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Guide to Marketing in China: Advice, Strategies, Rules [2024]

China Marketing Strategies

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Key Takeaways

1. Marketing in China means having a marketing strategy tailored to the rules and customs of the Chinese market. 

2. China e-commerce rules include a requirement that advertisers be licensed.

3. Digital advertising in China means paying careful attention to popular China channels such as WeChat and Baidu. 

4. Social media advertising in China means using the platforms relevant to your target demographic, e.g., Tik Tok for teens. 

As the world’s leading trading nation and a GDP of more than $10 trillion, China is an attractive option for business expansion. However, companies cannot simply rely on the marketing strategies that they have implemented in western cultures when launching their brand in China. These marketing campaigns may not resonate with the local Chinese market.

Everything in China is different, including how consumers find the business, the social media channels that are used and rules on how to do business in the country. It is important to understand these differences. Having a strategic partner like Horizons can help you successfully market your product or service to the local Chinese community.

Marketing in China

While you might have a great product, this is not enough to secure success in marketing it to the Chinese market. There are so many products and businesses in China, so it is critical that you are able to make yours stand out.

It is critical that you have a customized China marketing plan and strategy. Having Horizons as part of your team allows you to access our significant resources, including market research and strategic consulting. We can analyze your business and products and develop a customized marketing plan for you.

China E-Commerce Rules

Many companies want to target the expansive Chinese market that has more than 1.3 billion consumers. China represents the largest group of ecommerce shoppers in the world with 30% of the cross-border ecommerce market. The Chinese ecommerce market exceeds 8.8 trillion RMB.

In one encouraged shopping day, more than $25 billion in ecommerce merchandise. Given these attractive figures, many businesses want to join the ranks of others who have successfully launched their product in China. 

China requires that any business that advertises in China obtain a license.

While a business may not necessarily need to obtain a license to sell a product in China, it will need a license to legally advertise in the country. Some businesses choose to get around this requirement by working with a trade partner who can distribute their product through their TMall or JD store.

Digital Advertising Rules in China

China has strict rules related to online access. Consumers cannot access many of the websites that are popular in the rest of the world. In China, popular websites like YouTube, Instagram, Facebook and Google are not accessible to the general public.

To form an effective digital marketing strategy, you will need to advertise on channels that are accessible and popular in China, with the key channels being:

  1. WeChat
  2. Baidu
  3. Sina Weibo
  4. Toutiao
  5. Tencent Channels

However, the process is not simply to use these channels like you might be used to in western cultures.

China Digital Marketing Platforms and Channels

china marketing
List of the most popular digital marketing channels

These channels have their own rules and requirements.
For example, advertising on Baidu requires that you make a minimum deposit of 30,000 RMB before you can get started and to create an account.

Before you can legally take part in any digital advertising, you must obtain a valid industry license. Additionally, many industries have strict rules regarding what type of advertisements you can run.

For example, if you are selling health and supplement products in the country, you will need a specific license for this purpose. Some platforms will not allow foreigners to create an account so you might need to go through a partnered agency who will manage your account and act as your media buyer.

Many businesses choose to work through an agency instead of managing their own advertisement account. Some channels require that you spend a certain amount of money each month on the account to obtain superior support. 

Horizons can discuss your advertising and marketing needs and help you develop a strategic marketing plan.

Social Media Advertising in China

Like in other parts of the world, social media advertising is an important aspect of advertising products in China. The most popular platforms in China for this purpose are WeChat and Weibo. 

As the largest channels in the country, many businesses use these two major sites to advertise their products. Most digital marketing agencies in China promote these channels.

However, there is a cost and time factor involved with using social media advertising that you should be aware of before implementing your digital marketing strategy. Additionally, other channels may better resonate with particular demographics or industries. 

As part of your digital marketing strategy, you may wish to consider other social media channels, such as:

  • Sine Weibo – This is a popular microblogging network in China
  • Tik Tok or Douyin – A popular video social media platform similar to Snapchat
  • Toudou and Youku – These are popular video sites similar to YouTube
  • Tencent QQ – This is China’s ICQ
  • Toutiao – This is a popular Ai news platform 

It is important to consider which digital channels will help you grow your business in the Asian market. This is where market research really comes in. By researching and studying your target market in China, you can determine the channels that will best position you to market your product.

Through a dedicated digital marketing strategy, you can increase brand awareness and develop a loyal customer base.

Role of Key Opinion Leaders in Chinese Marketing

In China, influencers are referred to as “key opinion leaders” or KOLs. KOL marketing is influencer marketing in which a respected person in the field advertises the product on popular social media platforms in China. These key opinion leaders are able to influence their audience, often due to their own position in the field and credibility.

While fashion and beauty blogs often feature young social media models, these key opinion leaders may have more robust backgrounds, such as tech backgrounds or healthcare providers. Because these people have credibility in their field, they are often able to influence consumers to follow their advice and purchase certain products.

However, a KOL China marketing strategy is often very expensive because these influencers usually only work for large sums of money. It is not uncommon for a large brand in China to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars to establish one KOL campaign on a platform like WeChat. KOL marketing is a key component of many large businesses’ marketing plan. 

When considering a KOL marketing campaign, it is important to ensure that the influencer you choose is suited to promote your business. There may be major celebrities that have widespread recognition, but there may also be famous influencers who are particularly relevant in certain fields who may charge less to be part of your KOL marketing strategy. 

Expert Opinion: Video on the Three Golden Rules of China Marketing

For an expert take, consider the analysis given by Tom Doctoroff, author of What Chinese Want: Culture Communism, and China’s Modern Consumer, in a lecture at the National University of Singapore (NUS) Business School, below. 

Contact Horizons to Successfully Market Your Product in China

If you would like assistance in marketing your product in the Asian market, Horizons can be a tremendous ally in this pursuit. Our experts can meet with you to discuss logistics and make recommendations regarding which China marketing platforms to use and how to successfully distribute your product in the massive Chinese market.

Additionally, we can conduct extensive market research to ensure that your marketing plans are customized to the Chinese market and will resonate with its consumers. This approach can help you better position your brand and ensure your marketing success.

To get started on your customized marketing plan, and hiring staff in China to implement that plan, get in touch with one of our China expansion specialists. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Key to sales and marketing in China is the ‘mobile-first’ element. This means a focus on viral content, and sharing algorithms on large social media platforms.

Read more in a provocative analysis What Western Marketers Can Learn from China at Harvard Business Review.

Like anywhere else, marketing in China starts with a firm strategy. This strategy should take into account: 
  1. Language
  2. Cultural differences with Chinese consumers
  3. China advertising rules
  4. China apps and web platforms, such as Baidu and WeChat. 

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