Market and Grow Your Brand in China: 7 Tips to k
All over the world, you can find Chinese investment and influence. Being aware of the fact that Chinese business houses are taking the world by the storm, foreign investors are now seen drawing deep interest and enthusiasm towards how to market and grow your brand in China. The idea sounds exciting, but the reality is far more nuanced.
A few examples of foreign brands that failed in China are Nike, Home Depot, Walmart, Groupon, and Uber. The reasons for failure were the lack of cultural sensitivity, lack of market research, lack of understanding of the Chinese language, and more. The one advantage that foreign brands can see working towards them is the Chinese consumer’s positive belief in a foreign brand’s quality. It would make sense to dig more deeply into the Chinese markets and then look for ways to establish your foreign brand.
In this blog, we discuss 7 tips for marketing and growing your brand in the Chinese market.
Table of content
Chapter 1. Chinese Government’s Rules and Regulations to Market and Grow Your Brand in China
Chapter 2. Develop a Suitable IPR Strategy to Market and Grow Your Brand in China
Chapter 3. Hire Staff in a Way That Chinese Hire
Chapter 4. Explore the Chinese Culture to Meet Consumers’ Needs
Chapter 5. Make Use of Chinese Search Engines to Enhance Brand Visibility
Chapter 6. Leverage Chinese Platforms to Bring More Traffic
Chapter 7. Find Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) to Promote Your Brand
Chapter 1 Chinese Government’s Rules and Regulations to Market and Grow Your Brand in China
One of the main factors that can play a critical role in ensuring the success of a foreign brand in the Chinese market is a deliberate understanding of the Chinese Government’s rules and regulations. We have seen China entering the WTO in 2001 and its impact on the Chinese trade environment. The trade policies became liberal to a large extent but not many industries come in the ambit of free-trade and that puts China under a lot of pressure.
As an example, the Chinese Government does not allow free entry of foreign companies in sectors like petrochemicals, energy, and telecommunications. The companies that are interested in setting up businesses in China need to consult the Chinese foreign investment catalog and abide by the industry-specific standards and procedures. By keeping an understanding of which sector falls in “restricted”, and “prohibited”, and which is “encouraged” would help foreign companies stay informed of all the risks and protection.
China’s Food and Drug Administration ministry is one such department that an outsider brand needs to be serious about as China ensures that no foreign company should openly violate the food safety law. Environmental pollution or the pharmaceutical sector is yet another area wherein China has enforced tighter laws and if you are the one insisting on producing in the Chinese local environment, you will need to go through complex rules and regulations, standards, and procedures. What may be easy in Europe or the United States may not be that easy in China.
Chapter 2 Develop a Suitable IPR Strategy to Market and Grow Your Brand in China
For foreign companies to enter China, it’s important that there is no IPR infringement which is, for the most part, seen prevailing in the Chinese marketplace. IPR infringement would mean the technology may get stolen instead of getting transferred. For the foreign companies that are willing to enter the Chinese market to market and grow your brand in China, and which have large IP inventories, it is recommended that they consult the legal fraternity and IPR specialists for an adequate IPR strategy.
China suffers from certain limitations when it comes to IP protection. It has a patent system under which a Chinese company can register itself for a patent that belongs to some other local company. There’s also a time limitation for registration of patents which prohibits companies to register in China if they have been registered outside of China for more than a year. Besides the first-to-file patent registration system, China also has a rule of ‘first-to-file’ trademark system — yet another detriment to the establishment of foreign companies. According to this trademarked system, a foreign brand cannot use its logo even though it is original in the first place and if such a trademark is already in use by a Chinese company.
The above conditions warrant that if you wish to enter a Chinese market, you should register your trademark with China Trademark Office as quickly as possible. At the same time, you must also make sure that your trademark is registered in both Chinese and English languages. Proper registration of all internet domain names is required. Above all, for the development of the right IPR strategy, you should choose a mix of legal, practical, and technical measures. If at all you find IPR infringements to happen, you should immediately report to the authorities.
Chapter 3 Hire Staff in a Way That Chinese Hire
As a foreign investor, you may have all the right resources to introduce your brand in the Chinese market but remain unsuccessful. This is because a qualified and competent professional is needed who is well-versed with the markets of China. To that extent, it would make sense to hire a Chinese national who can easily overcome linguistic, legal, and cultural barriers.
