Digital transformation in China has now entered the latter half as traditional enterprises start to flex their muscles. Under this backdrop, many enterprises are looking for new ways to build and develop more meaningful connections with consumers. The META model, which stands for the Maintain, Evolve and Transform Approach, applies the core components of traditional marketing but changes how these concepts are achieved.

In the last article of this series, we discussed when brands need to maintain a clear positioning. In this article, we will dive into how companies should evolve their brand-building model for China.

Evolve by Choosing a Target Audience

Identifying an audience target and understanding its needs is fundamental to brand building. Traditionally, consumer segmentation is done by collecting data related to the consumer’s demographics, characteristics, behaviors and attitudes, and then prioritizing the resulting segments according to their size and business value. When a market opportunity presents itself, brands can start their targeted brand building based on these identified segments.

When compared to the past, the data collected in the digital age differs widely in depth and breadth, empowering brands to recognize their target consumers groups. Online sales now occupy more than 50 percent of total sales in the consumer goods category. This widespread use of mobile commerce has brought brands more comprehensive and accurate snapshots of consumers at different stages of their purchasing journey: from knowledge, interest and purchases, to loyalty. In terms of depth, it is now possible to capture the full range of behavioral data throughout a consumer’s lifetime through tag-tracking and multi-dimensional data integration.

Traditional consumer targeting is mainly based on the value of “purchasing power.” But in China, the role of KOLs is significantly higher compared to in the West. Chinese consumers are much more likely to trust a peer review than an official one. Plus, the importance of social media platforms amplifies peer influence. Marketers need to recognize the power of influencers in the culture and start nurturing potential brand advocates early instead of solely putting their focus on the purchasing potential at this stage.

Today, brands can use data to identify micro-targets within a broader audience. When brands target micro-segments, they can tailor different promotions, communications and even products to make more personally relevant brand experiences. It is worth noting that micro-segmentation’s value is not dependent on how fine the segments are. Brands must combine its core capabilities and unique product functionalities to balance the extent and quantity to which micro-segmentation is implemented in order to yield the most meaningful results.

In addition, brands also need to take into consideration the role of key opinion influencers (even if they may not be within their target segment) in their business decisions and investments, shifting the focus from serving “impulse purchases” to tending to the “customer lifecycle”.

Through working with Alimama, Dyson decided to change its approach by performing micro-segmentation within “the 10 percent family with taste.”.

Dyson used big data to identify a micro-targeted segment of consumers, and tested which communications, products and offers would help them break to this audience. Micro- segment was developed by a continuous process of pre-data fishing, medium-term tracking and long-term insight precipitation. This helped Dyson broadly capture potential consumer data and pinpoint shoppers in several phases, including interest, purchase and loyalty. Through the evolved target segmentation, Dyson is now highly relevant to different segments of different sex and of varying income level. Dyson’s awareness is rising, with a recent effort generating two million hits in 15 days.

Evolve Planning

The digital age has brought a change in the path in the consumer journey. With Chinese market as one of the leaders for the global trend of integration from online and offline, consumers are no longer on a linear path to purchase, instead they engage in complex behaviors across multiple touchpoints. This omnichannel behavior, facilitated by technology and increasingly content- centered, is making the annual planning approach obsolete as it requires a continuous planning mindset to keep pace with customers.

In planning, content has become one of the biggest challenges many brands face. Many of the content put forth by brands today is decentralized and only utilizes single individual points. It is often only created to serve a single marketing campaign and lacks strategic alignment overall, which in turn serves little value to brand building. Today, content planning needs to be changed as target audiences are growing increasingly segmented.

Brands need to evolve from the traditional to the modern – from strategic planning based on a linear set of brand touchpoints to integrated planning based on multiple omnichannel and experiential presence. Such a shift will help brands strategically select the best content planning model as a guide for implementation.

Today’s travelers move in much more sophisticated and omnichannel ways. Therefore, Marriott had to look at customer experience with a broader, more complex perspective. During the traveler’s pre-travel considerations – from inspiration, search, booking to planning to post-travel sharing – these various stages must be woven together in order to plan and implement the corresponding content. For example, the WeChat “Concierge Desk” is specially designed for outbound tourists, and the joint venture with Alibaba’s Fliggy provides a better user experience for travelers across their whole journey.

Final Thoughts

Cultural, economic and technological changes in China have created an extraordinary opportunity for both local and multinational companies. But the old way of doing business is no longer delivering results. Our META model, inn partnership with Alimama, can help companies adapt their brand-building strategies for today’s unique Chinese market.

This article was published in the September 2019 edition of the CEIBS Business Review. Read the original article in Chinese on the CEIBS website.

Download the full whitepaper to learn more about the META Model and stay tuned for the final article of this series, where we will discuss how businesses should Transform their brand-building methods in the digital China.

Contact us to learn how you can apply the META brand-building model to your company to unlock growth in China.