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Five new digital trends in China for 2016

new digital trends in China

What will your 2016 marketing strategy focus on?

2016 is here and it is time for us to look into the new digital trends in China, which will dominate the digital arena in the coming months.

Mobile marketing will transform your fans into members

While in Western countries, Internet users are slowly going from desktop to mobile device use, in China many didn’t experience the PC era and jumped right into the Smartphone craze. This implies many differences for brands regarding their marketing strategy.

When brands in Western markets struggle to interact with their audience through e-mails and count their fans on Facebook, those in China know they connect directly with their followers. This is mainly due to the wide use of applications such as WeChat, which allow brands to communicate very precisely with their target. Although many brands already have WeChat accounts, very few are already making the most of what the application can offer.

WeChat enables brands to manage their followers just like a CRM system would: they can push notifications (content or promotions) to diverse geolocalised customer segments. More and more brands are looking into this type of contact management, in order to slowly get inactive users interested in what they have to say and engage them. Communicating effectively with an existing client base and trying to get the rest of a brand’s audience more active is one of 2016 new challenges.

new digital trends in China

Your branding strategy will rely on mini-movies

Branded mini-movies appeared in China around 2011 with brands such as Cadillac or Prada. These movies are generally short (10 minutes maximum) and feature Asian celebrities in very cinematic settings. The concept is getting more popular nowadays and we expect brands to come up with such videos quite often now.

Why? The audience targeted by brands here is young, digital and obsessed with luxury. They are used to ordinary marketing strategies from brands and are looking for something more. These mini-movies are a way to answer this need: they are high quality content and are a form of entertainment. For luxury companies, they are a highly effective way to engage with their target: for example Pepsi had more than 100,000 views for its “Bring Happiness Home” mini-movie and Bulgari’s video exceeded 350,000 views.

The Chinese market is very important for such brands and they invest a lot in it. They need to be sure to get a return on this investment and therefore need to hold consumers’ attention. These mini-movies are a creative way to appeal to consumers without distorting a brand’s image. Maybe even smaller brands from other industries will tap into this potential?

You will use better KOLs

Key Opinion Leaders have been a must in marketing strategies so far. With their extensive fanbases, they enable brands to reach out to a wider target while they relay these brands’ content.

Until now, it used to be said that the larger a KOL’s audience, the better. However, depending on the targeted customer segments, brands in China have started to realize that these bloggers might not be as influential as they thought. For example, urban populations from cities such as Shanghai or Beijing are becoming more informed customers, international shoppers and most of all, they like to judge products and make decisions by themselves. These consumers might be active on social media, and follow many experts and celebrities but in the end, the latter will not be decisive in their buying decision process.

Brands are still figuring out how to connect with the Chinese clientele and they constantly adapt to what they learn from the market. With this new insight in mind, we expect more brands to choose their KOLs differently from now on: instead of looking for quantity, they will search for quality. Key Opinion Leaders who really influence their network, however small it is, are the new communication tool.

new digital trends in China

Your content will divert from your brand

Marketers have long faced a dilemma: how to engage with a target without assailing them with branded content, all the while assuring the management team that the strategy in place will bring sales in the end? Until now, many of us were somehow forced to put the product or brand at the center of each content shared with our target… because we were told to do so by a sales-oriented manager.

However, brands around the world are becoming more focused on providing interesting content to their audience, without mentioning the brand’s product. Why is this working? Because instead of constantly talking about yourself, you talk about what matters to your customers. What better way to engage them in a conversation? (more information here).

Brands in China have understood this and with the country’s massive number of Internet users, the results can be amazing. Durex for example has a very efficient strategy in China: the brand chose to gather people around topics such as relationships, dating or love… and it works! Durex has a very active base of “friends”, as it calls its followers, and is trying to build on this friendship over time. See more information here:

Focus more on what your customers have to say

If you are going to focus on topics that interest your audience rather than putting your product at the center of your communication, you should also put your audience in focus.

If you look at the engagement on different types of content on social media, you will see that those posts from users themselves talking about the brand collect way more interactions than those published by the brand. These definitely look more “real” and reliable, and this appeals greatly to Chinese consumers. There is a large trust issue in China: consumers are wary of any product they find online and offline, which forces them to look for information before any purchase and rely heavily on their peers’ opinion.

Brands are gradually integrating that insight into their content strategy and opt more often for co-creation with their customers. Instead of using beautiful photo-shopped pictures, brands will use pictures taken by their audience: photo contests are widely popular for example. Now it is up to you to come up with a creative way to make your target participate in your communication: let them show how much they like your brand.

new digital trends in China

Further readings about new digital trends in China:

  1. Pepsi unites families for Chinese New Year
  2. Great insight on content marketing in China
  3. Fashion Marketing in China
  4. 5 Social Media Trends in China


About the Author:

SEO-Expert-China - trends about Chinese touristsOlivier Verot is the founder of Gentlemen Marketing Agency, which is an agency based in Shanghai that focuses on Chinese travelers and tourism. Fluent in Mandarin and exploring the various Chinese digital Strategies, he helps tourism companies to develop their China strategy. Thanks to his analyzes of Chinese consumers’ behavior, he has been recognized as an expert on the subject of marketing in China and tourism.

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    Very interesting content Chairman. Good job
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