China consumers love well-known brands. In the eyes of consumers, these brands are symbols of reliability, quality, and social prestige. For these brands, it means more sales and more success. Fortunately, there are practices that can help you with branding in China. It won’t be easy but it is an achievable goal.
Why should you work hard on your branding in China?
Chinese consumers are looking for reliability when purchasing online. They are well aware of the counterfeit and poor quality products and this leads them to buy in a smarter way. In China, there is something we like to call queuing phenomena. If you have the chance to visit China you might encounter people queuing for hours even just to buy ice cream. Why that? If a place is busy, it must be good, and the longer the queue is, the longer are people willing to wait. It works in the same way with brands. Sales lead to more sales and this gets more consumers paying attention to your brand. Having people talking about you is key to have success, as long as it is positive.
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A well-known brand is often associated with quality. As we said, Chinese consumers are looking for quality over quantity nowadays. They are more concerned about the health and the environment.
The Concept of Mianzi
A third point to mention is linked to a very Chinese social construct, “Mianzi”. Mianzi, in a highly hierarchical and collectivist society like the Chinese one, is the reputation of each person, as well as the prestige that they possess in the places they frequent: work, school, family.
This can be achieved by getting good grades, excellent results at work, achieving a prominent economic position, but also by owning a valuable car, designer clothes, or a good-looking wife. In this regard, it is a real humiliation for the Chinese to make a mistake in public. “Losing face” or diu mianzi is a source of great embarrassment and shame.
This means that a non-Chinese who relates to Chinese culture must always keep in mind the importance of avoiding any word or attitude that could lead to the loss of face.
Each brand carries values and a specific identity that consumers will consider when buying. This is also related to the Mianzi and the way people want to be seen.
Being a popular brand in China comes with benefits
Not only being a well-known brand will get you more sales but it will also open you some doors. You’ll soon discover that to sell in China you need retailers. Retailers won’t be willing to work with a start-up or unknown brands simply because they know the risk of being a total stranger on the Chinese market.
Having a good reputation increases your mianzi but also your connection or Guanxi. Having a good connection is at the center of the Chinese business model and will help you to get the best deals. Unlike the way of conducting business in the West, which is usually very formal and focused on work, in China to have a fruitful business or institutional relationship you must first establish a personal relationship based on mutual knowledge, respect, and trust.
Well-known brands get invited to all kinds of events where they can promote themselves. You could as well organize your own event? Well, if no one knows one brand, it is going to be hard to get people coming. Indeed, walking into an event organized by another unknown brand among 1000 other brands does not have the prestige of being invited to a Gucci event for instance. Time is a resource that can’t be wasted.
Talking about prestige, giants brands often get discounts on their rents and sweet deals with locals businesses. In this way, they are going to have priorities over smaller brands and get the best spots.
The last point we would like to talk about it is hiring talents.
In China, there is a preference for well-known brands. As it feels safer to buy from a brand you know about, it feels safer to work for a company you know about. Never say you are a start-up if you wanna keep your locals employees. Talents also tend to ask for more money when working for a small company than for a big brand. Safety before all, in China trust, has to be deserved and locals tend to be suspicious of people that do not belong to their social circle.
How to build your brand a name in the Chinese market?
Now that we’ve explained to you some of the most important reasons why you need to brand yourself, we can introduce you to some of the most efficient methods to do so.
Have an Online Presence: SEO, SEM & Wechat
Your marketing effort should be focused on the digital world if you want people to get to know your brand and your values. Chinese consumers are extremely digitalized and have the habit of looking up online for information before buying a new product.
Invest in a good Baidu SEO&SEM strategy
The first thing is to create a website in Chinese. It will have to be hosted in China or Hong Kong. These two details may be taken for granted, but they are extremely important for your SEO ranking. Another important thing for Seo is to do link building: the activity aimed at increasing the number of inbound links to a website, which in this way gains greater authority in the eyes of the search engine.
The most used search engine in China is Baidu. It covers 70% of the users’ queries. In short, you won’t be able to rank if you have a foreign language website hosted on a foreign server.
Take advantage of Baidu SEM tools. There are 4 types of campaigns:
- one is based on PPC and is your classic keyword-based campaigns, usually the higher the bid is the higher are chances for your website to rank.
