See a wrap up of the best Lunar New Year campaigns by AdAge here.

It’s been a busy time for brands in China. During the Lunar New Year period, marketers tap into the festive spirit with messages about family, getting together — and surviving the insanity of holiday travel in China.

Travel, especially trains, is a constant theme in commercials. Just about everybody travels back to their hometown, crowding trains and leaving road traffic at a standstill (and just imagine the lines at highway rest stop bathrooms). The official Xinhua news agency reported that people made 1.15 billion trips during the travel season. And despite the stress of getting home for the holidays, ads usually end on the same note: family’s worth it.

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When looking at how big foreign brands have marked the holiday, PepsiCo, Oreo and McDonalds were clearly a few of the best.

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This Monkey Kings ad for Pepsi has been a viral sensation in the lead up to the Chinese New Year- see the video here.

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Created by independent agency Civilization Shanghai (part of thenetworkone), the video is part of Pepsi’s “Bring Happiness Home” campaign.

The six-minute mini-epic is all about legends—the kind that stretch back for centuries and, more significantly, those produced and shared over several generations by modern media. The video ties in with the Chinese Year of the Monkey, which officially begins Feb. 8.

Civilization’s Andrew Lok, who directed the film, explained the concept: “2016 is the Year of the Monkey. So there will no doubt be a bevy of marketing campaigns showcasing the Monkey King or ‘Journey to the West.’ How can PepsiCo’s ‘Bring Happiness Home’ celebrate the Monkey King, this mythological simian symbol of irreverence and fun (personality traits rarely found in the heroes of traditional Chinese literature), in a very PepsiCo manner? Believe it or not, it was easy. Because the core values of Pepsi-Cola, youth and irreverence, are the very qualities the Monkey King naturally embodies.”

Consider why it has been so successful: Millions of Chinese across a broad age spectrum fondly recall Zhang’s performance. The Monkey King series with Zhang became an important part of people’s personal history, a powerful symbol of their youth and cultural identity.

The brand film taps into such potent nostalgia with a story that also touches on timeless themes like family loyalty and duty to one’s profession—ideas that really resonate in China.

See the blog from Civilisation here and the original article from AdWeek here.

Here are a few trends to look out for in China 2016:

  1. Rural & Elderly Consumers: Expect to hear more about the hundreds of millions of China’s rural and elderly consumers being China’s biggest untapped opportunity. Beyond the hype, most foreign brands are likely to see little upside, with these consumers being much more price sensitive and nationalistic in their brand choices, which will see local brands reap most of the growth
  2. Lower-Tier Cities: Consumers in lower tier cities are also less open to foreign brands than their big-city cousins.  However, increased maturity and exposure to foreign cultures through online media and overseas travel – their own and their networks’ – will see more trading up from cheap to mid-priced products.  Foreign brands positioned and priced correctly, with strong distribution networks in these cities are likely to see good growth;
  3. Localising Localisation: With more companies realising that a one-size-fits-all approach for China is uncompetitive, more large to mid-sized international brands will localise for specific cities, regions and clusters;
  4. Health & Wellness: Chinese consumer habits will continue to reflect their pursuit for health, with health services growing even faster than products. Sport will get a lot of exposure this year with the Olympics and investments in football. Beijing’s increased transparency around pollution will further drive this;
  5. Precious Children: We expect the much-touted departure of the one-child policy to have a limited impact on fertility rates in the medium term.  However, there will be the usual rise of births in the Year of the Monkey as many would-be parents held out in the Sheep, which policy makers may try and spin. Even without a big rise in babies, spending on the precious only child will continue to go from strength to strength across most categories;
  6. Devalued Yuan: The continued fall of the Yuan against the US dollar will make margins tighter for imports, but we expect it to have little impact on the growth of some categories. Premium food & beverage will continue to grow due to rising incomes, food safety and health concerns; and tourism will increase, driven by improved visa processes and flight connections, particularly in lower-tier cities;
  7. Overseas Investment: A weaker Yuan will be offset by China’s volatility, seeing both individual and institutional investors seeking more stable investments overseas in property, brands and imported segments seeing strong growth from Chinese consumers.
  8. Online: Expect more integration between ecommerce, online video, social media, sport, banking, the physical world and almost everything in-between. WeChat commerce, for which services make up the majority of revenue, will see large growth in product sales, driven by individuals peddling product verticals, particularly parallel imports.

With China’s increasingly affluent consumers prepared to pay a premium for many things from wine to cars, there’ll be no shortage of opportunities in China this year.

See the full article from China Skinny here.

