What Foreign Brands Should Know about Marketing to China

Marketing to China can be daunting for foreign brands. There are a few key things you need to know in order to make your campaign successful. In this post, we will outline some of the most important factors to consider when marketing to China. Keep these in mind, and you’ll be well on your way to reaching Chinese consumers!

China has a different digital ecosystem than the West

For western marketers, communication with social networking sites such as Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter is a daily routine. Social media marketing is combined with SEM effort through the google eco-system … well China is the same but all the channels are different.

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Neither of these platforms is legally available in China. However, this does not mean that in this country online marketing is weak. In fact, while western social media platforms like Facebook and Twitter are blocked in China, local platforms like WeChat and Weibo are incredibly popular. Chinese social media platforms are better tailored to the local market

The Great Firewall of China

The China Great Firewall blocks certain websites and online services within the country, including social media networks, news outlets, and communication tools. The goal is to limit access to the Chinese internet to companies that do not follow china’s regulations.

There’s no denying that the Great Firewall of China has had a huge impact on the country’s digital landscape. For starters, it’s made it incredibly difficult for Chinese citizens to access certain international websites and services such as Facebook, Google, and YouTube. This has resulted in a number of domestic Chinese companies emerging to fill the void, including Baidu, Weibo, and Douyin to list only a few.

china social media

The existence of a Chinese firewall, also known as the “Great Firewall of China” has prompted a unique online ecosystem that goes far beyond the traditional American ecosystem (Google, Twitter, et al.)

China’s social media & Online Platforms → its western equivalent

  • WeChat – super application → Facebook, WhatsApp, ApplePay, Instagram
  • Sina Weibo → Similar to Twitter in the concept and for viral marketing
  • Xiaohongshu→Instagram but more focus on products reviews and better-integrated eCommerce feature
  • Youku, Bilibili → Youtube
  • Zhihu → Quora has a much better reputation with its user base than Quora has. Has many features.
  • DouYin → TikTok (literally the same app except for some market difference)
  • Huaban → Pinterest
  • Tmall, JD, Taobao → Amazon, Ebay
  • Baidu → Google
  • Toutiao → Buzzfeed

China’s online ecosystem is prolific and dynamic, not only you’ll find alternate platforms to all the channels you are usually using but these platforms also come with their own unique features that are better suited to a Chinese audience.

We also notice that all Chinese social media offer an extensive array of marketing tools to brands and companies that go through the effort of registering a business account.

How do you make sure your company gets the visibility it needs in China?

The key to making sure your company gets the visibility it needs in China is to have a strong online presence. This means having an active social media presence on platforms like Weibo and WeChat, as well as maintaining a website that is optimized for Chinese users and Baidu.

Additionally, it is important to make sure that your content is high quality and relevant to your target audience. By doing all of these things, you will ensure that more people in China are aware of your company and its products or services.

Your Chinese Website has to be Optimized for Baidu

There are a number of best practices to optimize your website for Baidu, the largest search engine in China.

  1. First, it’s important to have a registered domain name with a .cn extension. This signals to Baidu that your website is specifically for Chinese users.
  2. For that, you’ll have to make sure your website is hosted on a server within China (You’ll need an ICP License). This will help with speed and ensure that Baidu can index your site properly.
  3. Create content that is relevant and useful for Chinese users. This means understanding what topics are trending and writing content that targets those keywords and keywords that are relevant to your industry and brand.
  4. Regular unique content will help your website grow its authority rank on Baidu
  5. Optimize your site for fast page load
  6. Your website has to be in Chinese mandarin
  7. Relevant backlinks
  8. Mobile friendly: most Chinese search engine users are mobile users. As such Baidu has made the mobile-friendliness of a website a top criterion for its SERP

Social Media Marketing is Key to success in China

Nowadays, social media marketing is key to success in China for a number of reasons. First, China has the world’s largest population of internet users with over 800 million people online. This makes it a massive potential market for businesses that are looking to reach out to new customers. Additionally, social media platforms like Weibo and WeChat are hugely popular in China and offer businesses a great way to connect with their target audience.

Furthermore, social media marketing helps businesses to create brand awareness and build up trust with potential customers. In China, word-of-mouth is still a very influential factor when it comes to making purchase decisions.

Social media marketing in China: best practices

  1. Know your audience & Localize your content: In order to create effective social media campaigns, you need to understand your target audience and their needs. China has a diverse population with different cultural backgrounds, so it’s important to tailor your messaging accordingly.
  2. Use popular platforms: Most Chinese people use social media platforms such as WeChat and Weibo, so it’s important to have a presence on these sites. However, you should also be aware of the latest trends and adapt your campaigns accordingly.
  3. Invest in niche social media relative to your industry. Allows you to reach your target audience more efficiently at a reduced cost
  4. Be creative: Chinese people love creativity and are drawn to interesting content, so make sure your social media campaigns are eye-catching and engaging.
  5. Official Account: access all the marketing tools of any Chinese social media with an account dedicated to businesses and brands. Not only you’ll get more tools to gain visibility but the official status give your legitimacy

What Mistakes do Foreign Brands usually Make when Marketing to China?

  • No market research – understanding where you are going, and how much you’ll need to invest if consumers are even interested in your product, will save you time and money.
  • Being too cheap and not willing to invest in marketing – china’s entry costs are high even with the best knowledge on the market
  • Going for the wrong channels – China’s online channels are varied, they all have their own specificities and user bases.
  • Not localizing – you would not enter the french market in English, would you? well, it is the same in China
  • Not understanding that China is huge and has many “sub-markets”
  • Underestimating the competition
  • Believe that having a good product not “made in China” is enough to succeed in the country.

Western brands have to understand in great detail how Chinese consumers buy products and think carefully about how they can be part of that process.

If Western brands try to ‘go it alone’ or think that they can redirect consumers to a Western-style web form payment screen, then they will likely fail in China.

Western consumers follow brands, whereas Chinese consumers follow people who follow brands.
So there is little point in brands trying to advertise using fake consumers, says Kestrel Lee. Instead, Western brands need to engage real people in China and integrate themselves into the everyday lives of consumers.

How to avoid these Mistakes when entering the Chinese market?

There are also marketing agencies to help to avoid mistakes like Misunderstanding Traditional Chinese Culture, Not Properly Translating Campaign Messaging to Misusing Stereotypical Images of Old China, and many more.

Marketing agencies are here to help

For sure west brands can study the Chinese market themselves or they can try it in the European way. But here are a few professionals on the market too.

China SEO Agency
SEO Agency China: Who are we?

They know that Chinese consumers are totally different from the rest of the world. A lot of international brands failed in China because of the lack of information about what the Chinese customers really want. It’s not complicated to understand Chinese people, you can work with digital marketing in order to help you to find the right marketing strategies to enter China.

Chinese people do not believe in the advertised merits of television or radio ads and prefer to search the internet. They are much more hesitant to buy and will learn more about the product to be sure not to be scammed.

Need help getting started in China?

GMA is a Digital Marketing Agency that is an expert in helping foreign companies to establish or strengthen their position in China. They are a growing team of 75 marketers with a passion for China and digital marketing. In 10 years of existence, GMA has had many satisfied customers who regularly come back to them to run their latest campaigns.

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GMA has a huge range of services necessary for supporting western brand marketers who should feel ready to go with their expansion to China. Contact us

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