China: Digital Marketing Trends for 2011

Following rapid development last year, digital marketing is still going to be the overwhelming trend facing all advertisers in 2011. The concept is no longer new. More and more, brand owners are making heightened use of digital media to engage their target consumers, but the most challenging thing is how to use it. Marketers must develop a systematic ‘skill set’ to thrive in the digital arena. How to use the right channel at the right time with the right performance and achieve the right result? We need to know the competitive advantages and opportunities for different digital solutions in order to develop a clear map for integrated digital planning.

In 2011, major digital trends include social marketing (microblog), content marketing (product placement), mobile marketing (location-based services), accountability (result-oriented), and integration (cross media). These will be the focus points for all advertisers, agencies, and media owners.

Social marketing: At the end of October 2010, when the number of Sina microblog users exceeded 50 million, the role of microblog shifted from ‘new media’ to ‘hot media’. Not only Sina, organisations such as Sohu, Netease, and Tencent also are competing to expand their activity in this space. Microblogging services are rapidly gaining popularity in China. Kai-Fu Lee, one of the most prominent figures in the Chinese Internet sector and founding president of Google China, even expressed his New Year’s wish to invite five friends to open microblog accounts. Let’s assume if only half of all microblog users from Sina, Sohu, and other microblog operators will do so, the total user number will reach 200 million! How to make optimal use of this highly influential and potential media platform is the point we need to consider seriously. In the beginning, pioneers who enter this arena might stand out. But when everybody joins, the key to success will be ‘content’.

Content marketing: Content is the most important of all social marketing. It could be divided into two types: sponsorship and product placement. Sponsorship is to get as much exposure as possible for branding logos or products through big events. The model is more like direct advertising. Product placement (embedded marketing) is a softer way to display branded goods in a movie, television show, or plug-in components. Examples include the TV show produced by Hunan TV at the Chinese Spring Festival Gala, “Let’s Go Watch Meteor Shower Again” and a recent popular movie named “If You Are The One Ⅱ“. Your content should be interesting and relevant enough to encourage audience engagement in a natural way. Good placement will make the audience say, “It would be nice if I had that”, while bad placement can even make an originally good or average image worse. And the worst thing is, the negative message will also be spread all over at a speed you can never imagine through social marketing tools. So be careful with your content while doing social marketing.

Mobile marketing: Mobile marketing will be the challenge that all marketers must face this year, not only due to the development of emerging low-tier markets, but because of the fast upgrading of new technologies. Traditional banner is cheap and has good effects, but the visual impact is not as strong as that of computer screens due to limited size. New technologies such as location-based services (LBS) and augmented reality (AR) bring new possibilities to mobile marketing. The popularity of smartphones (iPhone, Android) also raises a series of questions to us: Do we need to do apps? What to do? How to update and maintain the content? Can LBS be used? How can we make fancy AR? Mobile is a very personal media with high customisation. It gives free rein to all kinds of possibilities in our marketing solutions. So let’s think outside the box.

Accountability: New media needs new monitoring tools and methods. What is the effective tool and method for digital media? For example, we cannot judge whether a microblog is successful only by the number of followers. We need to see to what extent followers are interacting with you. As for product placement, it is impossible to evaluate results by number of clicks. Can the number of app downloads be set as the criteria? If the click is less than 0.2 percent, what other criteria can be adopted to prove the effect of Internet advertising? Can traditional media monitoring tools such as GRP and SOV be applied to Internet advertising? Do we need to emphasise more on the depth (interactivity) or width (number)? These are all challenging questions facing us in 2011.

Cross media: When “CBN Weekly”, “The Bund”, and “Modern Weekly” all have iPad versions, should the advertising on them be digital or traditional? We already have the technology to combine traditional media with mobile media (which can be seen from some World Cup campaigns). The problem is how to deliver innovative ideas based on the technologies. When traditional media and digital media integrate, how do we monitor the result? In 2011, “One ad applies for all” does not exist anymore. The challenge for us is how to make optimal use of both media and to achieve the result that delivers “1 + 1 > 2”.

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