How Brands Use Short Videos for Marketing in China

    While Snapchat is the go-to platform for many luxury brands in the West, in China, the short video market is not so straightforward.
    About two-thirds of short video users in China are under 35 years old. (Shutterstuck)
    Jing DailyAuthor
      Published   in Retail

    As the luxury industry discusses Snapchat's marketing possibilities and, more recently, Instagram's latest filter feature, brands looking toward the China market are facing a completely different short video industry. It's one that has witnessed rapid development thanks to the popularity of smartphones and upgraded communication networks in China.

    In March this year, Kuaishou, a popular short video app, was on the receiving end of a US350 million investment from Tencent, and Alibaba put RMB 2 billion toward the transformation of Tudou from a large, formerly popular online video platform to a short video community. Also, Yixia Technology, owner of Miaopai and Xiaokaxiu, both popular short video apps in China, has already spent RMB 2 billion to encourage short video content creators and producers by building several video creation bases and providing professional studios.

    Short videos are perfect for young, tech savvy consumers who take their phone with them everywhere and use it to access social media or to fill in short breaks in the day between other activities.

    But which short video apps are the most popular in China? Who are the viewers of these short videos? How can brands market to them? What should brands take into consideration when launching short video campaigns?

    China's short video apps#

    Similar to short video platforms like Viddy and Instagram, there are numerous short video platforms and apps in China where users can record real-time short videos and share them with friends. As for users, there were 153 million regularly watching China’s short videos in 2016. This is estimated to reach 242 million by 2017, an increase of 58.2 percent.

    CIWEEK, an internet content magazine, released a list of their top 10 short video apps in China in the first half year in 2016 and Kuaishou, Miaopai, and Meipai were the most popular.

    Of these, there are actually two types of short video platform in China:

    1. Comprehensive platforms: professional short video platforms#

    These platforms, such as Meipai, Miaopai, and Xiaokaxiu, provide a one-stop user experience. Users can use various shooting tools, effect settings, and formats while filming or editing a video. They also offer a community for users to share their videos with friends. Short videos uploaded on those platforms can also be shared with WeChat friends, WeChat Moments, and Weibo.

    2. Content recommendation: news apps#

    These platforms, such as Toutiao, NetEase, Tencent News, and Yidian Zixun, focus on suggesting popular or professional short videos. These platforms were originally news-based and mass communication oriented. They have millions of viewers and short videos recommended on these platforms can get huge amounts of traffic.

    Who are the viewers?#

    The main users of China’s short video apps are young. Most of them belong to the post-90s generation. According to a report published in March 2017 by JIGUANG, a big data provider, users ages 16 to 25 make up 39.7 percent of the total, while users aged 26-35 are at 33.3 percent. Meanwhile, over half of the users are female, making them 69.4 percent of the total number of users.

    In terms of regions, 66.9 percent of the total come from third-tier and below third-tier cities in China. The top 3 provinces for viewer numbers are Guangdong, Henan, and Shandong.

    How are brands using short video?#

    Short video is becoming a new favorite marketing tool for brands for several reasons. Short videos can be used for various types of promotional materials, such as product reviews, product seeding, promoting brand culture and more. With interesting and meaningful content, short videos can deliver specific brand messages to a target audience while avoiding the annoyance that longer videos may cause. The production cycle of short videos is quick with great flexibility, which works well with brands’ marketing plans and budgets. Through audience interactions with short videos, brands can better understand their preferences, rapidly improve their user experience, and come up with effective marketing plans quickly. Integrated campaigns launched on short video platforms can be creative and diverse.

    The three cases below show some examples of how short videos are being used by brands:

    Case One: L’Oréal x Meipai#

    Since the majority of short video viewers in China are female, content for women gets a lot of attention and increases brand exposure. In October 2016, L’Oréal conducted a Halloween campaign on Meipai, encouraging users to upload and share their Halloween makeup videos for a chance to receive a free gift from L’Oréal. More than 11,000 users uploaded videos and the campaign videos got more than 60 million views.

    Case Two: Shanghai Disneyland x Meipai#

    For most brands, promoting offline traffic and sales is their main task. Shanghai Disneyland is a good example of a brand that successfully used short video for O2O marketing. When the park officially opened in June 2016, their biggest challenge was to attract new visitors. In October last year, they launched a short video campaign on Meipai, where users were encouraged to upload short videos of happy moments at the park using the hashtag #The Most Beautiful Moment in Disney Shanghai# (#最美上海迪士尼#). Then Shanghai Disneyland randomly chose participants and sent them gifts and free tickets. This campaign attracted attention from families and young consumers, helped increase park visitor numbers, and promoted sales.


    When a brand plans to open an official account on a short video platform in China and launches marketing campaigns on it, it may want to keep the following in mind:

    • Short videos are more suitable for brands in certain categories. According to their users' characteristics (most of the users are young people), they’re particularly effective for brands in the FMCG (fast-moving consumer goods) category, fashion, cosmetics, and IT.
    • Before launching campaigns through short video platforms, brands first need to choose the best one for them. On the whole, Miaopai and Meipai are recommended based on their huge user base and popularity.
    • Remember users love and appreciate creative content. Content quality is the key to the effectiveness of a campaign.
    • Celebrities and KOLs now produce the most popular content. Campaigns that cooperate with celebrities and KOLs can achieve better results.
    • Short video platforms can also be used by brands to refresh their image, release promotional information, manage customer relationships, conduct market research, deal with a PR crisis, and more.

    A version of this post originally appeared on ChoZan, a resources platform for marketers who work with WeChat, Weibo and other Chinese social media. ChoZan provides step-by step navigators, consumer trend analysis, case studies, KOL databases, help desk support and more. To learn more, check out ChoZan’s blog here.

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