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How FMCG brands use digital in China

Nutricia digital presence
How FMCG brands use digital in China

11.21.2012

With China now the world’s second largest retail market, brands must address their increasingly sophisticated Chinese consumers through more innovative branding strategies and nowhere is this truer than in FMCG (fast moving consumer goods) markets. As digital platforms grow, FMCG brands are giving them a bigger place in their China marketing mix and use them to build strong brand recognition by not only advertising the products but connecting with the clients on multiple-levels. Based on an analysis of the online presence of large FMCG brands, Labbrand has identified 3 key trends in the way FMCG brands use digital in China.

Build transparency and connect with consumers
A key concern for FMCG brands in China is building trust around their name. With safety being an ever present concern on consumers’ minds, brands are on a quest to establish deeper and more transparent relationships with their customers. Digital platforms, especially social media, happen to be the ideal mediums through which to carry out this strategy.
With the development of Sina Weibo’s enterprise version (see our article), many brands have created their own page and started communicating with their Chinese target audience on a deeper level.  This practice is best represented by dairy and un-processed food brands for which safety scandals are a constant threat. In order to reassure Chinese consumers about product quality and safety, many brands have used the web and social media to showcase their credentials. Powdered milk brands such as Nutricia and Wyeth(惠氏) both published safety statements on their Weibo front page and official websites. They also hired obstetricians and nursing experts to tweet about tips for pregnant women on Weibo. Thousands of anxious women posted on Wyeth and Nutricia’s Weibo pages asking questions regarding baby diet, health, milk, education etc… The Weibo account brought the brand and its customers closer by leveraging the brand’s expertise to answer customer questions. Many other dairy brands also follow this trend.

Build brand differentiation through original content
Building differentiation in FMCG categories is a notoriously tough exercise with many brands just scrambling to avoid commoditization. The challenge is made even tougher by Chinese consumers’ pragmatism, focus on value and very low levels of brand loyalty. But in digital platforms, many FMCG brands have found tools to add depth to their brand through original content, thus building defendable differentiation and creating the right conditions for more loyal customer relationships.
Famous detergent brand Ariel (碧浪) has a booming number of followers on Sina Weibo. The brand recently started cooperating with famous Sina bloggers including well-known fashion blogger Lamianmeizi (拉面妹子). Bloggers included subtle mentions of the brand when posting about various topics and commenting current events. Ariel also organized open chat sessions with these bloggers. These tactics all led to a fast rise in the number of follower and thus increased exposure.
Like Ariel, many companies cooperate with popular Chinese multi-media platforms such as Tudou and 56.com. Seven Up is famous for having collaborated with web video sensation Hu Ge to create a series of comical ads that went viral on the Chinese web. Similar cases can be seen with Rejoice (飘柔), whose romantic micro-film featuring famous Taiwanese stars went viral among youngsters. Recently, Labbrand also presented the campaigns of Ben Na Na and Chips Ahoy who created sophisticated, highly interactive micro sites on the social network Q-Zone to engage with their younger customers.

Localize their message
FMCG products are heavily embedded in people’s daily lives. As such, localization is a key concern for FMCG brands and many have tapped the power of digital to adapt their brand message and communication strategies to local market conditions
Pepsi attracted much public attention with its recent micro-film realized by Tudou’s production team. The movie played on the quintessential Chinese theme of family gatherings for Chinese New Year and struck an emotional chord in netizens who reposted it en masse to social networks.
Nescafe also recently used the star power of blogger HanHan in a short web movie that explored the themes of escape and introspection. Coca Cola also plays the localization card through a Weibo campaign that calls out for followers to send pictures of Coca Cola paired with local delicacies (food is a strong theme when marketing to Chinese youth).
As the market matures and a new generation of customers with web-centric media consumption habits appears, we expect digital to get an increasing share of marketing spending from FMCG brands. This new environment will reward local understanding, local relevancy, flexibility and a capacity to translate the brand essence is a very wide range of content across multiple platforms. The exercise is challenging but winners will reap the benefits in the form of increased brand loyalty and stronger customer relationships.

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Nescafe Han Han

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