With China’s increasing aging population and decreasing birth rate, there is a shortage of available Chinese workers but for foreign brands to establish on the Chinese turf, choosing the right employee is crucial. So, an important question that needs to be answered is — how to find a good Chinese employee and what are the ideal characteristics of a good Chinese employee?
One of the most effective ways to attract and hire a high-quality Chinese worker would be to hire a candidate through an online hiring platform. One can use LinkedIn as a primary portal to get in touch with potential employees or search for employees on local job hunting sites like Ganji and Zhaopin. Now, an ideal Chinese employee would be someone who can easily fit into your organization culture (which would mean the general practices, daily workplace habits, etc.), is a good decision-maker and can independently handle work, is confident about his approach, and is above all dedicated and passionate towards his/her work. IBM and Cisco are good examples when they succeeded in China by outsourcing their high paying programming jobs to Chinese tech workers.
Chapter 4 Explore the Chinese Culture to Meet Consumers’ Needs
In order to understand the Chinese culture, you first need to explore it. You could begin with a market survey to gather an insight into the behavior of Chinese customers. The brands that have been successful in the past in Chinese markets have allowed their sellers to interact with the Chinese audience in more than one way. We have the example of Gucci who started out by talking big about its brand in social media in the Chinese style.
So, what exactly did Gucci do to achieve success in the Chinese market? In 2015, Gucci took a Gucci Gram social media project wherein the goal was to make the Chinese customers become familiar with the brand. Gucci featured on its bag a Tian print with a floral motif so as to reflect an 18th-century Chinese landscape painting. Besides, Gucci also took the initiative of sponsoring ART Basel’s c that helped Gucci to establish itself in the long run.
Another good example of a brand that won a Chinese customer’s heart is California winery who by utilizing a strong cultural marketing tactic grabbed a significant market share of the Southern Chinese market. In essence, an understanding of the cultural diversity in today’s business context becomes important as you don’t want to project your cultural image on to the others only to return unaccepted and rejected. Culture, in its entirety, would include everything from having an understanding of the local language, lifestyle, beliefs, and habits of the Chinese people to adapting a brand to influence the cultural marketing outcome.
Chapter 5 Make Use of Chinese Search Engines to Enhance Brand Visibility
Foreign brands that are looking to succeed in the Chinese market may look forward to Baidu — an internet search provider and the
equivalent of Google. Of course, you do have Qihoo360 and Sogou as other search engine players in the Chinese market to market and grow your brand in China, but with Baidu occupying almost 54.3 percent of the total market share, it can be the one-stop-source for advertising your brand.
Now, an important question that needs to be asked is — how does Baidu stack up against Google when it comes to ensuring your brand’s success? To say the least, Baidu hasn’t just become the leading search engine service provider in China but has its own ‘Adwords’ much like Google Adwords. Besides, it has its own multi-media landscape covering Baidu music and Baidu video. Baidu has also come to operate like Yahoo and Quora when it’s about finding answers to certain questions. What’s more, Baidu Wiki has acquired prominence because of the fact that Wikipedia has been blocked by the Chinese government.
Finally, one of the key things that you should be doing on Baidu after having an account created on Baidu is to have your website translated into the Chinese language. At the same time, make use of and optimize the Baidu PPC campaigns for your brand, advertise in Baidu News Feed and Baidu Brand Zone, and authenticate your brand on Baidu to build your brand trust. Your key focus should be to drive traffic to your Chinese website and when you engage actively in Baidu, the results in terms of website traffic can be pleasantly surprising.
Chapter 6 Leverage Chinese Platforms to Bring More Traffic
As a digital marketing expert for your brand, you could be making use of several Chinese platforms to drive traffic to your site. But, like most marketers, you might be very enthusiastic in the beginning but lose control of these platforms, sooner or later. For such reasons and more, it is important that you make use of the following platforms besides of course indulging in content optimization strategies, paid and organic SEO activities, etc.
The five major live-streaming platforms such as Douyin, Momo, Huajiao, YY, Yizhibo, and Inke are those platforms that have an enormous user base and hold significant potential in terms of marketing and advertising. If Douyin as a short musical video app has already reached 60 million Daily Active Users in China, YY as a major Chinese video-based social network is not too behind and has over 300 million users.
