 2008; in fact, the resulting soaring demand for foreign milk imports actually helped their business. But their luck in China may not continue with the latest scare. China is a vastly different place than it was five years ago – consumers are much more aware and discerning, helped by the huge rise of social media and the Internet. With food scares occurring almost weekly in China (as you’ve read in the Skinny), Chinese consumers take food safety more seriously than anyone. Old wounds die hard in China – consumers are still reeling over the Melamine scandal five years on. Fonterra’s troublesome trio of botulism, January’s DCD residue in milk, and recent price-fixing allegations are unlikely to be forgotten quickly. Although global dairy trade auction prices barely fell and China banned only a small portion of NZ dairy imports, the real damage is to New Zealand’s brand, and to a degree, the perceived superiority of all foreign products in China. That will only help the Chinese Government’s push for local products.

We only need to look at Apple as how to not deal with crises and serious Government allegations in China. The brand was as aspirational as brands get in China just six months ago, but their slippery slope began to gather momentum after the negative press they received for being arrogant and offering poor after-sales service. A survey that followed shortly after, found 60% would rather a Samsung Galaxy S4 to an iPhone 5, undoubtedly influenced by the bad press. In Q2 2013, the iPhone’s market share in China fell to 5%, down from 9% a year ago.

With Apple losing street cred so quickly in China, it sends a warning about how carefully and smartly we have to act when handling crises in the Mainland. Chinese consumers are pragmatic and know mishaps can happen, but when they do, marketers need to make the most of the short window of opportunity to demonstrate they’ve learnt from the troubles and everything they’re doing to show that they are now safer/better than ever.

On a lighter note, for anyone interested in a trip to Sydney in late October, China Skinny’s founder Mark Tanner is presenting at the China Digital Marketing & Social Media Summit, the largest conference on the subject in the Southern Hemisphere. Early bird rates are available until the end of the month. More at

We hope you enjoy this week’s Skinny.

Chinese consumers Chinese Consumers

What Chinese Women Want: A 20 min vid on Chinese women, who have an absolute desire for financial independence across all city tiers, but especially in the higher Tiers. 30% of senior positions in China are women, but there is a strong entrepreneurial and can-do spirit, right from a young age. Different life stages were a defining factor in motivations for women.

Survey on China’s Middle-Class Consumers: 81% of Chinese consumers bought international products with 75% buying foreign garments. 37% bought luxury items costing more than a month’s salary.

Empowered Consumerism: Why Developing Countries Represent the Greatest CSR Opportunity: 86% of Chinese consumers have bought products with a social/environment benefit and 43% researched a business’ social practices. 90% used social media to engage with companies about corporate social responsibility.

Chinese Consumers Shall Chart Country’s Economic Course: China’s disposable personal income is 45% of GDP, versus 77% for the consumer-led US economy. The Government is working towards getting this up, as you’ll read in the Government mouthpiece, The Global Times.

Ten Forces Forging China’s Future: McKinsey’s Ten Forces Forging China’s Futre: 1) The Great Rebalancing – the consumer goods sector stands to be one of the main beneficiaries; 2) Infrastructure Advances – 8.5% of GDP; 3) The Green Challenge; 4) Manufacturing’s Makeover; 5) Rise of the Upper Middle Class; 6) E-tailing Extraordinaire; 7) Innovation’s New Spark; 8) Financier to the World?; 9) Investor Confidence; and 10) Cultivating Human Capital.

Chinese Internet Internet, Mobile & Social Media

Alibaba Bans Messaging App WeChat, Pushes Weibo Instead: The Alibaba – WeChat Duel: let the games begin – Alibaba has blocked a function that allows sellers to subscribe WeChat and increased integration with Weibo. There has been some negative experiences for Weibo users being bombarded with ads, related to searches on Alibaba. The new Weibo-Alibaba integration, which launched last week, should hopefully improve data analytics, to make product matching a little smarter. Taobao shop owners can now get Weibo follower analysis & visitor stats to help with better targeted Weibo marketing. In other Weibo news, daily active users increased 8.3% to 54 million from March-June.

China’s ‘Silver Surfers’ Could Mean Big Business for Online Shopping: Although the number of Chinese over 50 is expected to hit 200 million this year, just 1.75 million say they have shopped online. Those that do, are spending 6.9 hours a day on online, regularly shopping for convenience and lower prices. As China’s population continues to age and use the Internet even more, this market segment could be a boon for online selling.

