2021 has been a productive year for brands and their China marketing strategies, as well as e-commerce platforms, and Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs). It’s also been a year of new milestones as both the 618 (18 June) and Double Eleven (11 November) shopping festivals reported record-breaking sales, with YoY sales volume increases of 26.5% and 9% respectively.
When it comes to creating a comprehensive China marketing strategy that incorporates KOLs, social media, short videos, and more – doing your research is key. Get to know the players, the platforms, the newest tactics, and the key measurements of success.
To prepare for the coming year, check out some of our key highlights from the year before and discover how to maximize your China KOL marketing strategy.
In this article you’ll learn…
Everything you should know about Key Opinion Leaders in China (KOLs)
Establishing an influencer marketing strategy in the West is one thing, but how do you successfully get your brand noticed across Chinese social media channels? The first step is understanding that you’re no longer dealing with influencers, but with their Eastern equivalent – Key Opinion Leaders.
So, what’s the difference between an influencer and a Key Opinion Leader? How do KOLs deliver content on key Chinese platforms? And how can your brand leverage it?
As the nature of social media differs between the West and China, so does the content created by KOLs vs influencers. The key to success is connecting where the Chinese market lies and getting to know the basics of that market, and then delving deeper into a tailored strategy and building the best China KOL relationships for your brand.
520 – The New Valentine’s Day
There are three (yes, three) celebrations of love observed in China. 520 is the newest of the three, having gained popularity in recent years thanks to an internet boom, with its symbolism derived from 520’s phonetic likeness to the Chinese words for “I love you” (我爱你). Naturally, any celebration of love is a ripe opportunity for sales, and 520 proves to be no exception.
618 – A Midsummer Night’s (E-commerce) Dream
The 618 shopping festival is the largest mid-year promotion in China and comes second in importance behind Double Eleven. In 2009, the 618 festival was launched by online retail giant JD.com in celebration of its anniversary. Those sales surpassed $4.5M, with over 45,000 orders placed on the inaugural festival. Soon after, e-commerce rival Taobao launched its own annual 618 campaign.
For 2021’s 618 festival, JD.com recorded a record-breaking total transaction volume above $53bn, 4.3 times that of the same period the year prior. Tmall sales data showed that sales in the first hour of the festival represented a year-on-year increase of 100 percent.
In 2021, thousands of brands participated in the annual 618 festival. The festival has evolved from a single-day JD.com-only promotion to a universal e-commerce sales period lasting weeks. The results from the festival help uncover how brands can leverage KOL marketing, promotion strategies, and live-streaming to boost sales activity.
Double Eleven 2021 Edition: MIV Trends
The Double Eleven Shopping Festival first started in 2009, initiated by digital finance and e-commerce conglomerate Alibaba. It began as a 24-hour Black Friday-esque flash sale on 11 November; however, promotions began on 21 October and lasted until 12 November, transforming Double 11 into a weeks-long marathon sales event.
This elongation was part of an effort to revitalize the economy following a sluggish year of economic chaos and uncertainty brought about by the coronavirus pandemic. In Q1 2020, China’s economy contracted 6.8%, marking the first drop since the late 1970s. On the other hand, Double 11 sales have increased exponentially since the conception of the festival.
On 20 October 2021, premier China KOLs Viya, Li Jiaqi, and Cherie each did live streams to mark the start of the festival, generating a combined ¥5.3 billion in sales within the first few hours. In total, 30+ live-streaming KOLs generated over ¥100 billion in sales during the entire Double Eleven sales marathon this year. At its peak, there were 583,000 orders per second.
China Beauty Influencer Marketing Highlights
The beauty industry is a truly saturated market in China, with countless contenders, both domestic and foreign, battling for a piece of this consumer compound. The beauty industry itself is a multi-layered creature, with numerous subsets and niche segments ranging from makeup and cosmetics to skincare, and facial masks.
Learn all about which beauty brands performed the best in Q1 2021 and find out what China KOL marketing strategies they invoked to boost their campaigns.
China Fashion Influencer Marketing Highlights
Fashion brands performed quite well in China in 2021. There is competition between domestic and foreign fashion brands, especially amongst the fast fashion category. Brands such as Meters Bonwe, Bosideng, Ochirly, and Semir have risen to capture a notable portion of the market.
Learn which fashion brands performed the best in Q2 2021 and find out what China KOL marketing strategies they leveraged to boost their campaigns.
Qixi Festival – The Original Valentine’s Day
The Qixi Festival is the third celebration of love in China after Valentine’s Day on 14 February and 520 Day on 20 May. Compared to Valentine’s Day, however, the Qixi Festival has a much longer history, originating in the Han Dynasty in 202 BC.
With its cultural significance, the Qixi Festival is celebrated by the young and the old alike. In many parts of China, traditional Qixi outfits are worn in celebrations.
Increasing growth in Chinese consumption has led luxury and fashion brands to focus on any opportunity to connect with consumers through culturally meaningful and relevant campaigns, through China KOL marketing, live-streaming, experiential marketing, and more.
Shanghai Fashion Week
Shanghai Fashion Week was the first in the global Fashion Week series to resume completely in-person events. Numerous brands, both domestic and foreign, participated in this season’s Shanghai Fashion Week, including familiar names such as Mashama, Purcotton, and Skechers.
Learn about how the best performing brands leveraged China KOL and celebrity voices to boost their Media Impact Value™ (MIV®) performance during Shanghai Fashion Week S/S 2022.
Facial Masks – An Emerging Skincare Trend
Since the coronavirus pandemic began, the word “mask” has become synonymous with surgical masks. With the rise in surgical mask use, a new term has emerged: “maskne” (acne caused by prolonged mask-wearing). Maskne has increased demand for new skincare solutions.
Facial masks have been a growing part of the skincare regimen in China. Once a luxury product consumed almost exclusively in Beijing or Shanghai, facial masks are rapidly emerging in T3 and T4 cities to consumers who have never used them before.
The China facial mask market reached $3bn in 2017 (+10% YOY) and is expected to exceed $5bn by 2022. Changing beauty habits induced by the coronavirus pandemic is a significant factor in driving the popularity of facial masks. See how China KOLs capitalized on this trend to boost facial mask sales activity.
Chinese New Year 2021: Fashion, Beauty, and Luxury Campaigns
Tying in your China marketing strategy with key national events can be one of the fastest pathways to campaign success. That’s why Chinese New Year 2022 presents an indispensable opportunity for brands to capture the attention of audiences in China.
As the Year of the Tiger begins, it’s time to think about how you can leverage this crucial event to get Chinese social media buzzing about your brand. And reflecting on some of the most successful luxury campaigns from 2021’s event is the perfect way to get the ideas flowing ahead of your next strategy.
In this post, you’ll find out what master marketers at Guerlain, Burberry, and Gucci had up their sleeve for Chinese New Year 2021 – including campaign tactics, key Voices used, and measurable metrics of their success.
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