The event began with Georgia Zhuang, vice president of consumer research at Nielsen China briefly exploring the standout trends from the 2014 survey. (Nielsen is Campaign Asia-Pacific's partner in the Asia's Top 1000 Brands research).
Premium retail, telecommunications and consumer-electronics brands retained their rankings, while new-era digital brands that are getting traction with consumers emerged, she said. Meanwhile, it is becoming more difficult to compete in categories like banking, supermarkets, pharmacies and airlines, as observed from the drop in rankings of brands in those categories.
The reason for this, in her opinion, is that consumers are getting more sophisticated. "It is not so easy to delight them," she said. Also, categories like banking, supermarkets, pharmacies and airlines suffer from the commoditisation of their products and services.
Using McDonald’s as a case study, the brand's chief marketing officer, Christine Xu, explored how digital provides an opportunity for the brand to stand out by amplifying impact that cannot be brought by traditional media. "Digital allows us to receive responses from consumers and confirm that our messages have been accepted," she said. The challenge, though, is overcoming expectations that digitally led ideas will travel by themselves.
The need for a reality check for digital marketing strategies also came up in a session by Calvin Liao, senior consultant at R3. It is important to know that the key driver of digital engagement is relevance, he said, citing the example of a recent humble-looking Ferrero display ad. "You don't need a fancy ad to be engaging. Here Ferrero zoomed in on traditional Chinese family values of respect towards your parents—something that is very relevant and resonates with Chinese consumers."
From the media perspective, Karl Cluck, North Asia chief strategy officer at Mindshare, reminded the audience that a more digital environment also means a more visual one. More and more adspend amounts are going to video formats online and on mobile. The digital adoption of Chinese consumers is creating a media environment that is unlike any other market where brand-building is concerned, he said. "We need to do the basics better. It's still insights leading to strategy and brand experience, but we need to think about it more laterally."
For KFC that is known for its chicken products, Mindshare had an idea to use big data to sell its new beef burger, stemming from insights that when people search online, they search for answers to things that stress them out. So KFC positioned the product to "beef up" for people in a way that is comparable to helping them take on these challenges. Keywords generated from searches got turned into a song featured in the Voice Of China (a Chinese reality talent show on the Zhejiang Television network). That transmitted KFC's "beef up" message to the public and had its beef burgers sell out in half the campaign period.
This approach to data is similar to Coca-Cola's "open content system" mentioned in the next panel. "Rather than have one-way content, be it stuff that is either useful or entertaining, we let people integrate their own content with what we're putting out there as internet memes or song lyrics," said Richard Cotton, the brand's creative excellence director. "So you're giving people elements of a story for them to go on and create their own stories."