China is a dream market that nearly every international company wishes to enter. Chinese market promises strong growth, striking revenues, and far-reaching possibilities for development.

Yet, foreign brand positioning in China’s market can be a tricky task, and companies tend to realize the scale of their goals only once they start marketing to a Chinese audience. Imagine creating an appealing offer to suit 1.3 Billion people, speaking different dialects!

If only it was just about the scale: even advertising toolkit is totally different, as conventional Western social media channels are not used in China, and marketers have to explore new ways to reach their customers.

Challenging? Totally! That’s why we invited experienced Chinese marketing experts to talk about the BIGGEST advertising trends this year, creating a China-specific product,  and the pitfalls marketers should avoid.

Digital advertising in China

Elijah Whaley, Chief Marketing Officer at PARKLU

In 2018, smartphone-optimized video’s on social media will continue to see consumption growth. Toutiao and their recent acquisition, Douyin, will likely be big winners in the video space. Advertisers should keep their eyes on new and rising video platforms.

Social media influencers’ content quality will rise to match the quality of creative production studios. A lot of money was poured into the influencer industry in 2017, and that money attracted top creative talent to influencer teams. Advertisers should consider influencers not just for distribution but also for the creation of high-quality original content.

The lines are already blurred between what is a social media platform and an e-commerce platform in China. As all social and commerce platforms continue to seamlessly integrate payments, commerce, and content, advertisers should experiment across a verity of platforms with content-to-commerce models to see what works best.

In 2018, we might finally see web search in the messenger app WeChat surpass Baidu’s search engine. This means advertisers and SEO specialists will need to learn Social Search Optimization and develop totally new strategies around social and search. “

Digital advertising in China

Sven Huang, Marketing Director at ETO Markets

Speaking of the online advertising trends in China, mobile social media is the most popular way among all the others. In the past few years, the online traffic in China has changed a lot. The mobile terminal has absorbed significant traffics from a desktop terminal due to the popularity of smartphone in the Chinese market.

Today, the No.1 mobile social media in China is wechat, a WhatsApp like application on all operation systems, owning almost one billion users around the globe. Your advert will appear in video format on the targeting users’ MOMENTS section in the application; people will see it when they are checking all the updates from their friends in the MOMENTS section.

Apart from wechat, both weibo (Chinese twitter)and Zhihu (Chinese quora) are smart choices for online advertising as well. Last but not least, the traditional search engine advertising is still effective under the pressure of mobile social media popularity. Baidu, 360 and Shenma are the best choices for search engine advertising.

Digital advertising in China

Marijn van Cranenburgh, Marketing Manager Greater China at Schouten China

Marketing in China is enjoyable since the playing field is as good as disconnected from any beyond its borders. The downside of being this is that any shared channel we have from our HQ is more or less useless. The positive side of it all is that if you have a somewhat creative mindset, you can do so much more compared to the “traditional” western counterparts.

Your Chinese audience never really caught up buying a computer and, therefore, mobile is by far the customary platform. That means, instead of leading traffic to website-based landing pages you want to focus more on establishing a presence on the wide variety of social platforms the country has to offer, starting with WeChat by creating meaning full content and a clear call to action.

Using China’s social channels can be a real journey to discover. My quick tips would be. Keep your content localized, using English barely works, focus even more on creating a clear call to action in all your campaigns and small gains for your audience will attract them, don’t be embarrassed to use QR codes anywhere!

When in China you got to play by the rules, try not to be overly creative when following the rules. The Chinese government has specified very clear rules to which your company has to follow for any publications and advertising your put out there. It’s important to realize that penalties and law enforcement can be very severe, and your business wouldn’t be the first to have to close their operations in China because of bankruptcy due to high penalties or by losing your business license.


An example of these rules is that you can never claim something you can’t prove, such as being the “best” or “the world’s leading company”. Besides, you still have to be very careful of what you publish, this means keeping your messages to the point and for example always show <AD> in the subject of your EDM campaigns, see the example of Apple above.

 China experts - Olivia Plotnick

Olivia Plotnick, Marketing Manager at Brandigo

The digital marketing landscape changes at warp speed in China and marketers have to be ready to adapt in the blink of an eye. What is becoming clear is that China is setting itself apart from the rest of the world and global brands must take note of this.

The days where we compare WeChat to Facebook and Weibo to Twitter are numbered, soon the China’s digital ecosystem will be setting a precedent for the rest of the world. The rapid rise of mobile use in China has shaped much of the current digital landscape today, and the seamless integration between social and ecommerce are quietly leaving search engines like Baidu in the dust.

Contrary to the West, consumers aren’t just using social media to connect with friends, but to look up information about brands, get recommendations and view promotions. They are using ecommerce giants such as Taobao and Tmall to search and discover new products every day. This behavior will force brands to rethink putting their entire budget into Baidu AdWords, and encourage them to bolster their presence on platforms such as WeChat and Tmall.

In short, when you think about digital marketing in China for 2018, think mobile, and know that seamless integration between your social media accounts, your mobile-optimized website, and if applicable, your ecommerce platform, is paramount.


Content Marketing Manager at PropellerAds