Today we interview Ashley, recently she launch Chozan, a platform that will help marketers to understand the Chinese Digital world.
Ashley, can you introduce yourself?
I’m originally from Russia but I’ve lived abroad for most of my life.
In 2006 I moved to China’s largest municipality, Chongqing, to study and work. It was an all-around great experience. Professionally I learned a lot by working with international brands entering second-tier cities in China.
Upon moving to Hong Kong in 2010, I continued working in marketing and PR. I noticed the need for international firms still had in better understand the Chinese business environment. I wanted to help them find the right approach to succeed so I founded my first agency Alarice. Then in 2016, we saw the need for quality information, education and resources for Chinese social media marketing and we launched ChoZan ( www.chozan.co).
Since early 2017, I’ve also started my China marketing blog called Ashley Talks and Youtube Channel which now has hundreds of subscribers.
So, why did you choose to come to Hong Kong?
Hong Kong is a dynamic, multicultural city, things are happening and moving fast. I always call Hong Kong a big city with a small city comfort, as everyone can find something for themselves. Basically, you can live in Hong Kong as if you were in New York and go to Central. If you prefer Thailand, go to Shek O. If you want to feel like you’re in mainland China, visit Mongkok. Or if you prefer a quiet European village, check out Stanley. Business-wise Hong Kong is a fantastic hub right in the heart of Asia, business operations are simple, taxes are low, there’s a lot of talent out there to hire and the legal & financial systems are straightforward and well-regulated.
Can you explain to us what ChoZan is?
ChoZan is an online training and resources platform specializing in Chinese social media. We work with clients to improve their understanding of Chinese consumers, by providing information, updates and advice regarding Chinese social media channels, tools and marketing best practices.
We focus mainly on WeChat and Weibo but also cover Miaopai, Yizhibo, Douban, and Youku.
And why did you choose the name ChoZan, what does it actually mean?
ChoZan is a romanized spelling of 超赞, which means “awesome” in Mandarin. 超 – “chao” means “extremely” and 赞 “zan” means “thumbs up”. We think of our team as an “awesome thumbs up” factory for our clients and subscribers.
What’s your marketing strategy for ChoZan?
We do a lot of public speaking, attend industry events and conferences, and partner with agencies, councils and other industry players. We do roadshows across Asia and Europe and are planning one in the USA by the end of the year.
On the digital side, we write a comprehensive blog about WeChat and Weibo marketing, Chinese consumers, live streaming, KOLs, campaigns and other related topics. We send out regular EDMs and manage our presence on international social media. We also work closely with media partners publishing stories and getting featured in established international publications such as Forbes, CNBC, the SCMP, HK01, China Daily, TVB and more. We also invest in paid promotion on search engines and social media.
What are the main problems that ChoZan solves for marketers?
ChoZan works with marketers to improve their understanding of Chinese consumers and Chinese social media marketing.
We help them quickly get a handle on the market and the promotional platforms available so they can dive in right away.
Marketing managers need concrete examples of best practices for inspiration and guidance and we provide the latest case studies featuring campaigns on WeChat and Weibo covering various industries.
It can also be very confusing to figure out which influencers are legitimate and effective and which ones suit your business so we provide handpicked and pre-audited Key Opinion Leader databases.
It’s also difficult for people to master a brand new app or social media platform when starting on it for the first time. How do you set up a new account? Which kind of account is best? What documents and procedures do I need to follow? We cover all of that in our navigators, which are operational guides on how to do marketing on various platforms.
And people run into problems along the way that they didn’t anticipate. With our experience and knowledge, we can provide additional bespoke resources and coach people via 1-on-1 consultations.
What do you think will happen in the social media space in China in the next 5 years?
5 years is a long time in China as things change fast and take unexpected turns, but based on current trends, here are a few predictions:
With further development of mobile devices, apps and the mobile Internet, the number of active mobile social users will continue to grow. This will result in a considerable increase in advertising budgets for mobile Chinese social media, and shorter, more result-driven campaigns.
WeChat and Weibo
WeChat and Weibo might still remain the most popular social media platforms in China. WeChat will likely remain the most frequently-used social media app. Mini Apps are likely to advance enough to include SAR and VR technology, enabling O2O interactions beyond the obvious. Weibo will grow its influence among the younger generation, live streaming and may have to reinvent its mobile interface.
Short videos will continue to gain popularity and have the potential to become the major content type on Chinese social media. There will be more vertical content that focuses on a particular category or topic, like online gaming, fitness or food and travel.
Live streaming will see more business and presentation models. Besides the emerging “live streaming + e-commerce” mode and real-time video or audio connections with the audience, AR and VR technology will also be integrated into live streaming, which not only provides brand new viewing experiences for the audience but also creates new business possibilities.
With strong personal charisma, unique views or professional expertise in a certain field, KOLs will still be active in sponsored promotions for brands while there will be more ways of cooperation and different business models. New types of KOLs will emerge, beyond celebrities, wanghong and thought leaders.
Context and real-time
Marketing strategies on social media will become more context-oriented. Chinese netizens already appreciate high-quality content that’s original, novel or interesting but in the coming years, the content will start playing an even more important role.
What is your favorite Brand campaign on Chinese social media this year?
There are so many amazing campaigns out there, that it’s hard to choose one. One very recent Olay campaign that I like is beautiful in its simplicity, wonderfully executed and also delivered exceptional sales results.
On the occasion of Mother’s Day this year, Olay, a skincare brand, launched a large campaign on Weibo that featured KOL cooperation, Weibo advertising and giveaways.
First, Olay released an ad that showed a new mother visiting a photo gallery that was prepared by her husband as her Mother’s Day present. The photos displayed to show that after the birth of their child, she became so busy looking after the baby that she barely had time to care for herself. He noticed this and wanted to show his appreciation and that he didn’t take her for granted. The video was touching and received lots of positive feedback because it resonated with so many moms.
To promote the ad, Olay worked with several KOLs on Weibo, including @扒皮王 (an entertainment critics with 8.5 million followers) and @苏芩 (a writer with 50 million followers). Their posts resulted in over 7000 interactions. They also worked with two famous Chinese celebrities, Song Qian (@宋茜) and Gao Yuanyuan (@高圆圆), who published videos expressing their Mother’s Day wishes which really increased their brand exposure.
Olay also sponsored the hashtag #Mother’s Day# on Weibo so when users clicked the hashtag, they saw Olay’s customized topic page. The banner on the page directed users to Olay’s Mother’s Day package e-commerce site.
More than one week before Mother’s Day, Olay had already launched several ads on Weibo and gradually intensified the campaign exposure as the day came closer. They got very impressive results with hundreds of millions of Weibo exposures and 45,000 Mother’s Day gift packs sold.
Your business is linked to China, but your office is in Hong Kong. What’s the main challenge in running a company out of Hong Kong, and what’s your secret to success?
Hong Kong is a great place to run a business, even though the operational costs are relatively high. I think that every business’s biggest challenge is hiring the right people that are not only skilled but also fit into your company culture and share the same life values.
I’m a firm believer that company success is really not about a sharp business plan or a perfect strategy. It is about the people, therefore I hire the best people I can find, those I truly connect with and who share my values. Besides the right team, it’s crucial to surround yourself with great advisors and a strong network in Hong Kong, China and the world.
Thank you. Any questions for Ashley?