China’s Top Flirting App Momo Users Reached 50 million: Online Chinese are a sociable bunch. Momo hits 50 million users in two years with 70K groups.

Case Study: Coca Cola’s Weibo Marketing: Case study about how Coca Cola used key opinion leaders on Weibo to sell it’s personalised bottles using Weibo Wallet.

Kindle Enters China, and the Plot Thickens: Interesting views on why Kindle has a good chance of succeeding in China, challenging the common concerns of price, competition from the iPad Mini and sourcing content.

Baidu’s Guide to the Eight Biggest Internet Scams in China: 21m websites were deleted in China in 6 months for shams. Top offenders included financial management, value recharge, pharmaceuticals, online shopping, ticket bookings, after-sales services, express delivery and prize draws. In 2011, 60 million online Chinese lost ¥30 billion ($4.9b) from scams. Baidu recently announced that it would reimburse anyone who gets scammed on a site found in their search results.

CIO Mobility Survey 2013: 30% of Chinese companies are active in developing B2B and B2C mobile apps versus the 23% global average. 90% of IT execs in China think mobile will impact their business as much or more than the web did, compared with a global average of 73% according to Accenture.

Xiaomi Shifts Into Low End of Mobile Sector: Xiaomi launches a feature-rich smartphone for ¥799 ($130). A good market to be in – 61% of mobiles sold on Taobao and Tmall are less than ¥1,000 ($163).

Chinese food and beverage Food and Beverage

Fast Food in China: Independent fast food operators still represent 98% of outlets and 84% of the market in China [subscription required].

60-70% of Honey in Jinan is Fake: China, the land of milk and honey? Not quite. Anyone for diluted beetroot/rice syrup?

Danger in Supermarket Plastic Wrap: Oh golly, if the Chinese honey doesn’t get you, the plastic wrap for meat and veges may – said to contain banned toxic plasticisers that could “impair male sexual function and lead to premature sexual development in females”.

DNA Key to the Perfect Meal: Nature of nurture? Kiwi scientists find predispositions to certain flavours lie within our DNA. Further reason to ensure your food & beverage is tested/localised for Chinese palates.

Why Spanish Wines are Best for Chinese Palates: Wine from Spain and France’s Languedoc region are best suited to Chinese palates according to a wine expert, due to their softer, sweeter reds with low acidity.

Does Champagne Have a Sparkling Future in China?: An interesting view into why cultural differences in China will need Champagne to rethink its China strategy.

Chinese tourists Chinese Tourism

WeChat: A Shortcut To Mobile Relevance And Loyalty Among Chinese Travelers: WeChat is an effective content driver and CRM magnet for businesses selling to Chinese consumers at home and abroad. It’s mobile, social, fun and private, allowing users to keep tabs on their real friends.

Paris Ramps Up Tourist Security Amid Chinese Concerns: Security is on the rise in Paris following spate of muggings on Asian tourists. 1.4 million Chinese visited France last year and Chinese millionaires rate Paris is the number-1 destination. Petty crimes against Chinese tourists in the first quarter jumped 22% – that’s China style growth rates.

That’s The Skinny for the week!  China Skinny would love to discuss how we could help with your marketing, online initiatives or research to take advantage of China’s opportunities.  Just email us at or call us at +86 21 3221 0273 so we can learn more about your objectives and let you know how we can help.

If you’ve missed earlier news or need to learn more, there’s a library of information about Chinese consumers in prior China Skinny Weekly’s 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.

If using China’s Weibo makes you hungry, you are not alone.  Restaurants in China have been finding great success promoting their swine and noodles on Weibo and are now the most common business-type to have an enterprise account on Sina Weibo. 

A report published on has dived deep into Sina Weibo’s business profiles to discover how enterprises are developing and utilising their Weibo accounts.   Investigations reported on March 29 2012 found more than 130,500 businesses had Weibo accounts.  Over 50,000 of these business accounts were restaurants, blogging about chef expertise, promotions, gathering customer feedback and taking bookings and orders. 

It hasn’t just been the fine dining establishments either.  A street stall selling Chinese omelette (dan bing) in Wenzhou city, created a Weibo account, Zhaijibang Fetch-and-Carry, for omelette deliveries and within a year has morphed into general food delivery service with 25,000 fans delivering 200 orders per day – and charging a premium for the service.

While no other business types dominate Weibo like quite restaurants, the automotive industry is the second largest business segment utilising Weibo with 7,546 accounts (there are many car dealerships and places that fix your wagon in China), followed by business services (7,212), ecommerce (6,594) and IT (6,047).  The most followed businesses on Weibo are all ecommerce and IT firms, with IT firms also being the most active – 45% of them regularly update (although ‘regularly’ isn’t defined).

