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  • Writer's pictureAndrew Collins

Making Offline Campaigns a Social Media Success in China

Updated: Jun 12, 2019

With China’s huge consumer base becoming wealthier, the past few years have seen brands increasing efforts to win over the Chinese market. Competition is strong as brands struggle to differentiate themselves in a sea of domestic and international companies; brands have needed to be creative to stand out. Successful campaigns in China have not only been present both online and offline, but also incorporate social media with real-life campaigns.

This past World Cup season has seen a variety of brands taking advantage of the enthusiasm surrounding the World Cup to spread their brands to audiences. Hublot, who starts with an advantage as the World Cup’s official watch brand, has targeted three major Chinese cities and social media platforms for an offline campaign. The brand launched the “Hublot Loves Football” roadshow to debut in Shanghai first, and is continuing the exhibitions in Beijing and Nanjing for the rest of the tournament. The company selected spaces in luxurious malls that attract affluent Chinese shoppers to show brand presence to their target audience, while the football-themed watches and displays sleekly present Hublot’s rich history as a premium watchmaker.

An important aspect of this campaign is the interactive component on WeChat. WeChat, currently China’s leading messenger app, allows brands to communicate directly with fans and furthers consumers’ sense of engagement. At the “Hublot Loves Football” exhibition, people are invited to find questions hidden in the Hublot-branded posters of celebrity football players. Answers are sent to WeChat for the opportunity to win prizes. Though this is not the first Hublot interactive campaign on WeChat, it stands out as an activity offline. By getting shoppers to actively engage with the brand in person at the exhibition, Hublot exudes a welcoming, available presence that shows customers are valued.

British Airways also decided to stand out in the tourism industry by bridging the offline and online worlds in a creative way. Though Chinese New Year is a popular time for brands to launch campaigns related to the important holiday, especially related to “hongbao” (red envelopes traditionally filled with money given as gifts), the airline decided to differentiate itself by breaking out of the virtual realm. British Airways launched its official WeChat account with a unique hongbao contest: they would deliver hongbao to the doorsteps of the first 2014 WeChat followers, and each elegantly designed hongbao would include a Chinese New Year greeting as well as a  flight coupon. However, three lucky followers would find, instead, round-trip tickets from China to London.

The WeChat launch was a success, as British Airways gained over 10 thousand followers during just the first ten days. Quickly establishing a large follower base means quick access to thousands of customers, old and new, that would make subsequent campaigns on the Chinese social media platform more impactful.

Another brand in the tourism industry that has managed to actively engage consumers both online and offline is Mandarin Oriental. Photo contests are a popular campaign across social media platforms, and Mandarin Oriental’s ability to combine customer loyalty, brand presence, and active engagement is an example of how Chinese social media can be successfully utilized to enhance offline branding.

In April, Mandarin Oriental kicked off a month-long #My Moments of Delight# photo contest on popular social media platform Weibo. Guests were invited to take photos of enjoyable moments at any of the brand’s properties and post on their Weibo with the hashtag, #My Moments of Delight#. To participate in the contest, they also needed to share the post with three friends so that the photo contest, as well as the Mandarin Oriental brand, would travel throughout Chinese social media. Mandarin Oriental guests are thus encouraged to take part in engaging with the brand in real life during their stay, with the #My Moments of Delight# contest as a reminder of the many enjoyable moments guests would have at the hotel. Meanwhile, taking photos actively involved guests with the brand and presents Mandarin Oriental vacations as times to treasure forever.

Incorporating an activity that is strongly user-generated means instead of Mandarin Oriental constantly posting on Weibo, the fans would do so on the brand’s behalf and spread the brand to a wider consumer base. Sharing among friends is effective and presents Mandarin Oriental as a desired hotel, especially as users advocate for the brand by sharing photos of their stay. In the end, the #My Moments of Delight# page received over one thousand submissions from guests who had stayed at Mandarin Oriental properties, and 80 thousand page views.

Social media is a powerful tool and tapping China’s market requires adept use of Chinese platforms. However, brand presence is important both on and off line. Incorporating creative ways to bind online and offline experiences can play a role in getting brands to stand out and attract consumers.

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