Reckitt Benckiser might be late to enter China compared to its American counterparts (P&G and Unilever) but the British MNC is not playing catch up when it comes to digital marketing.
In April, the FMCG giant poached Jacob Tang, former Volkswagen digital marketing manager to head up digital for its China operations based in Beijing.
The Chinese-native supervises three other colleagues in the digital team. His role is to oversee the various digital agencies in their online executions and manage the budgets for the online initiatives. Meanwhile, the in-house team provides strategic direction for content.
Reckitt Benckiser has more than 100 brands globally. Since it entered China in 1995, it has introduced a handful of brands – Dettol, Veet, Finish, Vanish, and Durex into the market.
Durex is an established condom brand among the affluent consumers in China, particularly those living in the top tier cities such as Beijing, Shanghai and Guangzhou, Tang said.
The brand is also known for its edgy online campaigns in the country as well as quick to experiment with new social platforms, he added.
For example, Durex rolled out a photo contest on Dui Tang, a Chinese photo-sharing site similar to Pinterest in August.
The campaign encouraged users to post a picture that best represents passionate love on the social network.
Durex China is currently working with Mofilm to produce video content targeting youths as part of a global campaign that will launch in China first, he revealed.
The team is also busy preparing to introduce an affiliate condom brand called Me&U aimed at Chinese consumers living in the second tier cities of China such as Hangzhou, Dalian and Chengdu.
Since Tang joined in April, the team has increased investments in both organic and paid search. Their efforts paid off as traffic grew 700 percent within two months after the company focused on organic search alone.
A substantial portion of Reckitt Benckiser’s digital marketing budget will go into mobile in 2013, he noted.
Other mobile marketing initiatives in the works include tapping local mobile ad networks and exploring the integration of offline (events) and online executions using QR codes and LBS, for instance.
An advocate of mobile marketing, Tang said mobile currently provides more opportunities compared to other digital platforms in the country, as cost is lower due to lesser competition, since most brands are relatively new to digital marketing.
Although Western social networks such as Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube are not available in China, his team plans its social marketing similar to global markets but localized for the social networks in China. This means focusing their social efforts on acquiring likes on RenRen, Douban, Weibo and video sharing site 56.com.
Tang is aware of up-and-coming image-based social networks such as Meilishuo and Mogujie in the country. He suggested that they are not Pinterest clones and are unique to China.
Because these sites are based on affiliate marketing, they produce magazine-like content to drive traffic to e-commerce site Taobao and receive commission once a transaction is made.
Reckitt Benckiser works with these social sites to showcase its products that will drive users to its Taobao shops, but he did not go into details.
The British MNC plans to introduce 19 new brands to China by 2020 and forecasts sales to expand tenfold to 10 billion yuan (US$1.57billion), according to a local news report.
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Adaline Lau, ClickZ Asia editor, oversees day-to-day editorial operations covering digital marketing from search to social media, mobile to analytics in the region. Before ClickZ, she was senior reporter at Marketing Magazine and has worked as a journalist for The Singapore Marketer and Asia Pacific Broadcasting. Connect with her @adalinelau or Google+.