You’ve heard the doubters within and outside your team - why continue marketing to China when the tourists/B2C customers/B2B clients aren't buying due to Covid-19? It's a big question and deserves a systematic analysis.
You’ve heard of the Five W’s: who, what, when, where, and why. There’s even an old PR formula that uses the Five W’s as a template for how to write a news release. Now let's apply it to answer our doubters.
We will start with why because answering this question provides internal alignment so that we can avoid a great deal of confusion and blind alleys, preserving your company’s precious time and resources. Later, we will share how the development of an effective China marketing program requires that these questions be answered in a specific order: why, who, what, where, and when.
Why Market to China?
Why are we expending our limited resources in marketing to China? Why do we believe they’re better invested here than in other aspects of our business? These are critical questions that are often answered through two indicators. Firstly, China's consumption is recovering strongly and rose for two consecutive quarters. Consumption as a share of GDP recovered strongly in the fourth quarter of 2020, contributing 2.6 percentage points to overall growth. Chinese consumers are cautiously optimistic and it is the right time to let them know about your brand before your rivals get started.
Secondly, China's 2021 economic recovery will be faster than expected. With fewer than 250 new infections daily and vaccines rollouts set to accelerate, China's economy and high-value business travel should continue on an upward trajectory. The timing is perfect to accelerate your marketing efforts in time for China's continued recovery.
The second question is “who”—who is essential to our achieving our goals? To whom should we be directing our message? The answer varies based on whether you are a B2B or B2C business but the better any company defines its “who”—and the more it can know about their lifestyles, behaviors, attitudes, opinions, wants, and needs—the more effectively it can address the remaining three W’s.
The “what” of your offering is likely to be a continually evolving proposition. But by having a solid understanding of the “who” and “why” of your efforts, you’ll be more likely to get, and keep, the “what” right. This encompasses a host of business decisions, from product to pricing to branding such as positioning, differentiation, and how you are tailoring your product for the Chinese consumers with their new Covid-19 sensitivities. Brand advocacy, conversational marketing and livestreaming are effective communications and sales techniques so long as you align your audiences' needs with your products and services.
It is also critical to know what to avoid mentioning such as: China’s territorial borders, Tibet and the Dalai Lama, Xinjiang, Tiananmen Square, unflattering depictions of Chinese culture and politicians and Chinese eating habits/links to origins of Covid-19. Italian designer Elisabetta Franchi made a post criticizing China’s treatment of dogs — while claiming that 15 percent of China’s population eats dogs. Soon, thousands of boycott posts appeared in Weibo under the #ElisabettaFranchi# hashtag (see screenshots below).
Finally, the last two W’s (where and when) can be addressed as you dive into the specifics of campaign planning. In terms of the "where", it is critical to make your product or service e-commerce ready as China leads the world in this category (over 50%!). For B2B brands, this is also an unprecedented opportunity as Chinese clients are now more open to sealing deals through online communications without face-to-face meetings - the previous defacto standard to build trust.
There is an old Chinese saying about "Grinding an iron pestle down to a needle" but it requires a good plan, resolve and courage. The 5 W's is a good plan and I am sure you have the other qualities in abundance!