New digital marketing trends in China
The pandemic and the recent global events have partly reshaped the Chinese market and its natural openness towards Western brands and products, influencing not only the macro-economic mechanisms, but also the promotional and digital marketing trends on which companies base their strategies to carve out a niche for themselves in the most flourishing of the world’s economies.
Videos and live streaming, protagonists of the Chinese web
The upheavals of the last two years have brought to light very interesting trends in digital marketing, which promise to make the Chinese digital world even more vibrant and varied.
Starting with the growing popularity of the video and live streaming format, which has become widespread in social media platforms and beyond, video clips fascinate and capture millions of views, as well as achieve a high engagement rate, and are the ideal vehicle to tell products and experiences to Generation Z, the audience segment most sought after by companies.
This is why WeChat, the most influential social media in China, has launched Channels, a platform exclusively dedicated to the dissemination and sharing of video content, while RED, another local web giant, has integrated live streaming among its functions and – through its algorithm – has begun to favour the visibility of video content over text or image content.
COVID-19, which has forced hundreds of millions of people indoors for weeks, has imposed streaming as the main form of entertainment not only for young people, but for (almost) all age groups. China has always been the realm of the specific market, in terms of consumption and quantity of content produced, but between 2020 and 2021, many companies have reorganised their business models and communication strategies by focusing precisely on streaming and on the creation of ecosystems that would lead from content to direct online sales.
On the other hand, the Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) market seems to be at a standstill. One of the probable causes is the extreme fragmentation of the digital market which has prompted companies to abandon the large aggregators of followers in favour of niche KOLs, but the perception as negative models of many of these well-known web faces, with little connection to Chinese cultural and social traditions, also played a role.
The rediscovery of tradition for an ethical and local communication
An important and rising trend is in fact the rediscovery and modernisation of traditional Chinese culture. This new wave of pride and attention towards tradition, identified with the term Guochao, influences the consumption of young and old, and consequently the marketing strategies, digital and otherwise, of Western brands operating in China.
Hence, the communication of companies operating on the other side of the Great Wall has in recent years been moving towards typical values and aesthetics that hark back to the past and towards the telling of people’s own stories, which often have deep roots and combine tradition and modernity, rather than towards the narration of products and brands.
Even beauty standards and value canons have rediscovered nationalism, giving way to digital positioning strategies that make local marketing their core component.
Local in the choice and construction of contents, but also in their localization. The promotional campaigns of Western companies increasingly focus on single areas or regions, carefully organizing both the type of content and its diffusion on a local scale, making the most of their presence on all (or almost all) available channels.
In fact, another strong point of the most successful commercial operations is undoubtedly multi-channelling, capable of involving the user in a customer journey that from WeChat (with its universe of mini-programmes) and social networks passes through the large aggregators and arrives to the corporate website in Chinese language, with an articulated series of touchpoints that also includes video and streaming platforms.
Opportunities for the future with a focus on metaverse and gamification
New trends and continuous technological updates are opening new avenues and opportunities for the future for investors, as well as for Italian and European brands that want to make their way into the Chinese market through digital marketing strategies capable of tapping into the local audience.
One of the challenges of the coming months will undoubtedly concern the adaptation of communication strategies to the Meng culture, i.e., the predilection of the younger Chinese generation for objects, mascots and accessories with cartoonish and childlike, cute and sweet features, which are very popular online and beyond, capable of identifying products, companies and a certain lifestyle between contemporaneity and deep past.
The gaming market is also growing and expanding, with fans on the rise and some luxury brands launching collections and objects inspired by the most popular video games, representing interesting initiatives capable of involving the target audience, particularly the young, in a new way.
Exactly what the metaverse seems destined to do, in which the most innovative and high-investment brands’ virtual shops, fashion shows and exhibitions are flourishing. They are animating virtual reality with original initiatives where virtual currencies are likely to be created, but where for now, works of art, designer clothes and more are purchased with NFTs (non-fungible-tokens).
In this, too, China is at the forefront and companies eager to carve out a space for themselves in this local market can only keep up to date, innovate and find in digital trends the stimulus to communicate with an ever-changing public.