WeChat has become a marketers’ best friend when it comes to conducting a social network campaign in China. In this article we will first have a look at WeChat’s main features, before we dive into how brands are using the platform to grow their audiences and sales.
Wechat Marketing Case Studies
What is WeChat?
If you have lived under a rock (or just outside of China!?) for the past 5 years, then it is time for you to have a crash course on the subject. WeChat (or 微信 WeiXin as it is called in Chinese) was created in 2011 by the Chinese tech giant Tencent, also the creator of QQ (the Chinese version of MSN). It is a mobile-only application as well as the leading social network in China with over 700 million active users.
It boasts a wide range of features:
Instant Messaging, in this regard it can be compared to popular western apps such as Whatsapp and Snapchat. It is now the main method of communication for the younger Chinese generation. The text function of a mobile phone is as good as dead nowadays.
Moments, are WeChat’s version of Facebook’s timeline and wall. You post via your profile, and it can be seen on your contacts’ Moments.
Official accounts with aubscription. Probably the most beloved feature for marketers and content creators alike. It allows an organization (magazine, company, shop, personalities, etc.) to have a subscription-based account to share content with their audience. It is somewhat similar as a fan-page on Facebook.
Microsites and app-within-the-app. You can have your own website or app running inside the application. It opens great possibility for brands aswell as online retailers.
WeChat e-wallet gives users the opportunity to connect the platform to their bank. Therefore, allowing them to use the app as a method of payment in many shops. You can also buy directly online or in the WeChat m-commerce platform. Payment can be made simply by scanning a QR code or transferring payments to other users.
There are some additional and more obscure features available, but we focus here on the most relevant for marketing purposes. Now let’s dive into how foreign brands carry out their promotion on the platform.
10 WeChat Campaigns to take inspiration from
Western brands were fast to identify the potential of WeChat. It took some time for marketers to understand what kind of strategies “were working” on the platform but today we see a fair amount of very successful campaigns. Here are 10 we handpicked for you:
1/ Uniqlo, The O2O Success
Uniqlo, the Japanese apparel designer and manufacturer is very popular. They understood quickly that China was a mobile dominated environment. They have developed a very strong physical presence in the country with their numerous stores, which allowed then to launch a large scale 020 campaign (Online to Offline).
The “Style your life” initiative was where the consumers could try on clothes in stores and then stand in front of monitors equipped with cameras to take pictures of themselves with different featured backgrounds such as New-York, Tokyo or London. The picture was then sent to their WeChat account where one third of people shared it on their Moments. The campaign was a huge success, with a 30% increase of sales for featured items alongside an increase from 400 000 to over one million followers.
2/ DAMAC, Luxury made in Dubai
DAMAC is clearly the kind of brand where one needs a heavy wallet to be interested. The cutting-edge real estate investment company provides its client with luxury homes. Indeed, the real product provided by the group is the return on investment of the resale value these homes can provide.
Their objective on WeChat? Make Chinese investors dream about Dubai and its luxury lifestyle. For doing so, they took to talking less about themselves, and more about the destination. They created a lot of content, especially articles about Dubai and its surroundings. Chinese often know little about this small gulf state and this “educational campaign” was a necessity in order to open them up and peak their interest in investing there.
One of the things they talk about for instance was the similarity between Dubai and China when it comes to gigantic projects, such as the 22,500 square meter indoor skiing facility in the center of the city. And they have been really good at creating content. KOL’s (Key Opinion Leaders) were even sharing their content for free. Something that usually needs be paid for.
3/ Mulberry, The Story Behind the Products
Mulberry is a Brand of clothing and accessories which started its WeChat account in 2014. They promote through their microsite on the platform and feature exclusive content such as behind the scenes pictures and video. They developed an effective storyline for their brand and products.
They also use it as a way to interact with consumers, the Chinese market is still relatively unfamiliar with leather luxury products.
4/ Twist and Drink
The Austrian specialists of fruits drinks for children take their social responsibility very seriously. Not only on quality, healthy products, but they also place a big emphasis on ecology with the bottle 100% made of recyclable material, and they insist that the production process is waste-free.
On WeChat, they created the most adorable campaign of the whole group. They made an animated, colorful world within the application (with HTML5), with their bottles becoming characters and directly addressing mothers in China. Each bottle has its own personality according to its taste. On the top of that, there was a game with prizes to be won.
