Bertilla Teo
Oct 7, 2011

OPINION: There is speed and there is 'China speed'

Bertilla Teo, Greater China CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group, sums up the Chinese consumer in a few words: empowered and speedy.

Teo: "The lower-tier markets in China are hidden gems"

Connectivity has empowered Chinese consumers to find the best products (through peer reviews), at the best prices (through comparison shopping) with others who want to buy the same thing (through group buying), often driving the prices even lower.  Whatever it is, they can buy it 24 hours a day and have it shipped to their house.

We are already witnessing the blurring of lines between analogue and digital media. In the next five years, all media will be digital and integrated. A screen will no longer be just a traditional television screen, especially with media companies encouraging consumers to interact with content either through television, internet, outdoor or mobile devices.

From the Starcom China Yangtze Study, we've discovered how prevalent digital is in the daily lives of consumers in the developing cities. While TV viewership is still the main staple of media consumed, there is a fast growing trend that consumers across all tiers are spending more time online.

Particularly, using social networking sites successfully can take many forms, from quick and simple brand engagement to the fully scaled, integrated social program. Dove Promises, for example, used SNS as a connection point by leveraging their unique packaging feature - messages on the inside of chocolate wrappers - to allow users to send messages on Kaixin to their friends in a virtual chocolate, with the most inspiring printed on actual Dove chocolate wrappers.  MeadJohnson also did a great job, by creating an online community where expectant and recent mothers can share questions, advice and experiences, all under the guidance of MeadJohnson's panel of experts.

The opportunity in China now lies in conquering the lower tier markets because that's the hidden pot of gold that is still relatively untapped by most major brands. We're talking about an estimated population size of around 700 million consumers (or 60% of China's total population) who currently dwell in the fast developing prefecture level cities, counties and towns. Furthermore, Tier 1 and 2 markets are already at a saturation point with slower incremental growth as compared to the lower tiers.

For marketers working in China, know that there is speed and there is China speed. Seize the opportunity and make swift decisions. Be open-minded and do not compare China with other countries as there is none like China, and put consumers at the centre of your marketing strategy.

There is an increasing need for us as marketers and brands to develop content versus just ads.  Platforms are changing. Where, when and how people are accessing content is evolving.  We see this in the growing use of branded entertainment. We see this in the growth of exclusive content online, with high-quality original productions coming not just from TV but from sites like Youku and Tudou. From top tier cities like Shanghai to rural ones like Qinyuan, people center around a television, a computer, an outdoor screen or their mobile phone. The content can start there or move across it. And we need to move with it.

Campaign China

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