Big names in entertainment are making efforts to engage Chinese audiences this Christmas:

The BBC’s Christmas special of Sherlock is to contain a secret reference viewers will have to speak Chinese to understand, the show’s writer has hinted, in a nod to the show’s huge Asian fanbase. 

Steven Moffat disclosed the special episode of Sherlock, starring Benedict Cumberbatch and Martin Freeman, will be full of secret clues for die-hard fans of the original Sir Arthur Conan Doyle novels, as well as something extra for its Chinese audience.

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See the full article from the Telegraph here.

 

Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest and Snapchat are the platforms that get most of marketers’ love in the U.S., but digital practitioners could learn a thing or two from WeChat, China’s booming mobile app that’s one of a growing number of messaging apps brands are watching closely.

The Chinese app boasts more than 600 million users, and some reports claim more than 50 percent of those users open it 10 times a day. While that still pales in comparison to Facebook’s 1 billion daily global users, Tencent-owned WeChat has a tight grip on China’s social and mobile industry compared with competitors like Line and Viber.

Thomas Graziani, co-founder of Chinese agency WalktheChat, which specializes in WeChat marketing spoke with Adweek about how marketing and advertising works on WeChat, which has significant differences from U.S.-based platforms.

A few things marketers should know about WeChat:

It’s the Facebook of China… but more
To grasp WeChat as a marketing platform, it’s important to first understand how the app works and why people use it.

In the U.S., the average smartphone user opens a handful of apps every day to text friends, check email, use social media and take pictures. In China, WeChat is all of those apps rolled into one and is sometimes the only app consumers use.

Here is a short list of things the app lets folks do:

  • Message friends
  • Pay bills and manage their bank accounts
  • Order food
  • Buy clothes and movie tickets
  • Book cabs
  • Make doctor’s appointments
  • Post to social media
  • Send money to friends
  • Check in for flights
  • Read news

Getting onto the platform takes some know-how

There are two options for building a brand following on WeChat: a subscription account that lets brands push out one message per day and a service account that caps the number of brand messages to one a week. Both require setting up an account.

With subscription accounts, brands can push out consistent messaging, which WalktheChat recommends for marketers that already have a strong content-marketing strategy.

Service accounts, on the other hand, reach more people but can’t be used as often by marketers. According to Graziani, these accounts are better suited for brands that want to do more than use the platform for branding—including e-commerce and customer service.

In either case, it’s hard to break through the clutter, and the app requires brands to act more like users than marketers.

“Because people spend all their time on it, it’s extremely competitive to get attention from people,” Graziani said. “The platform is not making it easy for brands to reach users.”

Similar to how digital marketers approached Facebook years ago, brands strive for a lot of followers because WeChat is a numbers game.

See the full article form AdWeek here.

Alibaba has been on an acquisition spree, most recently with a Hong Kong newspaper:

China’s Alibaba confirmed that it has “entered into a definite agreement to acquire” the struggling Hong Kong-based newspaper the South China Morning Post (SCMP). It includes all the assets of the SCMP Group, which includes stakes in some web startups. The financial terms are not disclosed.

“The South China Morning Post is unique because it focuses on coverage of China in the English language. This is a proposition that is in high demand by readers around the world who care to understand the world’s second largest economy,” said Joe Tsai, executive vice chairman of Alibaba Group, in a statement. “Our vision is to expand the SCMP’s readership globally through digital distribution and easier access to content.”

Alibaba’s buy-out of the SCMP is the latest in many big moves into media and content by the ecommerce titan. A few months ago, Alibaba paid out US$4.2 billion to acquire China’s top video site company, Youku Tudou. It runs the Youku and Tudou sites, which combine user-generated content with licensed movies and TV series. It also has a film studio.

Tsai explained their decision to the sub-100,000 readership of the SCMP: “So, you’re probably wondering why. Why is Alibaba buying into traditional media, considered by some a sunset industry? The simple answer is that we don’t see it that way.” He adds that SCMP will continue to focus on “editorial excellence” and keeping readers’ trust as it adapts to fit in with fast-evolving new media and the way news is read via social media. No specific plans are revealed.

The newspaper was founded in 1903. Alibaba is acquiring it from Malaysian tycoon Robert Kuok’s Kerry Media, which bought the controlling interest from News Corp in 1993. The SCMP has a paywall, but its slowly rising digital revenues are not making up for tanking print sales.

See the full article from TechinAsia here.

Alibaba also recently invested in music streaming- see more here.

Tencent first became known for its instant messenger service and games, and is now one of the biggest tech firms in the world. The WSJ’s Wayne Ma explains how Tencent got so big.

See video here.