5/ Otte, The Shop that Conquered the Chinese’s Hearts
Otte is a fashion boutique for women’s clothing based in New-York. It has a very small structure but interestingly in terms of the e-commerce website: 50% of all the online sales are from Chinese people, either living in the United-states or from China itself.
This brand has invested in Wechat Marketing, with nice content and an attractive wechat site.
This pushed them to open their second store ever in Shanghai, 16 years after the first one in New-York. They cannot be compared to huge groups such as Uniqlo which we talked about earlier, but what they lack in physical presence they make up for digitally. Proof that effective digital marketing is king.
This example demonstrates that even smaller structures can be successful in China. As long as they provide Chinese consumers with what they are looking for, and make themselves visible through smart communication on the web. more information here
6/Brasserie de Monaco, You Can Drink Luxury
The Brasserie de Monaco is a luxury beer brand. Created in 1905, they are still in active today. Their WeChat communication is 100% based on branding and sensorial marketing with beautiful pictures and articles.
Storytelling about the lifestyle in Monaco is at the heart of their campaign. The idea is to create a universe around the idea of luxury. KOLs (Key Opinion Leader) help by promoting the content. It is a somewhat discrete strategy because it is based on a content-only approach.
Cost-efficient, sober and elegant. That is why we loved their approach to this niche market that is luxury beer.
7/ Sephora Rewards Loyalty
Sephora the perfume shop group has its own mobile website within the WeChat platform. There, they reward their regular customers and followers who participate in their campaigns with discounts and exclusive access to promotional events and items. News about Sephora and its products are also feature, it is an efficient channel of communication for the company.
The campaign which attracted our attention tried to emulate the success of a previous marketing success Bobbie, the purple bear. Sephora took the idea while adding its own spin to it. Their pink bears and other well liked products were to available to win in a contest where users had to take pictures of themselves with pink items and send them in via WeChat. To conclude, marketers at Sephora show that they know how to interact with their community.
8/ Coslys – Comptoir des Lys, The Healthier the Better
Jeanine Babory the founder of this French beauty and well-being products company realized very early that the chemicals used by her industry to manufacture products were most likely a hazard to health in the long run. Today the company entirely focus in on natural products. As its certification by ECOCERT and Charte Cosmebio attests to.
They have a simple yet efficient WeChat campaign. They post once a week, promoting their companies well-known ethic, doing storytelling about the organic origins of their product and the healthy, natural emphasis they have created in France. They also sporadically spice it up with contests and by interacting with their audience in a playful manner.
9/ Window Malaysia
Window Malaysia is an evolution of Visa Malaysia built on the same concept. It is a portal, a hub which has the ambition of becoming the first stop for Chinese looking for anything related to Malaysia, whether it is simple tourism (including medical tourism), education, investment, visa assistance, etc.
With much quality information about VISAs in Malaysia they attract a lot of visitors and many other wechat accounts repost their information.
The idea behind their project is to attract visitors through quality content about Malaysia, get people in the Middle Kingdom to know it better and eventually awaken interest in investing or travelling there themselves.
Coming from France where we have coffee everywhere, I didn’t really know Starbucks before I came to China. The name was somehow familiar but that was it. I soon, however, became accustomed to it as they are EVERYWHERE in Chinese cities. It is actually a symbol of development in China, showing that your city (and citizens) are rich enough to afford it. As a result, the brand is pre-sold to them. But it doesn’t mean they shouldn’t take advantage of social networks.
They started to make their presence felt on WeChat in 2012, by launching their first “mood” campaign. The principal was simple, you sent on the platform an emoticon, and Starbucks replied with a song reflecting your mood according to the emoji your sent. With as much as 22 000 messages a day, it is safe to say it was a success. Two years later, for the launch of their refreshing beverage, they used the infamous QR code to create dialogue with customers, using the same strategy of interaction as they did previously.
WeChat is a great social network with great features and it is no wonder the app became so popular in the Middle Kingdom. It gives brands a great way to promote themselves and to exchange directly with their audience.
But in the future, WeChat might just become even more useful to businesses, by allowing companies to “hire” an army of promoters that can sell their products the same way a salesperson does. We have the conviction that no matter what your business is, WeChat will help you push it forward behind the Great Wall.