The Challenges for Content Marketers in China

By Natasha Jackson
April 12th, 2016


Content marketing follows the same rules in every market, right? Yes and no. And when that market is as large – and important – as China, it’s better to accentuate the positive and learn how to do tailor your message…fast.

Content marketing clearly isn’t new but when Forward set up an office in Shanghai in 2012 content marketing was relatively unknown in China. Brands that had heard of content marketing considered, planned and created their content as advertising. Our biggest challenge then was simply lack of awareness and understanding of the role and value of content to consumers and brands alike.

Lack of awareness is no longer a challenge. According to PR Newswire, 31% of companies in China reduced traditional advertising budgets in 2015 and reallocated those funds to content marketing and new media. Content marketing is now THE industry buzzword in China as brands look for new ways to look to reach consumers both locally and globally.

Which makes today’s challenge no longer about generating awareness of content. This rapid pace of change has generated a suite of new challenges that stem from the lack of understanding of what content marketing actually is. That means education. Or a different level of it. My colleagues at Forward describe content marketing as: “The formation of insight-driven content strategies and the creation, curation and commissioning of relevant, engaging content on behalf of brands that drives consumer interaction and action”.

Our focus now is to educate brands in China about how to be truly relevant and add value to their target customers lives, driving brand warmth and ultimately sales.

Here are some of our top tips about how to win with content in China. The good news? These tips work everywhere:

Listen to your consumers

Don’t create and plan content for the sake of creating content. Use data and insights to inform every piece of content you create. Content that tells a story and is context with your consumers’ lives will drive the most return.

Act global, think local

Ensure that global messages are relevant to the local market. Every word, phrase, photo, video, and gif should feel totally authentic or relevant. Consumers have to understand why brands are providing content to them – they have to have permission. Transcreate content rather simply translate.

Be relevant and in the places your consumers are

Or in other words, be effective and on WeChat.

Chinese consumers are becoming more sophisticated and expect personalized experiences. Use customer data and insights to inform the message. Ensure that the message is available on WeChat. This super brand is the go to location for consumers to engage with brands with over 650 million active users on the platform right now.

Think video and visual first

According to Statista 70% of all people in China engage with video online. Consumers have a deeper affinity with brands that offer richer experiences via video. Stories told through visuals also are proven to drive the most conversion according on Youku.

Optimise for SEO

Obvious, right? Well not so much if you are used to optimizing for Google. Ensure your team is fully aware of the nuances of Baidu.

Content Marketing will continue to grow and evolve in China, largely due to the continued development of Tier 3 and 4 cities. Much like the rest of the world, the youth market in these regions is likely to introduce a series of new content marketing trends. We can’t predict what they will want from us content marketers in the future but I think it’s safe to say that they will still be using WeChat – on the metro, in the shower, at a restaurant, on a scooter, anywhere basically. Well, for the next few years anyway….

About the Author

  • natasha-jackson profile pic
    Natasha Jackson
  • Natasha Jackson, Chief Strategy Officer of Bookmark, publishers of Sparksheet) has extensive experience working with global brands to help them connect to customers with content. She is as passionate about content marketing as she is as passionate about shoes (she loves shoes).