Digital branding, Marketing and proper behaviour in China

Digital branding, Marketing and proper behaviour in China

Foreign companies entering the China market should realize that China is not a country but a continent, where getting company message heard faces huge challenges.

Entering the market successfully requires foreign businesses to be able to distinguish their companies, products and services from competition at this world´s biggest market. Knowledge on what is in the mind of the Chinese people is crucial to success.

Brand awareness and purchasing behaviour works differently in China and a number of mistakes have been made in believing that China is like any other market in the World. Brand recognition is related to trust and people’s minds, and a number of mistakes have been made in believing that the Chinese are like any other people in the West.

Achieving and retaining a proper brand consciousness in China is easier said than done, since branding in China is much more than translating company name, material, trademarks and slogans in the Chinese. Advertisement as such is often referred in China as propaganda and millions of dollars have been lost in entering the market with traditional western methods.

However, brand experience has shown a workable three level approach, producing good results on the rapidly evolving Chinese, explored below.

1. Online Platforms and Professional Use

A great number of foreign companies make excellent business in China and are well known among their customer segments. Most of these China experienced companies have included Chinese style of branding approach in their entire business management and operations in China. Today it means digital branding and internet marketing in the rapidly changing market environment.

The Chinese are leading the world in numbers of internet users, smartphone penetration uses and digital marketing. According to latest research, over 95 percent of online population use social media and e-commerce platforms to access latest technologies, companies and product information. This development trend has been often neglected by western companies.

In Europe, social media platforms such are Facebook and YouTube are used mainly for social and entertainment purposes, however, in their Chinese counterparts 70 percent of the uploads are for professional content.

Foreign companies entering China market and continuing their presence at this market are well advised to expand and make their presence known at these digital marketing sites. Online trends continue to develop rapidly while new platforms constantly emerge to challenge existing branding and marketing methods.

2. WeChat Business Platform and Multiple Functionalities

Peculiar for China is the wide usage of messenger platform WeChat for digital business, marketing, sales and payment gateway. WeChat is the Chinese equivalent for WhatsUp, developed by Tencent and used by more than a billion people for their professional and social use.

WeChat platform incorporates multiple functionalities and services including digital wallets, order management, delivery and tracking services for corporate clients and their customers. Users are constantly searching information about new products, solutions, review comment and recommendation using WeChat. Corporate digital media experts shall build such marketing gateways in both English and Chinese to professionally target Chinese audiences.

Foreign companies should make the effort to study multiple Chinese online platforms and be present at least business and social media WeChat, Youku and Weibo as well as Chinese news and online community websites such as Sine China and Douban.

Moreover, it is necessary to stay updated with these most popular platforms as well as offer latest issues, ideas and topics for publications and trending at platforms and develop and use them to promote the company, products and brand effectively.

Chinese marketing is moving fast and quick reaction is necessary to stay ahead of the competition. This new trend of corporate promotion is using short entertaining and informative videos and posting them online to attract customers and buyers. Similar micro-learning tools are entering into online education market making studying possible anywhere and anytime.

3. Proper Corporate Behaviour and Chinese Values

Purchasing behaviour has changed in recent years in-conjunction with the development of online platforms and communities.
Brand management must play a leading role in corporate marketing in China.

The Chinese market is highly dynamic, but extremely sensitive against offences to Chinese values. Success in business in China depends on reputation in the market and value propositions must follow local styles and preferences.

Foreign brands shall communicate their own distinctive features and advantages of the company, quality management and ambitions in China.

Chinese values are near to the hearts of the Chinese customers. The whole chain of company leaders, officers and employees must understand values of customers and emergence of the word-of- mouth phenomenon in China. Chinese are very fast to react to any corporate news good or bad and the maintenance of good image in China is a vital necessity.

Arrogance does not sell in China and the latest development with Dolce & Gabbana indicates that it is crucial for company to be watchful of their own online behaviour and comments on China to preserve the image of the brand.

Finally, foreign companies must take proper action for the protection of their intellectual property rights in the Chinese digital market including patents, trademark, copyright and software and react immediately when any in-proper uses are detected.

However, one should remember that in contemporary China business without digital marketing and online brand management in impossible.


Jari E. Vepsäläinen




Info box: Dolce & Gabbana

Dolce & Gabbana’s brand image took a hammering boycott and a massive beating over racist comments and lack of style. The online reaction was a reaction of its controversial advertisement where a Chinese model in a red D&G dress is trying to use chopsticks to eat pizza and spaghetti and co-founder Gabbana’s crude reaction on social media to the criticism mocking China.

The event led to D&G cancelling its Shanghai fashion show, removal of company products from Alibaba Group Holding,, Tmall and other websites following a criticism from Chinese celebrities and internet users.

The company’s two founders apologised in a video posts in Mandarin five days after incident, however, the damage was done for corporate brand image and public perception of a luxury fashion brand in China and it remains to be seen whether the company can salvage its brand image in the eyes of Chinese consumers.

Other luxury brands rapidly benefitted from D&G misfortune and they have learned what not to do in China from their competitor.


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