INXIGHT series: Bridging the cross-border digital divide

Much has been said about the potential of the mainland Chinese market, and how we would be a hero if we can successfully harness that potential and actually turn it into some nice numbers for the business. However, for us marketers, we know full well that crossing the market divide is less straight-forward than going through the customs with your papers. In this article, we look to share our experience with the Chinese audience, having introduced some of the world’s biggest brands to the land of dragons.

When it comes to… Consider this…
Media mix First off, which is a no-brainer, China is a much bigger market to cover, and also much more fragmented, which is in stark contrast to Hong Kong, where a combination of TV, OOH, Print and some digital will guarantee a high coverage. What is less obvious is that there is an inherit lack of trust towards brands and advertising, and a heavy reliance on the validation of friends and public figures that conveys confidence.For a high-reach yet trust-building medium, the natural choice is social media. While it is no doubt already an integral part of any modern marketing plans, what we often see is that successful clients in China elevate their social media effort into a driving force for their marketing plan, with the rest of channels complementing it.
Content marketing Video undoubtedly is king as the most popular content format, but there are two other things we think should be noted: What goes into the content and who creates them?And your Chinese media partners can likely answer both of them.Simply because of the market size they serve, Chinese media platforms, such as Tencent video and, either has in-house production crew or deep partnership with movie studios and production houses. This means that they can produce top quality content for you. And since they have a national presence and audience data, they would be able to advise and help you navigate different regional tastes and trends, and make sure your content resonates with the local audience, wherever you decide to play.
Influencer marketing While both markets leverage KOLs, the difference lies in the roles those KOLs play in the entire marketing setup, potentially due to the difference in retail landscape.In Hong Kong, most KOLs’ role is to attract eyeballs and raise awareness, whereas actual conversions are left to storefronts and retail staff, hence the O2O concept.In China, KOLs, or “web celebrities,” as most of them are called, take a more aggressive role in closing deals and generating sales, and take a commission, either via featuring the product on their own e-shop or driving traffic to the advertisers’ e-premise.
Programmatic buying Lastly, something less flashy than nice videos and KOLs, but fundamental to any digital marketing plan for China – programmatic/audience-buying approach towards digital media.In China, big brands are focusing not only on efficiency and effectiveness but also the quality of advertising resources and context. So, other than RTB (real time bidding), more and more advertisers are resorting to PDB (programmatic direct buying) – reserving inventory for programmatic approach.This is obviously enabled by the seller side – media platforms. Portals large and small, from the famous BAT, to, to the likes of, they have all enabled this data-driven approach in response to the reality of the Chinese market, whereas in Hong Kong, the same approach is really only limited to Google and Facebook networks.

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