For any China marketing strategy, the challenge of localization needs to look beyond the brand. There are operational elements that marketers need to focus on as well.
A couple of weeks ago we discussed some of the challenges overseas brands face in China, highlighting the luxury brand market and some of the recent missteps and mistakes brands in this space have experienced in the region. This week, another international brand has appeared to meet a new challenge for its China strategy, and although it’s more mundane than the senior leadership insulting an entire nation (Hi D&G), it does throw up an interesting point of discussion.
China-based users of the video conferencing service provider Zoom found access to the platform blocked last week, which led to a great deal of speculation as to why that might be. It’s not unusual for foreign websites to face issues in China but the reasons are typically not as dramatic as some of the reports would have you believe.
For example, any overseas business that wants to have a fully functioning online presence in China needs to have an Internet Content Provider (ICP) Certificate, also known as the ICP BeiAn. Having one of these means that the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology has reviewed and approved your website and you now have access to Chinese web hosting services, which will dramatically improve the speed and customer experience of your site in China. It also gives you access to Baidu PPC, the China equivalent of Google AdWords.
There are plenty of other technical tricks that can make a huge difference to your China digital marketing strategy and enhance your in-market business performance. These range from having a specific landing page or micro-site for Chinese web users, getting to grips with the China social media landscape, or simply having the option to change languages on your home page. All sound fairly simple but you would be surprised to hear how often these things can be neglected and how much of a positive impact these can have on brand experience.
Another interesting trend in localization for China marketing strategies is the increasing prevalence of experiential marketing, something the Brandigo Shanghai team recognized with our award-winning campaign for the UK Government when we created the British Gin Garden.
China was an early adopter when it came to e-commerce and leads the world in mobile technology and payment platforms to this day. And as Surekha Ragavan pointed out in Campaign Asia earlier this week, even though so much of the brand/consumer relationship now takes place online, brands are increasingly searching for a localized brand experience as part of their China marketing strategy that gives customers a real-world connection to the brand. You customers might want to browse your products, learn your values, and make the final transaction of purchasing your products on their phone, tablet or laptop, but smart brands are also using innovative and creative experience marketing to underpin their strategy. In China we have seen B2C brands like Hennessy and cosmetics giant MAC do this to great effect, localized to have impact in-market but true to their brand identity and values.
For B2B marketers and their China marketing strategy, the impact that smart localization has, not only on strategy but how that strategy is executed is clear. If your online functionality isn’t functioning in China, if your customers are missing out on the opportunity to ‘feel’ what your brand is all about, then you run the risk of a failing China marketing strategy. Encourage your agency partner to get creative, be innovative and ensure that all your localized brand communications are having the required impact.