8 Tips for Digital Marketers in China

Document Sample
8 Tips for Digital Marketers in China Powered By Docstoc
					         POINT OF view

8 Tips for Digital Marketers
in China
Lessons Learned by SapientNitro’s Freddie Laker During
His First Summer in China

By Freddie Laker | Executive Director of Digital Strategy, SapientNitro Asia

In an increasingly global world, it’s not unreasonable to believe that some tactics used in
developed markets will be successful in China. But it’s also important to recognize that
new trends or even new uses of familiar tactics make every market different, a fact I was
reminded of after moving to China three months ago.

For example, advanced analytics tools for monitoring the social-media space will
dramatically change the approach to social media and the value placed on it by marketers
-- once they arrive in emerging markets -- just at they did recently in developed markets.
The expansion of market leaders like CIC, a digital media research and consulting firm in
Shanghai, will help drive this change.

China’s digital marketers can skip some of the mistakes made in other more established
markets as they go through a huge digital growth spurt and probably develop new tools (and
associated mistakes) on their own. I expect the same thing to happen with some tactics.
As a Westerner living in Shanghai, I’ve certainly had to re-evaluate what I understood about
China, including the way to approach digital marketing when taking on the world’s largest
internet market.

Here’s what I’ve figured out so far:

 1. There is plenty of life beyond Facebook, Twitter and YouTube. And that’s a good thing,
    because these banned sites are non-players in the Chinese market. Although the social-
    media space is fragmented, there are major players with hundreds of millions of users
    that rival even the biggest players.

    Although a myriad of players exist in this complex social media space, start by learning
    about platforms like Kaixin (social network), Sina Weibo (micro-blogging), Youku (video
    sharing), and QQ (instant messenger). Re-learning the platforms can be challenging, but
    is possible for non-Chinese speakers by accessing them through Google Chrome with its
    automatic language translation function. The brand communications principals behind
    authenticity, transparency and value in social media still apply, though.

                    © Sapient Corporation, 2010
         POINT OF view

 2. Bulletin board sites (BBS) thrive in China. BBS culture formed the foundation of
    the social web long before there were social networks in the rest of the world. They
    provide a rich and fertile digital ecosystem of like-minded people aligned around
    online communities, physical communities, common passions or needs, or even
    groups of friends or individuals. Arguably the largest social platform (in aggregate),
    they provide unique insight into the Chinese consumer and should be addressed in any
    comprehensive digital marketing campaign.

 3. Forget leveraging a user’s social profile (for now). One of the most (r)evolutionary
    digital enhancements outside of China in recent years was Facebook Connect (now
    OpenGraph), which allowed marketers to personalize digital experiences based
    on a user’s social profile. It allowed for new types of digital experiences that were
    exponentially more relevant to the consumer. This technology doesn’t exist in China
    yet, but keep your eye out for the first social network to release a platform like this one,
    as they’re sure to grow rapidly and become the darling of China’s digital marketing
    community. Of course they’ll still be up against the challenge of China’s internet
    community being wary of sharing their personal information.

 4. Think mobile first for many digital users in China. The number of people who accessed
    the internet on a mobile device doubled last year with the introduction of 3G services.
    Many of these individuals will have their first digital experiences at school, university,
    work or an internet cafe, but their one consistent experience with the internet will be
    through their mobile device as opposed to a PC as they might not have the ability to own

China added 131 million internet
users to its population between 2008
and 2009 and another 60 million by
July of this year.

   5. Never underestimate the rate of change. The rate of change is staggering and only
      reflective of a society that is undergoing a mind-boggling transformation into a
      kingdom of capitalist might while simultaneously holding firmly onto traditional
      roots. China added 131 million internet users to its population between 2008 and
      2009 and another 60 million by July of this year. This same staggering rate of
      change exists in the growth of the population and simultaneously the sophistication
      of the population. Expectations around the quality of digital marketing will rise more
      rapidly then expected.

                     © Sapient Corporation, 2010
            POINT OF view

  6. Penetration may be low, but smart phones are big business in China. Don’t base your
     thinking on any statistic you read as a percentage point. It’s very easy to forget scale in
     China. For example, China’s smart phone penetration is approaching 11% -- a small
     number until you remember that it reflects around 180 million people. In tier one and
     tier two cities -- the provincial capitals and main urban (and wealthy) centers -- average
     penetration is even higher.

  7. E-commerce plays a different role in China. Mega players like Amazon and eBay
     have never been able to take on domestic China offerings like Alibaba Group’s B2C
     e-commerce platform Taobao. China’s great rush of consumerism has driven desire
     for premium brands beyond the tier one cities, but consumers don’t have access to the
     retail outlets of top tier cities or are unable to afford their new aspirations. E-commerce
     players like Taobao are able to provide access to these goods across China and appear to
     be able to provide deep discounts not available at retail locations.

  8. Don’t expect insights into people’s offline behaviors to reflect their behavior online. In
     China, the internet provides an outlet for people to live an online identity that is quite
     different from their offline identity. Sometimes these online personas are a reaction
     to a repressed cultural environment due to religion, the government, or society-based
     In other scenarios, it can be an opportunity to live out escapism and fulfill people’s
     dreams through a virtual world. Social networks in China boast games like “buying
     houses” and “parking lot” for example. Don’t rely on standard research and consumer
     insights to reach your audience as you might find unique opportunities by understanding
     a consumer’s online persona and how it’s connected back to their offline persona.

Digital marketing in China is at a very exciting stage in its development. It has huge scale
and reach, the budgets are growing, marketers’ understanding is maturing, and most
importantly creativity is emerging in new and exciting ways. Avoid some of the pitfalls and
join the fray.

                                Freddie Laker is Executive Director of Digital Strategy. He has also
                                founded the Society of Digital Agencies, a collective of notable digital
                                agencies focused on thought leadership and positive industry change,
                                and blogs at

This article was originally published in AdAge, September 1, 2010.

                          © Sapient Corporation, 2010

Description: Lessons learned by SapientNitro’s Freddie Laker during his first summer in China. Point of View By Freddie Laker Executive Director of Digital Strategy, SapientNitro Asia.
About SapientNitro, part of Sapient®, is a new breed of agency redefining storytelling for an always-on world. We’re changing the way our clients engage today’s connected consumers by uniquely creating integrated, immersive stories across brand communications, digital engagement, and omni-channel commerce. We call it Storyscaping, where art and imagination meet the power and scale of systems thinking. For more information, visit