You could easily take up advertising on such live-streaming platforms and garner a big chunk of the total Chinese market to market and grow your Brand in China share as these platforms are expected to pose a threat to the international social/video platforms in the near future. While Douyin as a live-streaming platform has been designed in such a way that China’s “Generation Z” has been seen making the most out of it, YY is more popular with the older males.
One of the most effective ways to promote your brand in the Chinese market is to make use of social media platforms like WeChat and Weibo. WeChat being a Chinese multi-purpose messaging platform holds great potential in terms of the target audience as it is comparable to social networking platforms like Facebook or WhatsApp. Weibo, on the other hand, is a Chinese microblogging website and can be compared to Twitter.
WeChat is an analog to Facebook or WhatsApp and the primary reason for that is – no matter how big differences between them, all of them come to serve the target audience in the same way, be it mobile payments, gaming apps, or instant messaging feature. The following are some of the most useful WeChat features that foreign brands should be aware of when marketing themselves.
WeChat Official Account — It gives foreign brands an opportunity to interact with Chinese customers and promote their products or services. Once you have an official account on WeChat, you can decide to open a subscription, service, or enterprise account.
WeChat Pay — This feature allows you to make payments quickly and easily via a smartphone.
WeChat Store — It’s like an E-commerce site with the exception that you have the option to buy or sell your goods only on social networking platforms. You can make use of this feature to offer customer care services to Chinese customers.
Weibo has come to outdo Twitter in terms of market influence and the number of official users. Sina Weibo occupies at least 56.5% of China’s microblogging market with the total number of active users being around 516 million. About 5,000 companies and 2,700 media organizations use this site in China so hold great potential for the foreign brands. Some of the most useful features you can find on Weibo are – post your images, send personal messages, make followers and follow someone, post stories, like posts, view popular posts, track your movements, and many more.
In entirety, both the platforms — WeChat and Weibo — can pave the way for a huge financial success to the online marketers and market and grow your brand in China. Both these sites can be
used to generate brand awareness, if not directly make way for the generation of leads and conversion of leads to sales.
Chapter 7 Find Key Opinion Leaders (KOL) to Promote Your Brand
Come to think of Key opinion Leaders (KOL) and if you were an active social media user, you would immediately know what a KOL means. To the uninitiated, a KOL would mean a social media influencer and someone like Jason Keath or Derek Halpern.
Jason Keath, for all you would like to know, is someone whom people would always like to follow on the social media networks because of his charismatic appeal and his ‘word of mouth’. As a founder and CEO of Social Fresh Conference, Jason shares content on the social media that’s not just good but highly informative. On the other hand, Derek Halpern is someone who talks about business, marketing, personal development, politics, and sometimes also relationships. Derek is the CEO of Social Triggers and known for pouring oodles of information on just about everything.
Above all, your trick as a foreign marketer should be to select the right KOL for your brand as Chinese consumers respond quite differently to the brand endorsements by celebrities — this especially is true for the beauty and the luxury sector. To that end, when you compare the brand endorsements by celebrities of yesteryears to that of today, there’s a tremendous pressure of maintaining an uncontroversial and clean image on the part of Chinese celebrities. The older Chinese celebrities can no more exert their influence as they did once.
Some of the best examples of Chinese celebrity endorsers are Zanilia Zhao, Dilraba Cherry Dilmurat, Yang Mi, and Hugh Hu. If Zanilia Zhao could endorse more than 27 brands including but not limited to Pizzahut, Longines, and Dior, Dilraba endorsed brands like Nikon, L’Oreal, Estee Lauder, Adidas, and more. Hugh Hu, an actor, and singer has endorsed countless brands and that includes Hyundai, PizzaHut, and Minute Maid.
Besides the aforementioned tips, a few other things are what you should be keeping in mind when planning to enter the Chinese marketplace and decide to market and grow your brand in china. Those can be — staying off the political controversies or engaging in deep market research before entering China. Since politics is a sensitive subject for most Chinese and can greatly hamper your brand’s reputation, it should be avoided at all costs. Engaging in deep market research would pay in the long run as you would know if a product would suit a Chinese customer.