In recent years, China has been a global leader in terms of technological innovation and online infrastructure. Powerful platforms such as WeChat created a vibrant Chinese content market filled with exciting new developments. Chinese netizens are very responsive and passionate to WeChat too. They wake up reading news and updates on WeChat and engaged with friends through WeChat’s sharing features. WeChat’s wide coverage and usability have become an efficient platform where brands engage and communicate with the masses.
Companies and their brands have to keep pace to remain relevant and on top of their digital game. This has led to an avalanche of bite-size content, where brands are racing to keep up by cutting down their campaign cycles and speeding up their daily/weekly/monthly updates.
This need for speed is not without its problems. The urge for mass appeal and constant efficiency pressures have led brands to compromise on quality and durability of their content to try and appeal to all 1.4 billion consumers. Some brands have been lead to dilute their core values and content messages in order to hastily charm to the masses.
Take the example of Western luxury brands. These brands rely on their reputation and heritage, which they have built over decades or in some cases centuries. However, led by the urgency for short-term profits and market shares, these same brands do not always convey these values through their more mass-oriented promotional strategies in China.
In the long term, having a more sustainable content marketing strategy is more fruitful. Although a mass strategy offers a broader foundation, having a stable consumer base delivers more value. This requires marketeers to understand their own brands and their core values, as well as knowing their consumers and their aspirations. Consequentially, finding the right market opportunities that match the two will deliver the expected results.
It is worthwhile to note that mass-marketing and niche-marketing are not opposite counterparts. Brands need broad-based market influence, however not every consumer will actively buy their product or identify with the core values. It may be risky to jump right into a niche group in a “new” market as they need time to know potential consumers, their cultures and spending habits so as to experiment and customise their brands.
Should brands start with a niche market and then broaden out? Or should they cater to the masses and then narrow down? This is a crucial matter for brands to consider and decide for themselves.
Here are some suggestions for Chinese content marketeers:
1) Develop a content strategy that clearly identifies brand persona(s), goals, objectives and route to market.
2) Identify and be selective of your audience, know who, how and where they are. Avoid catering to the masses indiscriminately.
3) When you are ready to launch, be sure that the right people, frequency, budget and process are in place.
4) At execution, ensure brand values and equity are consistent and universal on a global scale.
5) When you are looking to amplify your content, be selective and targeted in your amplification opportunities.
6) Always measure and analyse. Set clear and realistic targets and measure every step.
7) Finally, plan and take the time to strategize and plan before hitting the ground running. Do not get lured in the speed trap from the onset.
The writer is Peter Bakker, managing director of Immedia Services.