Rahul Sachitanand
Jun 24, 2021

Fall fast, rise faster: Why Accenture Interactive had to break the advertising mould in China

From Snow Beer to KFC, the shop's Let's Twinkle creative unit is bending the rules of the game to cater to consumers in a rapidly changing market.

Fall fast, rise faster: Why Accenture Interactive had to break the advertising mould in China

Mark Shan, experience creative lead at Accenture Interactive Greater China, is out to bust some advertising myths about the market. In contrast to external perceptions, he said during an on demand session at Cannes Lions Live, advertising in China has made a massive leap: from stereotypical black-and-white images of women in traditional clothing to drones buzzing in the Shanghai night and drawing images of QR codes in the sky for consumers to download games. 

Consumer tastes too have moved on, and brands and agencies need to discard many old ways of thinking to cater to these shifts, said Shan, who heads up Accenture's experience creative team, known as Let's Twinkle.

For example, Snow Beer, a 28-year old domestic brewer, realised this when it launched its Super X sub brand to cater to newly spendthrift consumers with a distinct marketing strategy, focused on high-energy outdoor events and promotions. 

Mark Shan, experience creative lead, Accenture Interactive Greater China

However, just as these events started gaining popularity, the pandemic upended the brand's ambitious plans. Instead, Shan says it was forced to bin its entire strategy and instead rapidly recast its marketing to focus on a series of 'nano' influencers—people capable of drawing on their friends and family circles to keep beer sales going. "Everything we had worked on earlier was gone, from our annual festivals to traditional sales channels," noted Chaojiao Bi, general manager, marketing, China Resources Snow Breweries.  

The brand could do this, Shan contends, because China has seen a rapid melding of different retail categories. "In the west, there is a clear segregation of platforms, such as ecommerce video and search," Shan said. 

By reshaping its WeChat mini program, Snow Beer was able to pivot the focus of its Super X offering to an entirely new reality, even as China emerged from the depths of hard lockdowns to slowly reopen its economy. By pointing these nano influencers to a limited number of stores that were open—and stocked the brand—and safe open places for small groups, Snow Beer was able to boost sales. According to the company, this resulted in a 34% increase in WeChat followers, 700,000 new active users and 4 million more units sold through.  

Super X's We Chat

Snow Beer wasn't the only brand to hastily rethink its plans. In other categories too, brands had to repurpose their plans and devise new strategies. For example, in fast-food brand KFC's case, it was discovering that its plans to create a story on the fictitious love life of a store manager for the short form video platform TikTok weren't working. The content looked too much like what was offered on mainstream TV, Shan said. "It was a great case study of what doesn't work on TikTok," he admitted.

Instead, Accenture leaned on the whole consumer journey and the app ecosystem to rethink its plans. It focused on browsing, selecting music, shopping, co-creating and sharing content. Instead of TV-like content, KFC now shares "funny, touching, interesting moments at KFC stores," Shan said. "What's cool about building a channel is it doesn't die with a campaign. It can evolve." 

In addition, In KFC's case Accenture helped create a new segment: social gaming commerce, where consumers could create mini stores on their We Chat social feed and allow friends to buy from there and earn rewards for these purchases. While KFC used to be a byword for eating out in China, the rise of food delivery apps had meant people preferred to eat at home. To drive traffic back to their stores, KFC designed a program to allow consumers to order off their friend's social stores and pick up their food at a nearby store. 

KFC China's social gaming commerce

To gamify this whole experience, consumers could be part of a ranking system too. In 120 days, KFC grew this social innovation from zero stores to over 2.5 million, Shan said. 

See all our Cannes Lions 2021 coverage

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