- Another type is the brand zone campaigns. Buy a list of KW, pay monthly. Usually used by big brands but also suitable for the smaller brands with a less expensive option. The brand zone campaigns are great cause it allows you more freedom in the way you can personalize your ads and take almost half of the screen of users when doing researches. They are also strongly focused on-brand content.
- Baidu Tuiguang, is the Chinese equivalent of Google Adwords, the platform dedicated to SEM activities. Consisting of a Search part, and a Display with about 600,000 sites affiliated with the Baidu network.
- Baidu Display Network Advertising is an advertising banner service offered by Baidu that allows you to invest in ads that appear on external sites and earn money based on the number of clicks on the ads.
E-reputation in China is essential to have success
As we said earlier, Chinese consumers tend to be suspicious and do not trust easily. This lack of trust comes from the Cultural Revolution where being reported for not committing fully to the new party in place, or because your neighbor did not like you, was a common thing.
They also do not really trust official sources and common advertising and would rather turn on other users’ experiences to make buying decisions. You can use this to your advantage by being everywhere your audience is looking for information. There are three main sources of information online for users: WeChat, Weibo, and Chinese forums.
Wechat is a great tool to get engaged with your community
Once you are set online, create a Wechat official page for your brand. Wechat is the most used app in China. It has close to 1 billion monthly users and is a great communication tool. It can be used to shared content, as a CRM, or as an e-commerce platform.
WeChat CRM is a great tool to communicate with your followers and it can be used as a newsletter. With a well-set Wechat CRM, you can answer automatically any questions your followers may have, welcome new ones, offer special discounts, etc.
WeChat mini-programs are a kind of “sub-application”: an app inside another (in this case, WeChat). Mini-programs can be compared to “mini-apps” built into the WeChat app itself. As a result, users will no longer have to use or download new apps to do the shopping because they can find everything in WeChat.
Wechat is a great tool for branding as it is a social media and quality content can go viral very fast bringing you a lot of traffic. However, branding on Wechat is a real effort and takes time.
Weibo is good to increase brand awareness and to go viral
Weibo is one of the most common social media in China, it is similar to Twitter.
It offers many services: from traditional social activities, to create micro-blog, send messages, follow brands, Kols and trends, live streaming, gaming activities.
It is a one-to-many platform. On Weibo, you can have more followers and faster but on Wechat you have more impact on call to action, so you should learn to use them at the same time. One doesn’t exclude the other.
Weibo helps to increase brand awareness, to ensure great visibility for events and promotions through ad-hoc communication with user-friendly content, to insert external links to the brand’s e-commerce, and to lead to word of mouth. Thanks to hashtags, build a real community around your products and gain visibility in China.
Chinese Forums and blogs are the best places to educate your audience
Baidu Tieba, Douban, Dianping, Zhihu are only some of the Chinese forums where your brand should be… and the list goes on. These are places where internet users like to share their experiences and are looking for information about products.
There is an excellent opportunity for your brand to integrate these communities and communicate about your brand, learn about what your audience is looking for as well as feeding the dialogue. The more they speak about you, the easier it will be to find you on the internet as well.
You can answer questions about your field but also educate your target audience about your products in an undercover way. It is an excellent tool to increase your conversion rate and generate brand awareness.
Kols are the best option to advertise your brand
Key opinion leaders are powerful people on Chinese social media. They are well trusted by internet users and a partnership with the right kol that shares your values could mean an immediate gain of popularity for your brand.
If you want to increase brand awareness you must definitively work with a Kol.
You can work with them through different social media and live streaming platforms, like Douyin, Little Red Book, and so on. Kols will show your products live, entertain the users, and convey confidence in the products.
There are different ways to collaborate with Kols:
- product reviews
- product giveaways
- exclusive promotions and discounts
- digital events
- creative collaborations
- appoint a KOL as the company’s brand ambassador
- invitations to events
- work directly with them on the product
It will depend on both your budget and your products. Since there are many fake Kols, we can help you to find the best one that fits your needs.
Branding in China Sum Up
When planning your strategy for the Chinese market, never forget the power of a good reputation. The word of mouth is the keyword to keep in mind. Getting one community talking about you on the Chinese platforms could mean the beginning of something much bigger for you like. Be patient, and get your community manager to work hard spreading your value.
Do you have a business in China and are struggling to create an active community around your brand?
SEO Agency China, is specialized in helping brands grow in the Chinese market with a strong focus on Online Branding.