Why Marketing Your Brand in China is Difficult, But Not Impossible
China is a market any company wants to be targeting in some way, shape or form. The country is the world’s second largest economy, it boasts 1.3 billion consumers, and their financially flush middle class is growing exponentially.
With so many positive numbers, how can a company possibly fail in such a blossoming environment? Well you only have to ask the likes of Tesco and Dolce & Gabbana. The former struggled for a decade before its Chinese operation was relinquished following a merger, while the latter found its brand shunned due to a racism-tinged PR disaster – and this is despite Chinese shoppers being the current biggest purchasers of luxury goods.
It’s a tough market to crack for those on the outside. However, it is not impossible. Below are some potential issues your business could face, and how these can be averted on the way to success in China.
The ban on social media
This website might be called the Social Media Explorer, but there isn’t much to survey when it comes to the likes of Facebook and Twitter in China. This is because Western social media platforms like those two, and also YouTube and Instagram, are banned in China.
That’s right, wave goodbye to whatever marketing plan you currently have in place with social media. All those Instagram stories, Tweets and YouTube videos are not going to be viewed in China. Oh, and Google is also banned, so your content marketing strategy needs further tweaking.
Not understanding the consumers and culture
When you’ve had success in your current market, there’s the chance of becoming conceited. You might start believing what worked in one market will work in every market. If you do this, there’s the real potential of ignoring the needs and tastes of the Chinese population.
Utilizing China’s social media channels
Although the usual platforms might be gone, this doesn’t mean you can’t utilize China’s forms of social media. From Weibo to Tencent Video, the volume of Chinese social media platforms can be difficult to comprehend. To help, just remember that 2018 statistics pointed to over 670 million users of social media in China.
Adapting for the market
Adapting is a given for any company looking to grow their brand in China. Although the level of change depends on the sector your business operates in. A luxury furniture brand might not have to modify their products, but a clothing brand will have to alter their sizing chart to better fit with Chinese consumers.
For example, the Chinese public has a palate which doesn’t match up to those in the West. You know Starbucks as a coffee company. In China, however, it offers such a wide range of drinks – including lychee and teas – that it isn’t identified primarily for its coffee. If even Starbucks had to adapt, it means you also have to change things up.
Enlist the help of a local marketing agency
If there’s one way of certifying your advertising plan is on point in China, hire a local marketing agency. They will already be aware of the ins and outs about China’s social media – which can be a particularly steep learning curve for non-natives to comprehend. Additionally, they can assist with any other beneficial offline and online marketing tactics.
With that said, there’s one notable problem: actually enlisting the services of a local marketing agency. This is especially a concern if you don’t have a local entity in China. To circumvent this issue, a specialist solution company can act as a middleman. Along with being able to provide recruitment and tax assistance, organizations such as INS Global feature invoicing solutions in China. This means you can invoice the marketing agency effortlessly. This also goes for any other China-based clients you work with.
Ultimately, China is a different ballgame for Western organizations looking to crack the market. What works for your business at home isn’t necessarily going to work in China. You need to recognize the needs of Chinese consumers, how the country differs to Western audiences, and then adapt when needed.
When doing so, remember: the Chinese economy might be expanding and modernizing at a rapid rate. However, do not confuse this modernization with westernization. This is an important step for ensuring you have an effective marketing strategy in China.
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