Multinational brands in China are getting increasingly savvy in building buzz around their brands with Chinese consumers. The latest rage is online programming of branded entertainment series that can go viral.
Brands are increasingly bypassing traditional media such as television, which is expensive and may not reach their targeted audience, and developing programming for popular Chinese online video sites where the most desirable consumers could be found.
TV is no longer the medium of choice for most young and affluent consumers. Programming aired by China Central Television (CCTV) just don’t appeal to the under-30 group who favors foreign shows that often are found online. Many young people have accounts with some of China’s major video sites like Tudou, Youku, Ku6, Baidu’s video channel Qiyi, Sina and Sohu. YouTube is blocked in China.
“The new hot thing in China is to do something viral,” said Seth Grossman, Carat’s Shanghai-based managing director. Branded online programming “helps create connections for brands by making them relevant in environments where consumers have already chosen to visit.”
According to iResearch, China’s online video market soared 32% to 309 million last year with top sites attracting 200 million unique viewers per month.
Brands are eager to satisfy China’s insatiable appetite for digital media. Branded entertainment series are popping up everywhere in China, funded by big name consumer companies like Unilever, Ford, and Nokia.
L’Oreal, in an effort to update the image of its Chinese beauty brand Yue Sai, has developed an eight-part miniseries called “Buzz My Heart” this summer that follow the lives of three young Chinese women. “We wanted to create an online platform that engages women in a new way,” said Michelle Kwok, L’Oréal’s Shanghai-based marketing director for Yue Sai. The series, shot with film-like quality, hope to drive conversations and the campaign is loaded with different ways to engage the mostly women viewers.
While webisodes are extremely popular right now, some industry folks caution that it is too early to tell whether these short-term viral sensations can sustain deeper brand engagement. One concern is that webisodes are competing in a crowded online space whose audience typically have short attention span. Yet, Karl Cluck, partner, Invention, Asia-Pacific at Mindshare concedes, “It’s a cliché, but it all comes back to the idea. Great ideas create great, entertaining content that consumers will want to engage with and share.”
Like any great campaign, “if the content is right, the format will stick.” LG’s “Lollipop Love Story” webisodes in Thailand is a huge success story. Built around the theme of love and friendship, the webisodes aimed to promote LG’s Lollipop mobile phones among teenagers. It quickly hooked the audience and is now in its fourth month with thousands of viewers daily and tons of viewer comments. Based on market research, “99 percent of the viewers have a very good impression and show positive interest in the product and the brand.”