Businesses in Mainland China’s three most international regions of Beijing, Shanghai (including neighbouring provinces Jiangsu and Zhejiang) and Guangdong (Guangzhou and Shenzhens’ province) account for the top five areas utilising Weibo enterprise accounts.

The Weibo Facts

Although Weibo’s filters catch most inappropriate conversations from Government slander to inappropriate philandering, a search for “性爱” xìng ài effectively meaning the sexual act, displays 7.2 million recent posts. That’s less than 15% of the volume of 足球 football, but not to be blinked at given the filtering systems in place.

Li Yinhe (李银河), researcher and one of China’s leading Sexologist, was rated 4th most influential female blogger on Weibo in the 2012 Fudan University study into Weibo’s opinion leaders. She has almost 600,000 followers, and every post she makes receives at least 100 comments, but often more than 5,000 comments and 10,000’s of forwards.

Japanese pornstar, Sora Ao, the most popular Japanese blogger on Weibo
Japanese pornstar, Sora Ao, the most popular Japanese blogger on Weibo

Japanese pornstar and model, Sora Ao (苍井空), seems to have struck a cord with 12,800,000 Weibo fans – more than any other Japanese person. Although porn is illegal in China, her Weibo popularity has helped shift oodles of black market DVDs and Internet sales.

Weibo has become the standard for group discussion in China. Weibo’s anonymity and less traditional rules of social engagement, give Chinese bloggers the confidence to show an interest and participate in discussions about things that they may have avoided in other circumstances.

That doesn’t just apply to curiosities after dark, but any hobby, food and brands and products they feel strongly about. The rules of discussing interests and sharing your thoughts have changed more in China than almost anywhere in the world because of Weibo. Chinese consumers are being more frank and honest than ever before, and are through their Weibo posts and comments, further emphasizing the importance of keeping an eye on it.

It seems the dominance of men in China’s boardrooms is also reflected on China’s most important communication channel, Sina Weibo. Weibo’s runaway popularity and influence has seen the leading voices on Weibo also become some of the leading voices in China.

A 2012 Fudan University study into the Opinion Leaders of Chinese Micro Blogs measured Weibo identities.  Criteria was based on their circle of influence in traditional media and on the Internet, relationships with Weibo fans and other Weibo users, active participation and contentiousness of topics raised.

The report, led by Zhang Zhi’an, concluded that males have significantly more influence on Sina Weibo.  The top 20 bloggers are all men, as are 91 of the top-100.  The most influential bloggers are aged between 30 and 40, accounting for 72 of the top 100.

Media people on Weibo have the largest fan count and post news from the most sources.  Although there are more entrepreneurs on the list, much of their fan base is low quality; this is both inactive fans and ‘fictitious fans’ – a social media issue in most parts of the world, where fake fans and followers have been created to give the perception of increased popularity.  The study accounted for this issue.

Although Government agencies, party organs and individual officials have set up more than 50,000 weibo accounts (Source: The Economist), no Government official is among the top-100.

Women should definitely not be ignored on Weibo, especially for businesses, as they are more likely to share product and brand information.

Top-5 most influential microbloggers on Sina Weibo

1. Pan Shiyi, Businessman (chairman of Soho China) Fans: 11.7 million
2. Jack Ma (Ma Yun) Businessman (founder and chairman of Alibaba) Fans: 6.5 million
3. Ren Zhiqiang, Businessman (chairman of Huayuan Real Estate Co) Fans: 9.1 million
4. Li Kaifu, Businessman (former Google China president and now CEO of Innovation Works) Fans: 14.8 million
5. Lang Xianping, Scholar, leading economist. Fans: 11.2 million

Weibo's key influencers

China’s most influential Weibo heads (from left): Pan Shiyi, Jack Ma, Ren Zhiqiang, Li Kaifu and Lang Xianping

Top-5 most influential women microbloggers on Sina Weibo

1. Hong Huang, Publisher, TV host, author. Fans: 5.2 million
2. Luqiu Luwei, Journalist, executive news editor for Phoenix Television. Fans: 1.8 million
3. Ren Xiaowen, Novelist. Fans: 0.1 million
4. Li Yinhe, Researcher, leading Sexologist. Fans: 0.6 million
5. Zhang Xin, Business-woman, found of real estate company Soho China: 4.0 million

The Weibo Facts