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5 Chinese Marketing Tips for businesses in North America

5 Chinese marketing tips for businesses in North America

Since 2013, one of every 10 new immigrants to Canada have come from China. 

That kind of growth has seen those of Chinese heritage make up 4.7% of the population in Canada, according to the 2021 census data. And there are more than 1.2 million people who speak a Chinese dialect in this country. 

Those numbers are expected to rise. There is a clear need for businesses in North America to expand their audience beyond existing English speakers and shift some of the focus to the Chinese audience as well.

But it’s not as easy as it sounds. Many brands have faced backlash due to a lack of cultural sensitivity in their content, while marketing to a Chinese audience requires more time, effort, and consideration to ensure that the brand’s messaging reflects Chinese values.

So how can businesses go about doing that? As emerging leaders in Chinese marketing, Sageus Collective has a few tips to keep in mind when communicating to a Chinese audience in North America:

1. Engage on Chinese social media platforms

As opposed to mainstream platforms, such as Instagram, Facebook, or TikTok, Chinese audiences are more active on platforms which include WeChat, Weibo, Baidu, Douyin, and Little Red Book.

Granted, different brands and objectives won’t require all platforms, but it would be effective to explore which ones the target segment within the Chinese consumer base are more likely to be on.

For example, Little Red Book consists of about 90% female consumers with a focus on lifestyle and retails — which would be the perfect platform if this was the focused audience.

For more on platforms, check out our other post here.

Chinese marketing social media platforms

2. Partner with Chinese influencers (KOL)

By now, it’s pretty clear that working with Chinese influencers can bring immense value to brands. 

Social media influencers in China, better known as key opinion leaders (KOLs), have a large number of followers on social media sites, and are very popular among Gen Z and Millennial consumers.

As of 2021, the influencer market in China is estimated to be worth around 100 billion yuan (USD 14.8 billion). And 80% of Chinese consumers have reported purchasing products endorsed by influencers.

There are active Chinese influencers around the world, including major cities in North America. 

Here’s are a few examples within Canada:

Fresh Beauty worked with Chinese-Canadian influencers, Cher Bai and Regina Wang, to generate awareness of their new Black Tea products during the Mid-Autumn Festival. 

Their content on Red Book and Weibo resulted in more than 900,000+ impressions, 30,000+ engagements, and 37,000+ video views. 

Chefs Plate also engaged Cantonese Chinese influencer Anita Lee to use their meal kit delivery service, which generated more than 30,000 views on her YouTube video

Chinese influencer marketing
Image via Catalyst Agents

To learn more about how to partner with the right KOLs for your social media outreach and marketing strategies, check out our guide to influencer marketing.

3. Utilize Chinese Media Buys

A media buy is often part of a business’ paid marketing strategies. It involves identifying channels relevant to the target audience, timing, and locality – and purchasing article space on those channels. 

Media buys can help amplify a brand for the Chinese market in specific regions of North America or for specific industry audiences. 

Most Chinese media outlets are on WeChat, and it’s where most people access articles and news. It’s a great way for brands to leverage the outlet’s existing audience while maintaining a strong presence on Chinese social media platforms. 

Sponsored content or paid ads in media outlets allows brands to utilize the organization’s media relations while being able to tailor the content. 

For example, Sageus Strategy + Digital partners with Lahoo, a major Chinese media outlet in Canada, as a Media Branding and Marketing Partner — and provides a monthly article on local events and other timely content.

However, the most crucial part of this process is having a strong call-to-action. Driving customers to an official WeChat account or an external website can help enhance following, traffic, and conversions. Factors such as the outlet size, timing, and goals determine the rates for media buys, but digital marketing agencies generally have special rates for clients.

Sageus Chinese marketing

4. Be aware of cultural differences

Based on a study on the Chinese Canadian population, 56% of respondents pay more attention to advertising in their own ethnic language.

When creating content in a different language, it is important to be as precise as possible. Simply using a translation app or software will not work.

Direct translations are often inaccurate and may risk saying something offensive or confusing — meaning it is always better to invest in professional translation services.   

Choosing which language to use depends on who your content is for. The two major languages within the Chinese community in Canada are Mandarin and Cantonese. There are nearly 700,000 Mandarin speakers, and more than 550,000 Cantonese speakers in Canada, according to the 2021 census

There are two written forms for Mandarin: Simplified and Traditional. Simplified is the standard way of writing in Mainland China while Traditional is mainly used in Hong Kong and Taiwan. 

Numbers and colours also have different meanings to Chinese audiences. For example, 4 is considered an unlucky number in Chinese culture because it sounds like the word “die” in Mandarin or Cantonese.

Some of these may seem trivial but it is important to take even the smallest details into account to ensure the messaging is not offensive. Conduct thorough research about Chinese cultural traditions, symbols, or norms and tailor your content accordingly.

5. Optimize content for mobile

There are about 1 billion mobile phone users in China, and 99.7% of Chinese Internet users access the Internet on their phones, as of 2021.

Having a mobile-friendly website makes all the difference. It improves visibility, user experience, and search engine ranking. 

The key difference between mobile and desktop is the screen size, making it important to ensure your content is easy to read. For websites, try keeping title lengths short – under 17 Chinese characters.

The time it takes for your page to load is also a huge determining factor. It was found that most consumers will wait for no more than 3 seconds for a page to load, before leaving the website — and this is critical considering Chinese consumers make the majority of purchases on mobile sites.

China is, without a doubt, a mobile-first country and there is a lot of competition among businesses. Consumers will not hesitate to go to a competitor if they have a poor mobile experience. 

Making sure that users have a seamless experience when consuming content or accessing your website is crucial for engagement and brand perception — no matter the cultural identity. 

Chinese marketing mobile optimization

Connecting with new communities can be overwhelming without a lack of guidance. That’s where Sageus Strategy + Digital can help. 

As a culturally-focused marketing agency, we journey with brands to resonate with the Chinese audience through developing strategies, KOL opportunities, and media buy initiatives.

With more than two decades of combined experiences working alongside global brands and organizations, Sageus Strategy + Digital focuses on getting to know your business, and help you connect with your audience.

Headquartered in Canada, and committed to making a global, cross-cultural, sustainable impact — we’re your one-stop firm for cultivation and growth, in all areas of branding and marketing. 

Connect with us at sageuscollective.com/connect and learn more about what we do! Stay tuned for our next blog post, and follow us on Instagram, LinkedIn, or Facebook — so you won’t miss out on any updates from our Sageus Strategy + Digital Team.

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