We invited Mike Golden, Managing Director of Adsmith China, to be our guest blogger this month. Here are his thoughts on healthcare brands entering China. Enjoy these 7 tips!
With its fast-rising middle class, combined with a rapidly aging population, it is no wonder that China is a lucrative and exciting market for healthcare-related companies, including medical device, pharmaceutical, fortification and supplement brands. From my experience working with many brands over the last decade, here are a few easy marketing tips that apply to most brands.
- Localize your name and website. A good, fitting Chinese name is crucial, especially if you plan to market your brand to consumers. Follow this up with a website targeted to your Chinese audience, and make sure that your website is viewable from China.
- Spend some time to understand your target audience and the market. It is a vast country, and the differences between Tier 1 cities (Shanghai, Beijing, Guangzhou) and Tier 2 and 3 cities are massive. Chinese are generally very interested and well-informed about health issues.
- Get the right regulatory approval. If you are a supplement brand, do not try to circumvent the so-called “blue-hat” approval for a consumer product by labeling it as a food. Supplements containing only vitamins and minerals may not be as affected by the process, but the rules and regulations change quickly, and are generally there to protect the Chinese consumer. The categories for supplements are very strict and you are not allowed to promote or advertise any benefits outside of the ones for which your product is licensed.
- Understand Key Opinion Leader (KOL) marketing. These may be doctors or celebrities, and can bring quick brand awareness. Be aware of what your KOL’s are saying about your product, as there are strict laws about what you can claim when promoting healthcare products. This is also expensive, and other brands may be using the same doctors to tout their products, so be sure to understand exactly who the KOL is.
- Accept that social media is completely different and much more difficult to penetrate. WeChat is the key mobile social media app with over 700 million monthly active users, and Facebook-like Weibo is still influential as well. Using content marketing to build interest is an important part of many healthcare campaigns.
- Make use of the influential forum-style websites (and apps) in the “mommy marketing” field: BabyTree, cn, and ci123.com. Paid advertorial, product placement and Q&A with doctors are all featured on these websites.
- Attract interest from partners and distributors at trade shows. Some of the most important ones in the healthcare field are:
- Food Ingredients China (FIC)
- China International Medical Equipment Fair (CMEF)
- Healthplex and Nutraceutical China Expo (HNC)
- China International Medical Devices Exhibition (CMEH)
- China International Food Safety & Quality Conference (CIFSQ)
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