As corporate VP at Tencent, Steven Chang oversees the Chinese media giant's online marketing and advertising business. Chang sat down with the Holmes Report in Cannes last week to explore content and marketing trends in China, and their implications for brands navigating a fast-changing marketplace.
What are the key communications and marketing trends you are seeing in China?
Digital is the big thing. Particularly mobile digital — 90% are on mobile so this is very high. Talking about that in terms of communications and marketing, there are some key areas: mobile social — the interaction & social commerce. Data, all these platforms, particularly for marketing interests.
And online content, in which we see three areas: Entertainment — online serials and movies. Information, by which I mean light information. Not purely news but lots of leisure information. Thirdly, sports. The most favourable in terms of sport programming is basketball. We have online NBA rights. Kobe Bryant’s last game attracted a cumulative online audience of 110m viewers.
In terms of mobile and social, how do people want information packaged?
You can see user behaviour and user interaction. You can do immediate, realtime interaction, particularly from the perspective of the marketer. We use 'shake' a lot for marketer interactions. Mobile — because you can carry your smartphone anytime — opens up live casting. More and more clients are looking at this as a marketing opportunity. Event if it’s a commercial car launch, we can do it as live casting, for the sponsor of a live music event.
How are brands using these techniques to build stronger relationships?
One of the biggest marketing challenges for global or local brands it the trust issue. Local brands have a trust challenge.Trust is based on relationships. It’s the relationship between the brands and the consumers. Using WeChat — you build the relationship between your friends — that helps solve the trust issue. It is like trust marketing. When we work on the data, to know which type of target audience we focus on, we introduced native advertising. Among your friends, we know about who you are. We can find the target audience and it’s much more useful than brand advertising. This is how we use social influence to build trust.
What about in a crisis? How do brands use social platforms in this case?
This is another big challenge. In China, if that happens it does not go through the preparation/precaution stage. How to be honest and immediately respond? It’s not particularly about using social — it’s basically about using the proper channels. It’s about how you respond to your audience. You have to be honest immediately.
There are a lot of key opinion leaders (KOLs) and celebrities — but in a crisis, the brand should not use KOLs to talk for you. It should be from the brand. I don’t see social platforms as a weapon for brand crises.
How is your work with agencies changing?
We have two types of relationships. Direct with clients and with agencies. On the agency side we have 4As and lots of local digital agencies. We work with them on data partnerships. That can extend into lots of benefits for marketers. How can we connect our data with the client’s data?
Are there any examples of how you are using data to benefit marketers?
We work with Mead Johnson. We use their CRM data and our data to try to target in a very precise way, and make use of that initial data to target 1,000 users. We actually interviewed these users, particularly mums, to get their thoughts on new babies. Then we start to work on a program — making that into content and film it as a series. We invite some experts, and also some hosts/stars — we build it as a program, targeting new moms — we actually put all of this content into a white paper and then distribute it even more.
How are new technologies affecting marketing?
Chinese consumers and marketers love to adopt new technologies. One, it’s something new and secondly, the Chinese consumer is very receptive to something new, particularly in mobile. Virtual reality — everyone is talking about it — we have a big team working on this opportunity as well.
We have just done a BMW car launch, basically sponsorship of a music performance, Normally if you have a car launch, you have 1,000 attendees. We worked with the client and made the best use of live casting and then with our news app to do more news reporting — we got 10m viewers. One of the elements is technology. In the live app we create that AR/VR so they can see 360 degrees. We employ new technology in a friendly way so it becomes a friendly experience.
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