Social Media marketing “Made for China”

social media marketing chinaIn the meanwhile, what’s going on in China? We always talk about the economically scary Asian country, but we always forget about it when it comes to global Social Media marketing. As we all know, the social network scenario of the Chinese Republic is way different from the western one.

There’s no Facebook, but RenRen and Kaixin001. There’s no Twitter: contents travel on Sina Weibo. People watch videos on Youku, and communicate on huge platforms such as But at the end of the day, when global brands design viral campaigns, we realize that we are all same. Marketing is marketing, after all.

Even though major “Western” social networking sites are blocked by the government, new technologies are showing that social communication is stronger than censorship. How? Take a look at this infographic (found on TheNextWeb).

Today we’re analyzing two successful viral campaigns on Chinese Social Media, by BMW and Lipton.

Chinese social networks are based on the same features the American ones have; some of them can actually be called “copycats”. Jiepang is actually the exact same as Foursquare. Another example? Not a long time ago the Chinese social network Renren launched a campaign based on social games – following the Farmville marketing trend.

We see an ad that mixes real human beings and vegetables, animals and furniture accessories, taken from social games where people manage farms and restaurant. It’s a clear sign that even Renren considers social gaming a huge part of the future business development. By the way, Renren has 160 MM registered users, and 31 millions daily active users. Here the link to the video on Youko. Cute, right?


social media china

Lots of brands made good marketing moves on this social network: a classic case study is the Dell one. They have more than 700K fans on Renren, promoting products through interactive games, sweepstakes and projects like the Dell Campus, to involve a younger crowd (more info here).

Or the New York based cosmetic company Maybelline, that opted for a double-faced approach, on both Renren and Sina Webo – a microblogging website with 140 millions users. Basically it can be described as a Twitter + Facebook media mix: on Sina Weibo Maybelline leveraged on valuable discussions and involvement of existing users, while on Renren (with a more Facebook-ish target) they chose a more promotional attitude, which means launching new products via sweepstakes and promotions. Fro more info read this cool Penn-Olson article.

Now, let’s talk about the two viral campaign we mentioned before, starting with an nice example of hoax marketing.


BMW Series 1

As always, everything starts with a good old seeding strategy. In this case on the Twitter-alike platform Sina Weibo: here’s the post where users are asked to give an explanation for some weird circles on the sand. More than 18 thousands comments clearly show that the subject is quite interesting. In fact, the UFO expert and the paranormal-friendly crowd enhanced the buzz even more. And then even Xinhua, the official Chinese press agency, wrote an article about it, formally turing the case into a big deal. My two cents: BMW China must have a very good PR department, am I right?


And then the reveal came, with this video. They also tried to tie this viral stunt with UN1QUE, the official BMW Series 1 campaign (by Leo Burnett). Not really convincing, to be true.

And we may add: semi-realistic fake news about UFOs are no big news: let’s just think about the entertainment industry, with the viral launch of movies such as Cloverfield and District 9. Other than that, are we sure that a crowd sensitive towards stuff like aliens is the same segment of population interested in buying a BMW? Anyways, to know more (and read some more criticisms on the campaign!) you can read this post.


Lipton Milk Tea

And now it’s time to talk about a product launched by Unilever for the Asian market, promoted in China via a web app. Quite cheesy, I’d say, but a really good example of a clever marketing campaign.


china viral marketing

The viral app was launched in 2010 for the Chinese New Year, and allowed users to put their face into some funny contents, like videos of cheerleaders dancing or a rockband playing. I know, it’s not the smartest idea ever, but Lipton was able to get 90 millions contacts in less than 2 weeks. What’s the secret? Well, once again, it’s all about seeding. This time on, the biggest IM platform in this planet, with more than 800 millions users.

And them, of course, the success was determined by a psychological component that we could describe as the “ego-friendly factor“: we all like to see ourselves on a stage, we all want a leading role. Even if it’s a leading role on a minute-long silly video.

After all, let’s think about it: it doesn’t matter if it’s Facebook or Renren, if it’s Youtube or Youku: when they show us a catchy content, and we’re sitting in front of a screen and a keyboard, we’re all a little predictable.

Guido Ghedin