Unleashing The Power Of Virtual And AI-Led Marketing In China: Insights For Brands

Brand marketing in China that deploys virtual and AI technology is exerting an increasingly large impact on purchasing decisions, with consumers seeking new and exciting experiences.

The rise of AIGC (artificial intelligence-generated content) and other virtual marketing methods has drawn the attention of investors, producers, celebrities, and social platforms. Brands can expect to see more innovation and creativity in this space, led by the rapidly developing gaming, cartoon and avatar spaces in China.  

Marketers and brands stand to benefit from having a firm grasp on how virtual and AI-led marketing in China will develop through this year. ChoZan’s China E-commerce Marketing And Digital Space 2023 Mega Report outlines five tactics that brands can use to unleash the technologies’ potential.

Cross-promote with games and collaborations

Brands like Louis Vuitton are leveraging augmented reality (AR) to enhance their cross-promotion campaigns. The Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama app offers users an immersive experience whereby they can explore mini-games, unlock exclusive collections, and indulge in a virtual store experience. 

Through AR, users can become pumpkin painters, navigate a Louis Vuitton maze, and participate in activities like cultivating seeds. This innovative approach showcases how brands can integrate technology to create engaging and interactive promotional campaigns.

Louis Vuitton augmented reality campaign

The Louis Vuitton x Yayoi Kusama app offers users an immersive AR experience. Source: Reddit

Hold events for trendy characters

Brands are turning to characters and virtual personas to promote themselves in the metaverse. In an indication of its huge potential, the metaverse market is forecast by McKinsey to grow to $4 trillion to $5 trillion by 2030. Recognizing the metaverse’s importance, the MTV Music Recording Awards introduced a “Best Metaverse Performance” category in 2022. 

Additionally, brands like Coca-Cola are collaborating with platforms like Tencent Music Entertainment Group to create virtual personas that enable users to immerse themselves in a cyberpunk meta-universe for shopping and entertainment activities. 

Coca-Cola virtual personas

Coca-Cola teamed up with Tencent Music Entertainment Group to create virtual personas in a cyberpunk meta-universe. Source: WeChat

Gamify offerings and create a virtual world

Automotive brand Smart scored a big success in China in 2022 by harnessing the potential of AI, art, and business, to position itself as a brand that’s synonymous with luxury, technology, and co-creation.

Smart’s gamified content, produced in partnership with AI and internet juggernaut Baidu, captured consumer interest and drove engagement. 

The project, titled the Smart AI Co-creation Plan, invited users to contribute voice fragments inspired by natural sounds and fireworks for the music co-creation experiment.

By using Baidu’s AI technology to arrange the music and enlisting the talent of Wang Sulong for the lyrics and vocals, Smart transformed the traditional concept of brand music into an immersive and participatory experience. 

Smart partnered with Baidu and singer Wang Sulong for a music co-creation project. Photo: Smart

This gamified approach not only fostered a sense of belonging and recognition among existing Smart car owners, but it also resonated with young creators, resulting in a high level of app downloads and pre-sale orders. The success of Smart’s gamified content showcases how brands can leverage interactive experiences to engage diverse target audiences and drive business growth.

Deploy cross-branding via virtual characters

Virtual characters have emerged as a powerful marketing tool for brands in China, enabling businesses to forge emotional connections with consumers and drive sales and engagement. The popularity of these virtual characters creates exciting opportunities for brands to either make their own virtual characters, or collaborate with existing ones. 

These characters serve as brand ambassadors, promoting products and services while also generating additional revenue streams through merchandise and games. For example, Honor of Kings recently launched the women’s clothing brand Meeting Shero. The clothing line is inspired by four popular heroines from the canon: Wang Zhaojun, Xiao Qiao, Mink Cicada, and Yao. The prices for these items range from 1,298 RMB ($183) to 1,680 RMB ($237).

In May 2023, Honor of Kings launched its own womenswear brand, Meeting Shero. Photo: Honor of Kings WeChat

Brands can use virtual characters to tap the immense potential of storytelling and create immersive experiences that resonate with their target audiences. Whether through brand-created characters or partnerships with established IPs, virtual characters offer brands a unique opportunity to captivate consumers, strengthen brand loyalty, and add value.

Create and use digital collectibles/non-fungible tokens 

Digital collectibles, known as non-fungible tokens (NFT) in many parts of the world, have become integral to brand marketing strategies in China. Due to regulatory constraints, these digital assets are called “digital collectibles” and are not tradable and can’t be resold. However, they present a unique opportunity for brands to engage with fans and offer exclusive content and experiences. Brands can use digital collectibles to provide fans with access to limited-edition artwork, virtual fashion items, and exclusive interactions with their favorite celebrities or IP characters. 

Auto manufacturers like BYD, Geely Auto, and Roewe leveraged NFTs last year to generate excitement and enhance engagement. By offering digital collectibles, brands can establish a new channel for engagement, reward loyal supporters, provide access to exclusive content and merchandise, and facilitate interactions between fans and real-life celebrities. These digital assets serve as a marketing tool and foster a deeper connection between brands and their dedicated fan base in China.

To sum up, the rapid advancement of AI and widespread adoption of AR and VR technologies mean that personalized and targeted advertising and tailored content are poised to grow their role in branding and marketing. From AI chatbots to AI-generated voices and automated AI marketing tools, the efficiency of these innovative solutions is expected to soar. Businesses must embrace this trend to stay competitive and retain market share. 

By keeping up with the latest AI-driven advancements, companies can leverage the power of these tools to enhance their marketing strategies and effectively engage with their target audience. 

This is an opinion piece where all views expressed belong to the author.

Ashley Dudarenok is a Chinese serial entrepreneur, award-winning digital marketing professional and three-time bestselling author. She is the founder of China-focused digital marketing agency Alarice and digital consultancy ChoZan 超赞.


Marketing, NFT, Tech