Nikita Mishra
Oct 9, 2023

The CMO's MO: Robin Liu on Miniso's unique culture of 'co-creating joy with customers'

As Chinese lifestyle retailer Miniso marks its 10th anniversary and 5,700 stores worldwide, CMO Robin Liu takes a page from Lego's marketing playbook to craft a customer-centric brand that stands the test of time.

The CMO's MO: Robin Liu on Miniso's unique culture of 'co-creating joy with customers'

The CMO's MO: 9 questions with dynamic APAC marketing leaders, insights and personalities revealed. 

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A full decade under their belt, Miniso isn't just playing the game—they're dominating it with over 5,700 stores worldwide, including 2,000 in overseas markets. Leading the charge is Robin Liu, Miniso's CMO, who took the reins during the pandemic in 2019. He's proud of Miniso's agility and adaptability in the cutthroat world of retail.

As Miniso approaches its milestone anniversary, Liu spots fresh growth horizons in Southeast Asia and the untapped potential of China's lower-tier cities. Notably, Indonesia shines as a linchpin in the brand's global success, aligning culturally with Asian and Chinese consumers.

Their winning strategy? Localisation and strategic co-branding, resonating strongly across markets like Indonesia, Mexico, and China. These endeavors tap into local IP, crafting products that connect with their target audience.

Read on for an insightful conversation with Robin Liu, diving into Miniso's marketing blueprint and navigating challenges in an ever-evolving, fragmented world.

1. What are the three biggest marketing challenges for your brand right now?

Media and e-commerce platforms are fragmented, and data sharing is restricted due to factors like platform compatibility and regulatory policies in different countries and regions. This makes it tough to keep track and come up with effective ROI analysis.

Our products span numerous categories, and marketing strategies need to be adapted for different categories, which is a significant challenge.

People across different markets have quite diverse preferences. For a young brand like Miniso, it's also challenging to carry out localised and unique marketing strategies globally.

2. What are the three biggest opportunities for your brand?

Liu with popular Miniso plushies (L) and one with the llama outside a Miniso store. Photo: Robin Liu

a) Globalisation will be the first—Miniso has managed to make a mark worldwide and has a shot at becoming a truly international brand. We've got a strong handle on distribution channels, so our next step is to communicate better with consumers through marketing, building up and boosting our brand awareness.

b) The second opportunity stems from our products—we have a diverse range of product categories that offer fantastic value for the price. We’ve designated blind boxes, plush toys, and perfumes and fragrances as our strategic categories, believing they’ll remain popular in the foreseeable future. We’re concentrating efforts and resources on these strategic categories, aiming to let our products propel the brand forward.

c) Finally, is the opportunity from globally renowned IPs (Intellectual property collaborations). We’ve established successful partnerships with numerous famous IPs, such as Barbie, Snoopy, Sanrio, and Disney, while also actively developing our original IPs, like Mini-Family, PenPen, and Dundun Chicken. We’re going full steam ahead with IP collaborations and developing strategic categories.

3. Where are you investing your marketing budgets this year? In what areas are you increasing or cutting spend?  

  • Social media and content platforms, like TikTok.
  • Then, mass media, particularly advertising placements at cinemas and elevators in the Chinese market.
  • Lastly, we’re investing in our physical stores, conducting more offline marketing campaigns, and opening more concept stores, such as the recent Barbie concept stores.

4. What do you feel separates your brand culture from others?

Two aspects:

  • ‘Joy Philosophy’: our brand proposition aims to bring happiness to our customers. It guides everything we do—from product development and selection of IP partnerships to brand marketing, news dissemination, store operation, and the overall consumer experience. All of these are designed to create a joyful experience for our customers.
  • Our customer-centric approach is evident in how we actively listen to user feedback. For example, we have a program called the “True Words” program where users can directly share their needs and suggestions with our product development team. These inputs significantly influence the development of new products.

5. What kind of a CMO are you? Answer using a maximum of three adjectives.

Photo: Robin Liu

Decisive—when it comes to advancing something, I'm quick to make decisions on the spot.

Open-minded—though I'm 40 years old, I still feel quite young. I'm curious and eager to learn about new things, like marketing techniques, and pop culture.

Approachable—our team vibe is quite relaxed. We are generally a young team, so I want everyone to work in a comfortable, respectful atmosphere, without strict hierarchies.

6. Tell us one personal thing about yourself that others might not know.

I'm an avid collector. I've got a bunch of stuff like trendy figurines, blind boxes and Yixing teapots. My place, both at home and the office, is pretty much stacked with them. I find the fun of collecting is a great stress reliever for me.

7. What’s your favourite brand campaign that you participated in or wish you had?

When it comes to Miniso's own campaigns:

In China, we've been promoting the 'Smile Day' concept for the last two years. In major cities, we've set up large interactive installations featuring the “wink” theme and conducted online well-wishing activities to spread a positive outlook on life. Moving forward, we're aiming to globally promote the wink symbol, which represents Miniso's “Joy Philosophy”.

In overseas markets, last year, we did something cool with our original IP, PenPen, a cute penguin, running a #Love2Gether Wishing Bus Tour around the world. The tour started in New York City and connected cities in 9 different countries, such as Italy, Spain, Australia, Mexico, Vietnam, Thailand, and Indonesia. We even had special wish boxes in 13 markets, including Honduras and Iceland. We collected over 100,000 fans' wishes and helped 22 lucky fans make their dreams come true under the Dubai skyline. The entire campaign conveyed a message of hope, positivity, and healing to people all around the world.

8. Name another brand (can’t be yours) with an amazing customer experience that you really admire. Why is it great?

That has to be Lego, with its 90-year history. It's not only refreshing its existing brand assets but also constantly collaborating with new IPs. They keep innovating and interpreting their brand philosophy of 'Play Well' brilliantly. Both adults and kids love it, and everyone can enjoy themselves with Lego's products. It's a brand I find really worth learning from.

9. What keeps you up at night as a CMO?

I’m always concerned about losing touch with consumers, not truly grasping their needs, especially among our target demographic—young people around the world. Their needs, their usage patterns, and the social platforms they engage with, that’s what I genuinely care about and constantly think about.

Campaign Asia

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