5 steps to build a sustainable brand in China for long-term success

Short-term digital marketing campaigns in China can deliver you a rapid influx of leads, but for long-term success and a sustainable brand, it’s vital to look to the longer-term. For effective marketing in China, the key to success requires a blend of research, strategy and measured delivery. The good news is, Western brands across all industries can experience strong sales in the growing Chinese market if they get it right – and if they get the right help. Let’s take a closer look at some of the steps to take.

1. Do your research

What does your typical Chinese customer look like? Do you understand the difference between a Tier 1 and Tier 3 city in terms of population demographics and growth? Are you aware of how Chinese user journeys tend to differ from Western user journeys online? If you don’t yet have this clear base of knowledge – and a target customer persona – it’s time to invest in background research. Some of this can be done using secondary sources (for example, for broad demographic, market and competitor information – such as a PESTEL analysis of the Chinese market). Other types of research may need commissioning – such as targeted Chinese market research to identify under-served niche markets in a travel, education or e-commerce sector. We can help with both secondary and primary research so that your campaign is based upon clear information to guide accurate decision-making.

2. Look at your brand

Before you launch your market offer in China, check your brand. Will it be relevant and attractive to your target Chinese audience, or does it require some adjustment to meet local culture and values? This may require localising the logo with Chinese characters and carefully checking the translation of slogans. KFC made a famous blunder some years ago when its Western slogan of ‘finger-licking good’ was inadvertently translated to ‘eat your fingers off’ in Chinese – a mistake which was expensive and difficult to rectify. Get help from a native Chinese marketing resource to check your logo, slogans and other brand elements carefully – especially the usage of words, colours, graphics and so forth.

3. Get your digital assets in place

Once you are sure that your brand works, and that you can pinpoint your target customers and understand their market, check your digital assets. You will need a website which operates successfully in China as a basic minimum, and this will usually mean either creating a specific Chinese website or localising your existing assets. It will need local hosting, fast speeds and careful content localisation to get past Chinese censorship and to appeal to Chinese customers – who are very likely to access it via their smartphones. Your user journeys will need to be optimised for Chinese customers and content tailored accordingly to meet local needs. Common payment processing systems will need to be integrated, as well as Chinese social media platforms.

4. Look at social

Social media is huge in China. From WeChat to Weibo to DouYin, your potential Chinese customers are likely to have a busy online social media life, and your brand will need to be active and present in the right way – producing valuable, engaging and rich content which encourages traffic to your landing pages – and subsequent conversions.

Western brands use Key Opinion Leaders, or KOLs, to provide reviews, sponsorship, product placement and other forms of paid promotional content to a ready and relevant base of followers. There are KOLs for every industry, and to suit all marketing budgets. The right KOL relationship can be hugely beneficial for a Western brand seeking to launch or grow in the China market, as these customers highly value the recommendation of KOLs that they perceive to be trustworthy and knowledgable. Remember that this is a country whose citizens naturally distrust state media, and who look to their own peer networks, influencer networks and community-generated content for purchase recommendations – before official sources. A Chinese marketing agency can help you to broker the relationship with the right KOL and get the most from it.

5. Paid online advertising (PPC) and SEO

Baidu is the biggest search engine in China, and Western brands will need to master the powerful and often complex functionalities that it offers to businesses. From immediate Baidu PPC campaigns to generate qualified traffic (Chinese customers appreciate online advertising as a sign of quality and authenticity) to long-term strategies for SEO building, Baidu is a vital cornerstone for any successful marketing campaign. Get it right and you can enjoy higher rankings through better organic search and quality traffic generation. Once you begin to use Baidu, you must then constantly evaluate your progress and track metrics for ongoing campaign adjustment – using the back-end system (which, yes, is in Chinese!).

Other considerations

These are just five steps to consider, but there are other routes which Western brands will wish to consider as part of their integrated digital marketing strategies. For example, at Market Me China, in addition to the services above, we also help our clients to use online PR to build trust, brand engagement and recognition with trusted media outlets. We also offer broader online advertising via our integrated and intelligent digital advertising platform, which ensures that online adverts are placed in front of the right customers.

Find out more

Market Me China helps Western brands across all industries to find success in the hugely exciting, lucrative and rapidly-growing Chinese market. Whether your business operates in e-commerce, travel, education or another sector, we can add measurable value to your marketing activities. From Chinese marketing campaign planning and content creation, through to website localisation, Chinese social media consultancy, account set-up and digital channel management, we act as trusted flexible partners to your business. And naturally, we provide ongoing evaluation metrics to evidence the ROI. Interested in finding out more? Please contact us for a no-obligation discussion. We are also pleased to work with customers remotely during this time, with excellent experience in getting the most from this type of virtual agency arrangement.