11 Lessons American Companies Can Learn From Chinese Brands

Chinese markets are thriving and there is no denying in that! The communist-turned-capitalist country has been thriving by all leaps and bounds; it now houses some of the world’s most lucrative brands.

But have you ever wonder if there is any secret sauce behind the booming success of Chinese brands? Here in this post, we have accentuated some of the lessons that American brands need to learn from Chinese brands. Let’s read along!

Being Globally Available

Running a brand demands a whole lot more than just sitting back, looking at the stats, crunching numbers, and devising strategies. In this highly connected world, your consumers must feel a sense of connection with your brand. You have to be there for your customers to get the ball rolling.

During the high profile IPO roadshow of Alibaba, its CEO – Jack Ma visited ten cities across the globe to represent the brand. He gave interviews and accepted the guest spots offered by almost all global business media outlets. The company, moreover, published engaging videos and informative articles using all valuable offline and online platforms to reach the audience across the world. He personally invested his time meeting different government officials, attending international meet-ups, and planning trade associations to make the company reach new heights of success.

Jack Ma (source: Jing Daily)

Valuing Customer Suggestions

Investing customer feedback into the product makes your customers feel a sense of belonging to the company. They feel more connected and valued when their response gets noticed. According to Xiaomi’s Vice President, Hugo Barra, the product managers of the company spend a fair share of their time in skimming through the comments left by the customers on the company’s user forum. The feedback is then constructively used to make amendments and embedding new features in the product.

Hugo Bara (source: recode.net)

According to Xiaomi’s CFO, Mr Shou Zi Chew, there was a case when a consumer reported the inconvenience of finding the flashlight app when he got drunk and also suggested the smartphone to enable the flashlight by long pressing the fingerprint sensor. Everyone including the users and the teams liked the suggestions and now this is a built-in feature of the Mi UI.

Personalization with Geo Targeting

Chinese brands have mingled the branding strategies with hyper local geo-targeting to provide their customers with more personalized marketing content.

One suitable example of which is the “shake nearby” features in WeChat app that enables the users to locate and connect with the outlets and retailers in their vicinity and receive hyperlocal content (including emails, customer coupons, deals, membership cards and so on).

Information Partnerships

Many American brands think that information partnership has something to do with consultancy. In contrast, in China it’s a whole lot more than that. Different Chinese brands are leveraging on customers data by cementing formal partnerships with other entities. These partnerships may include technological integrations to improve marketing automation.

Lego, for instance, announced an information partnership with Tencent, which will allow the toy company to capitalize on the Tencent’s customers data in order to personalize marketing automation strategies that can allure the youth.

Tencent (source: asia.nikkei.com)

Stay Brave and Bold

According to Facebook’s CEO, Mark Zuckerberg, “in a world that’s changing really quickly, the only strategy that is guaranteed to fail is not taking risks”. Brands that take risks, innovate new ideas, and stay bold are the brands that people notice. Xiaomi has a personality of its own that makes it outperform other similar brands in the market. The word ‘Xiaomi’ means ‘millet’ which connects the brand with China’s communist past, as the name is believed to stem from the revolutionary idiom”xiaomi jia buqiang” meaning ‘millet and rifle’.

The cuddly rabbit in Xiaomi’s former logo design wearing an Ushanka (Lei Feng hat) and a red scarf of Young Pioneers (Soviet Union’s youth organization) represented a combo of contemporary and postmodern cultures in a charming and edgy way. Logos—these days—need to be outside the box and thus the brands should team up with their logo design company to carve a logo that can effectively sum up their whole story and present a distinctive persona.

Focus on the word of mouth advocacy

We, as social animals, love to exchange ideas and experiences with others in our circle. Posting one’s experience at a restaurant or café on social media is nothing new! We have all been there and done that. This is what constitutes “word of mouth marketing”. It involves circulating the information of a brand or product organically through natural channels.

