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Reading time: 6 minutes | Author: Anne Casey
Marketing to Chinese, whether here in New Zealand or abroad is exciting. With the Chinese migrant population in New Zealand estimated to be approximately 247k and growing. This is larger than the Hamilton and Rotorua population combined, so is definitely not a segment that can be ignored by marketers anymore.
However, there are many misconceptions and a lack of understanding around how to market to this target segment. For example, a common marketing error is the lack of understanding that normal media channels in New Zealand do not reach the Chinese due mainly to the language barrier and channels frequently used by Chinese.
So, what are the top strategies that marketers can use then?
1. Was that meant to be funny? Understand what translates into Chinese and what doesn’t
As a migrant from a multicultural country (Malaysian Chinese and now definitely a proud Kiwi!), I will never forget my early years in NZ. I couldn’t understand what was so funny about the jokes that my Kiwi university mates were laughing about. Conversations felt more mundane and often, I would rather hang out with ‘my own kind’. The important lesson here is that not everything translates. With a totally different language as well as culture, often, the meaning of a communication piece can get lost. Similarly, likes and dislikes can be poles apart from a Kiwi.
Furthermore, there is the constant comparison. If you have lived overseas before, you will understand this point. As a migrant, you can’t help but constantly compare the countries you’ve lived in. For example, ‘In China we wouldn’t think of going to bed at 9 pm, everyone here sleeps so early; or no one is out and about after 8pm. In China, it is just starting to get busy!’
Yes, the points of reference are different. This means that your current positioning and brand statement may not resonate, let alone be relevant to the Chinese.
Review your brand USPs and positioning for this target segment. Do you need to tweak them? Do they actually resonate with the Chinese? Do you need a Chinese name for your brand? It is important to go beyond research. Learn and understand the cultural differences AND similarities very well. What are the comparison points used, how does the upbringing influence them?
2. Understand where Chinese turn to for information
Consider this concept of Chinese living in a city of their own – let’s call it Hainamana (Maori for Chinese), which is governed by New Zealand. This will create many differences. Firstly, the Chinese would have created a way of life that takes the best from both worlds- the country they left (mainly China) and the country they have migrated to. Strong support networks are created- from offline networks such as associations and organisations, to online WeChat groups which deeply influence their behaviour and knowledge.
Secondly, their mother tongue is a different language from that of the Kiwis. As much as the desire to learn English is there, the residents of Hainamana still feel much more comfortable in the language they are familiar with. As a result, the Hainamanains started publishing their own newspapers, magazines and broadcasting on their own TV channel and radio stations. This even extends to their own social media, online forums and adopting the dominant mobile payments that rules China – Alipay and WeChat pay.
For these reasons, when marketing to Chinese in NZ, it is key to know and understand where Chinese turn to for information.
Consideration must be given to the fact that there are multiple channels reaching and touching the Chinese, with WeChat being a key channel. However, where else do the Chinese search for information related to their lives in New Zealand?
For example, if they are of an older generation, retired or here looking after the grandchildren, often TV, radio and the newspapers are constant companions for them. If they are a student, then online discussion forums, WeChat subscription accounts or bloggers on WeChat may be the main stay.
Also, if they are searching for information relating to China, they will mainly use the Chinese Search Engine – Baidu, however for NZ info, Chinese here will most likely use Google, with simplified Chinese as the language setting.
Create a specific marketing plan for marketing to Chinese, not just adding a channel to your existing marketing communications plan.
3. What do you say and how should it be said?
How information is found, consumed and the types of information shared are different for the Chinese. Content and influencer marketing are key in marketing to Chinese, more so than branded advertising. This is a result of the lack of brand integrity that is prevalent in China where counterfeit products have been commonplace . This has forced them to trust the opinions of others more, and of Key Opinion Leaders and publishers that they have come to trust.
This also means that Chinese are a lot more open to advertorials and product placement than a typical Kiwi.
This chart below shows the kinds of articles that are most likely to be shared in WeChat. With WeChat being a social media platform as well as a major publishing platform for news sites, online media, bloggers and influencers; it is important to note that ‘useful articles’ are the kind most shared. This is unlike other social media platforms such as Facebook where memes or entertainment features are most commonly shared. Chinese consume information- ferociously!
Make sure your communication plan is right. Have the right content that resonates, communicate your message in a way that they will trust you.
4. Multilingual marketing
With marketing to the niche, it is important not to alienate the core target audience. As New Zealand is becoming increasingly multilingual, a fine balance is required so that any marketing communication that is visible to other target segments is inclusive and they feel comfortable with it. For example, printed material in a store can include some English information too so that it gives an overall understanding to others. In a similar way, when you enter a Chinese shop, there is English signage to help Kiwis out.
Consider how the visibility of your niche marketing is going to impact other target audiences. It is key to ensure that communication is inclusive and does not alienate.
5. The marketing basics still apply
Interestingly, there is a misconception that targeting the Chinese is a quick and easy way to grow revenue. Since they are a ‘new’ target segment, and not many competitors are speaking to them it should be easy to gain new business. This is true to a certain degree; you can ‘buy’ your way into this market to a certain extent with irresistible offers and deals. However, to grow long term brand loyalty, it takes much more.
This is an audience that do not trust easily and they need to know that you really are there for them and not just dipping in and out. The approach has to be seamless and constant. A brand really needs to have a sound strategy and set aside a budget. The basics still apply, a good strategy, plan and more. Being able to measure and monitor is also key – like all good marketing.
Dedicate a budget and plan for a long term approach. Be patient. It will work if all parts of your marketing wheel are aligned.
like all great marketing, marketing to Chinese takes persistence, brand building, good strategy and excellent execution. Where you water is where it will bear fruit. At the end of the day, there is no silver bullet and it is only a matter of time before all NZ marketers will need to start speaking to this segment. It is rapidly changing the face of Auckland and spreading to other regions fast.
Is your brand ready for this? If not, now is the time to start exploring.
Interested in finding out more about Chinese events? Download our 2021 cross-cultural marketing calendar.