In an earlier post I referenced the prevalent influence of ‘internet thinking’ in China. When it comes to social media marketing that thinking is reflected in a belief that brands must act at internet speed. As a result I believe marketing is losing its effectiveness in a sea of ill-thought out and ‘me-too’ messaging, says Nigel Hollis.
Facebook may not exist in China but there are plenty of alternatives that do. In an article in AdAge Sam Flemming describes WeChat as, “The indispensable social media Swiss army knife that melts the lines between online and offline. It’s an operating system for getting things done in life.”
WeChat is ubiquitous but then you also have the Twitter-like Weibo, Vine-like Weishi (delivering eight seconds of fame) and Nice, the Instagram equivalent. All these and many more mean that consumers in China have many, many ways to connect with each other and, of course, brands are keen to get in on the act.
The problem is that many brands are relying heavily on their social media teams to react ‘on the fly’ to events and posts made by other people. Take the example of Fan Bing Bing’s selfie announcing her new romance. AdAge wrote this piece about it titled, Chinese Social Media Marketing Explained, Through One Super-Viral Selfie, and highlighted how Xiaomi and McDonald’s had parodied the selfie to promote their brands.
What Angela Doland failed to note in her article was that many, many brands mimicked the selfie, along with thousands of regular couples. The resulting sea of posts may have been amusing but I would suggest did little to boost the salience of any one brand when the subject and treatment are essentially so similar.
For many brands speed of execution is now taking precedent over strategy: something trivial now is better than something effective later. Others, however, demonstrate a clear understanding of what their brand stands for and ensure that whatever is put into the social domain originates from what makes the brand meaningfully different from the competition. They lead, they do not just respond.
Take the example of Snickers in Hong Kong, which has six out-of-home ads quoting different types of mistakes made by Hong Kong celebrities and political figures and tapping into the idea that anyone can make a mistake when they are hungry. The idea has gone viral online with many people following the brand’s lead.
To build a brand effectively in social media a brand needs to focus on what it stands for and then create engaging content, events or happenings that originate from that positioning. Jumping on the latest bandwagon may boost salience for a day but is unlikely to be replicable or have any longer-term effect. So do you think this is an issue specific to China or a wider problem? Please share your thoughts.
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