The Shenzhen-based Chinese smartphone company, OnePlus has earned a user-base through word-of-mouth marketing. The wonders of digital media may be astounding, but the company also leveraged the offline mediums for marketing. Back in 2016, to launch its OnePlus 3 smartphone, the company kicked off a Euro tour covering important cities of Europe, bringing the smartphone to people instead of waiting for the consumers to come to them. This helped the company achieve a global customer-base, with only 20 percent of its customers being Chinese.

The line just after the opening countdown.(source: Androidpit)

Capitalize on the mobile videos

Mobile video advertising is the current big thing in the marketing arena, especially in China. During the third quarter of 2017, the mobile video advertising market in China acquired 8.657 billion RMB ($1.257 billion USD). By launching “vertical screen” video advertisements, Douyin shed light upon the role of mobile in branding. Many brands such as Chevrolet, Airbnb, and Harbin Beer utilized the platform to share short video ads that resulted in 5 million views and over 30K likes.

mobile videos (source: unsplash)

Brands that are planning to embed videos into their marketing strategies can gain a substantial amount of exposure through mobile video advertising across the globe. With the right knowledge regarding ad formats and insights into serving ads, brands can get the best out of mobile video promotion.

Power of influencers

It won’t be wrong to say that 2017 was the year of influencer marketing. Brands rushed to the renowned influencers to engage their audience and increase sales. Putting its online reputation at the whim of influencers turned out as a great move for Chinese brands too. While Alipay’s 12.12 “Shopping Holiday” was in action, the company invited Ms Yeah—a famous KOL—to interview eight other influencers and recommend different products to the followers. The video series received more than 200 million views.

Similarly, to launch its Goodweird campaign, Lenovo used three renowned YouTubers, namely Mathew Santoro (U.S.), EeOneGuy (Russia), and the Viral Fever (India). All three created a unique video celebrating everything Goodweird. They were provided with the production assistance. Lenovo further arranged a #Goodweird global dance off featuring the three Youtube stars that eventually went viral. The Goodweird video series attained 3401 million views, 177 thousand comments and 1.4 million likes. This further resulted in an upsurge of brand awareness by 10 percent and an increase in traffic by 11 percent to the microsite of the Goodweird campaign.

Staying Green and Eco-Friendly

With pollution increasing exponentially, many countries including China have noticed that health and well-being have become big trends. From vegan beauty products to free-range meat, consumers are changing their lifestyle. Many clothing brands in China are using sustainable material throughout their clothing line, use natural dyes derived from plant extracts to reduce the usage of chemicals.

The growing sustainability trend in China is also being backed by the Government policy, led by the environment leadership goal of Xi Jinping and high hopes pinned to achieve blue skies within a period of three years.

Live Streaming

Live streaming has been on the rise in China. China’s key microblogging platform, Weibo, reported that it has added over 30 agencies aimed at managing content and the presenters on the platform. Many Chinese brands have been partnering with KOLs to reach their target audience via live streaming.

Victoria’s Secret during its annual runway show hosted in Shanghai started a live streaming session on Youku. Facilitated with the ‘see now, buy now’, feature on the live streaming platform, users were able to order the items they were seeing on the runway on Alibaba‘s e-commerce platform by simply clicking the product links on the website.


Trends change, what was fad yesterday is now obsolete. Chinese brands have been pacing up with the rapid evolution in the digital marketing landscape. It is also crucial for western brands to keep their marketing strategies adaptable. They have to figure out what works in the present digital age and need to innovate their own versions.

Social media can be a crucial key player in revealing the ways to connect with the customers in real-time. At times, the brands need to revamp their marketing strategies halfway just because of some miscalculations about customer response. Brands need to listen to their audience and adapt accordingly.

To Wrap Up

Getting a business up and running may be a one-time thing, but maintaining—if not increasing—its sales and customer-base is challenging; and if you are not conforming to the innovations and constantly-changing dynamics of the industry, your business/brand is surely lagging behind. China’s brands are using their agility and financial muscle to the utmost. Using the lessons from these brands and benefiting from the insights can be considerably helpful for the American brands to thrive in the global markets.

Featured photo credit to Wall Street Journal