China Deep Dive: These Are the Marketing Tools of the Future

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Content instead of ads, super apps, key opinion leaders and mobile only - in times of the corona crisis and crumbling marketing budgets, innovative solutions are all the more important. A look at Chinese brands shows some marketing solutions for the future.

The Chinese app Tik Tok is a powerful marketing tool.
The Chinese app Tik Tok is a powerful marketing tool.

The coronavirus also affects companies in the sports business. In times of curfew and shop closure, innovative ways to get and stay in contact with customers are all the more important. Especially in this area China has long been a trendsetter.

"In the old world there is still the image in many places that in China there are only copy cats. Yet most innovations no longer come from Silicon Valley but from China. They are even five years ahead of the rest of the world in many areas of marketing and digitization. There, the motto has long been Mobile Only," said Munich-based marketing expert, Dr. Teo Pham. So, it's worth to watch and learn - because many developments will also arrive in Europe in the coming months and years.

Super Apps Can Do Everything

For example, there are the so-called Super Apps like WeChat. While there is a separate channel for every purpose in the Western world - purchases are made at Amazon, chats on Whatsapp and postings on Instagram and Facebook - in China this has long been possible in one place.

Pham: "You can really do anything with the Super Apps: Chat, get recommendations for trips, buy tickets, order taxis, get promo offers, pay right away and read QR codes."

QR Codes: For Beggars and the Car Rental Without Contact

They are everywhere in China in times of disappearing cash, even beggars nowadays show notes with a QR code. But you can also order and pay contactlessly in restaurants or at the bakery.

Even renting a car with QR codes and facial recognition, without ever having contact with a human being. This is another example of how digitization has changed everyday life in China.

Social Media Quite Different

But social media also work differently here - because for political reasons Facebook, Instagram, WhatsApp or Tinder don't play a role in the Middle Kingdom. By the way, the hippest app - also worldwide by the number of downloads - is TikTok. Controversial because of alleged censorship and monitoring programs, it nevertheless has features that will change the future of social media in this country as well.

"It is also particularly interesting for companies that you can reach millions of people with great 10 to 15 second films, even if you don't have any followers at all. With Instagram, you can make the best movie in the world, but you can't reach anyone if you don't have followers," Pham said.

TikTok's artificial intelligence ensures that users are offered interesting content according to their preferences. There are even challenges (#soulmates #Badboy #no matter), in which companies with cool videos can also participate.

Shoppable Videos: Cool Content Instead of Ads

This leads directly to the next insight for the marketing of the future - the so-called Generation Z, which is already a reality in China. "Every e-commerce platform needs excellent content in the future. Then you can sell anything. Nobody wants to see classic ads anymore," said Phan. In the Middle Kingdom, for example, this is being implemented via "Shoppable Videos".

There, for example, the main actor can be seen in cool clothes. A touch on the shoes or trousers - and a window opens directly in which the items from the video can be bought. It could hardly be more practical.

Key Opinion Leaders Sell 100 Mini Cooper in Five Minutes

Speaking of the main actors - the so-called influencers will become even more important in this marketing world of the future. In China they are now called Key Opinion Leaders (KOL). And according to Phan they have an incredible impact: "For example, a woman named Becky sold 100 Mini Coopers in the first five minutes of a promotion."

The right KOL's can therefore be decisive for the market entry of a brand in China - just like in the future for success in the "old" markets of Europe and America.

"The Next Nike Will Be Made by an Influencer"

However, at least in China, the top influencers are now also becoming competitors for several brands because they are launching their own collections. Some of them are even sold better than those of the big brands.

"We believe that the next Nike will be made by an influencer," said Phan. The expert also believes that new marketing tools will come to us from China in the future, so it's worth to take a closer look at what's happening there: "It's like Silicon Valley on steroids."