How does a high-end beer brand conquer the Chinese market?

China is considered the world’s largest alcoholic beverage market valued at over €400b, today imported alcoholic beverages account for under 2% of the total market, both an indication of the future potential of the market with a growing middle class, and also difficulties in winning over consumers.

Alcohol consumption in China is increasing rapidly with China’s 350 million ‘middle class’ consumers changing drinking habits and trends on a huge scale.

As an alcoholic brand, you need to be present on digital platforms and create a positive reputation by targeting online communities in order to attract more customers.

Brasserie De Monaco 

The high-end brewery ‘Brasserie De Monaco ’ (BDM) brewery began life in 1905 in Monaco. It was later destroyed in 1970 and then rebuilt on the famous ‘Hercule’s Harbour’ in 1998.

The brewery produces an artisan, non-filtrated beer, destined for the region’s luxurious hotels and restaurants. It is presented in a premium bottle and reflects Monaco’s luxurious and decadent spirit.

International = Quality

Consumers are always searching for information on websites and asking for advice from their social network, what you choose to drink is an important status symbol in China. International alcoholic brands such as Monaco De Brasserie are growing in popularity due to  changing tastes, there is a particular Chinese fondness for European brands.

The Chinese are typically used to Asian beer, or specifically the local ‘Tsingtao’ which is typically less strong or flavoursome, now as China opens up to the world to embrace a more ‘international’ way of life the consumer is moving onto the more distinct European style lagers and ales. BDM are a key part of this trend, particularly in the high-end alcoholic sector.

Setting their sights on China

Brasserie De Monaco made the first step into China with a comprehensive campaign to win over consumers. Early adoption of new brands is notoriously difficult in China because consumers are fixated on buying brands they know. Our aim was to create the image of the brand as well known in China to encourage sales.

With China’s booming alcohol industry ‘Brasserie De Monaco’ saw a gap in the market for a high quality, luxurious, up-market beer brand such as themselves. They realized they only needed to tap into a small slice of China’s 350 million consumers to run a highly profitable venture.

The company approached Gentlemen Marketing to develop their marketing strategy in this wholly different market.

Their goal was to obtain a better e-reputation to facilitate their distribution and growth in China.

In China the solutions are “online”

The market here is dominated by digital, there are now approaching 900 million Chinese online as the country hurtles into the future. The most cost effective way for BDM to grow was through a targeted digital marketing strategy.

The Chinese digital eco-system was a completely different proposition for the French brand who had to adapt their approach to local Chinese platforms.

The problem for Brasserie De Monaco

The issue was that despite their international reputation the beer brand were largely invisible in Mainland China. The ‘Great Firewall’ cuts off the internet in China, if the brand were not creating Chinese articles, being featured in the Chinese news and communicating on the right locally based, social platforms they would remain invisible.

Devising the best solutions

We set about devising the best solutions for the brand. Our approach was to promote to their specific target market through the most effective channels.

  1. Increasing the website ranking

Their Chinese site needed to be optimized for Baidu (China’s Google). 70% of all online research is carried out via this channel. To increase their site in the natural search results quality content had to be produced, backlinks generated and the back-end optimized for Mandarin Character searches.

2. Weibo/WeChat as a Launchpad

We used these two popular social media tools to increase the reputation of BDM as an up-market, luxurious beer brand. The content created was of a high quality to sell this image of ‘international quality. Monaco is famous in China as wealthy paradise, the beer was marketed as ‘the authentic taste of Monaco’.

We tapped into active groups of users on WeChat groups to promote conversation and content. The strategy was grow BDM’s follower base to increase the views of targeted posts.

It is expected that any serious brand has a presence on WeChat, Weibo was used to support WeChat promotions with QR codes (links) embedded in posts for cross promotions.

Using Chinese Key Opinion Leaders

 Key Opinion Leaders (or KOL’s) are online figures that have already established a large online following. They are very influential and considered ‘experts’ on specific topics. For Brasserie De Monaco we connected with KOL’s in the lifestyle sector to associate these reputable figures with the new brand. Our goal was to create a ‘buzz’ around them and connect with potential influencers who could represent the brand.

Chinese E-Media Relations

For a new brand to grow they need to be visible in the online media. We produced quality PR to be featured in the news and by other websites to backlink to BDM’s page. This helped with their search engine ranking on Baidu, increased their number of high profile features and legitimised the brand in the eyes of the consumer.

What were the results?

The brand attracted 3000 new followers on Weibo and 1000 new fans on WeChat. This has helped them a build a database of fans to increase engagement with the brand. Loyalty programmes can now be launched to further incentivize followers with exclusive offerings and promotions.

The brand went from invisible to the top 2 pages on the Baidu search engine results based on 10 keywords. They now rank highly leading to more qualified traffic searching for high-end alcoholic beverages. We achieved this by generating quality content that produced backlinks and sharing PR to be featured in other media sources.

BDM also connected with over 50 Chinese KOL’s and influencers who were interested in representing the brand going forward, this will allow them to tap into the large, active communities of followers these cyber celebrities have.

New Brand Agency specialised in China

China is a tricky and difficult market that is incredibly lucrative if you can break into it. The best approach in terms of ROI is digital marketing and lead generation. We are a specialist digital agency who, with our international team of 25, are the perfect group to develop your interests in China.

You can also read our Strategic Guide to Export Food Brands in China

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