Sunshine Farzan
Apr 18, 2019

Marketing’s new innovation lab: China’s Greater Bay Area

The GBA represents a truly unique opportunity for marketing professionals. From cutting-edge industries to layered identities, it’s a microcosm of the global trends shaping our industry.

Aerial view of Guangzhou (Shutterstock)
Aerial view of Guangzhou (Shutterstock)

Move over San Francisco, a new Bay Area is rising. In February, the Chinese government unveiled the blueprint for its Greater Bay Area (GBA), an economic hub connecting nine mainland cities across the Pearl River Delta with Hong Kong and Macau.

What does this represent for marketing? The future. The GBA promises to become an innovation and business hub, rivaling New York City and Tokyo, with the potential of eclipsing these markets in terms of GDP and innovation. Digital marketing can fuel and help shape its success, but only if practitioners integrate and innovate campaigns across all markets in the region. Now is the time to fearlessly embrace new trends, strategies and activations. What we learn and achieve in the GBA will shape our profession globally.

Know your audience—and all their preferences

The GBA’s demographics already require extensive segmentation. The region encompasses 68 million people who have an increasingly global mindset, highly educated and variously fluent in Mandarin, Cantonese, English and Portuguese.

Young local and international talent is also expected to flood the region as the GBA further develops its key industries, namely high-tech manufacturing, transportation, logistics services as well as the digital/technology innovation industry. They will bring their own preferences and expectations to the market, enriching its complexity.

So, if running a campaign within one global city is a challenge, how then to reach audiences across nine cities and two markets? By going back to basics: knowing one’s audience so well that the right message reaches them at the right time and on their preferred platforms. This maniacal focus on the customer will require engaging, personalized messaging and outreach—reflecting each person’s needs, expectations and aspirations.

Match channels to consumers

Marketing in the GBA will also redefine what it means to run a digitally-led omnichannel campaign. From WeChat to WhatsApp, to Baidu and Google, marketers currently rely on a variety of digital platforms to reach and engage their audiences. As the GBA takes shape, however, digital platforms native to the mainland will likely deliver the best customer engagement.

For example, B2B campaigns run from Hong Kong are often grounded in LinkedIn and a mix of English and Traditional Chinese language media, both of which are minor players on the mainland. As WeChat continues to grow in prominence as a business tool, it will likely become the new go-to customer engagement platform for B2B thought leadership content. B2C campaigns will also need to address the GBA’s evolving preferences for social media channels, ensuring that consumers are engaged on platforms they use most frequently.  

For marketers not adept in mainland digital channels, now is the time to start testing and learning.

More than geography: the GBA as an identity

Ultimately, the GBA represents more than geography or economic growth. It’s the emblem of China’s national aspirations. Those within the GBA are strivers, achievers and dreamers.

With a combined GDP of US$1.51 trillion, the GBA is already home to 480,000 high-net-worth individuals. As the region grows in wealth and purchasing power increases, so will the aspirations of its consumers.  Just as Silicon Valley fueled today’s global culture of mindfulness and wellness, the GBA will inevitably develop its own status symbols and mindset. Understanding this emerging consumer psychology is the first step to driving effective and relevant consumer engagement.  

Across the board, the GBA represents a truly unique opportunity for marketing professionals. From cutting-edge industries to layered identities, it’s a microcosm of the global trends shaping our industry. No place else in the world offers access to such a dynamic group of people—and this is just the beginning.

Embracing the possibilities of the GBA will inspire game-changing campaigns. Our industry may have originated in the West, but its future lies here in the East.


Sunshine Farzan is group head of marketing and communications for Tricor Services Limited.

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