The Chinese marketing toolbox

Simply copy-and-pasting strategies from familiar markets to China is not an effective approach. Val Kaplan introduces the tools for Marketing in China

For foreigners, marketing in China is a complicated, delicate process requiring a whole new set of rules and tools.

If you are planning on setting up a campaign in China, here is what you’ll need in your toolbox: 

Micro screwdriver: finicky complexity

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Leave your hammers in the West – entering the local Chinese market is more complex than you can imagine, especially in the online and digital marketing fields.

If an American company wants to advertise their product with a search engine for a German market, all they need is a Gmail account and a credit card. If the same company were attempting the same strategy in China, however, they would have to first register an overseas advertiser’s account with Chinese search engines, pass through a verification process that can last several weeks, manage hefty fees and, finally, pay a deposit.

And many marketing channels don’t accept foreign advertisers at all.

Spirit level: balance across multiple platforms

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Successfully launching a product in China requires a campaign strategy that works on multiple platforms. This is because the popularity of the more traditional print, television and desktop media are far outstripped by that of mobile marketing.

The most internet searches are done via mobile, and more products are sold via mobile app than through browsers.

If that isn’t enough to convince you, consider this: users of China’s biggest social media platform, WeChat, number more than three times the population of the United States.

Illustrated instruction manual: unfamiliar equipment

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The most important thing to be aware of when marketing in China is that the available channels are completely different to the ones in the West:

Western nuts and bolts

Chinese nuts and bolts

Google, Bing Baidu, Qihoo
Facebook, Twitter Sina Weibo
Youtube Youku

Someone to hold the ladder: A way in

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None of the above channels offer English backend control – so unless you are fluent in Chinese and familiar with how they operate you’d need to find experts to run them for you.

In addition, foreign companies can’t host a website in China or even set up official social media, so making an impact in China means that you will probably have to set up a local business entity.

Packed lunch: lots of dough

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Marketing in China is going to require committing a large marketing budget upfront.

Unless you are committed to spending cash upfront to register a company, set up local marketing channels, and find experts and consultants to run them, there aren’t too many options.

– Val Kaplan is a China based marketing expert with extensive experience in marketing technologically advanced products. Val is also author of ‘Doing Business in China Online‘ and a regular contributor to