Seven sins of the marketing business in China

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850 million internet users, 78% of them have purchased products online, China is a market where every business wants to go in. I was working in Shanghai between 2004 to 2014. I was one of the early adopters who worked province to province in China for digital marketing. I saw how digital China took off in a blazing speed year by year.

Today we have a divided world. People said eventually we were going to have two internets, one in China and one for the rest of the world. Let’s ignore the political sentiment, but China represents 50% of the global digital market which is quite true to me. This 50% isn’t counted by size. It is the habit when most of the people of all ages are so adopted to use technology to run errands, manage business, maintain relationship, do everything on everyday in digital way.

Something you may not know like Google is still operating in China; in 2018, China was Facebook’s second-largest ad market; 93% of the population in China have used the QR code on daily basis. Alright, a digital China is not new. I am sure you’ve read some news or come across some first-person experience from your friends of friends who had been amazed by how people master technology in China. But if you think the digital booming is a gold rush for digital marketing in China, then I have to share with you what could be the other 50% that might keep you away from finding the gold.

There are things that I don't like in China working for marketing. I call these the seven sins of China marketing. Click To Tweet

It’s a sin

Here are the things that I don’t particularly like in China for the marketing business. I call these the seven sins of China marketing.

  1. It is predicted that 52% of China’s sales will take place online in 2021. But do you know the online sales funnel in China is extremely short? The sales outcomes are almost linked directly with the marketing (sort of). There is no first and second moment of truth, or whatever stage of consideration and establishing preference. The path to purchase has been replaced by the shout, urge, and buy. I don’t know your feeling about the old TV shopping channel. Now let’s imagine everything in marketing is on the same live-streaming shopping channel where a host is shouting for sales and urging for orders. Everyone in the marketing business is an opinion leader who tries to sell you a thing.
  2. Analytics are completely ignored. When sales can happen instantly, why bother analyzing the data?
  3. The agency working culture is toxic. Everything must compete against time. A normal lead time from receiving a brief to preparing a marketing proposal, then pitch and kick off the work are packed in a 7 to 10-day timeline.
  4. Because time is short, marketing agency’s works become a labor-intensive sweat mode with 72 working hours per week by norm.
  5. Although it is a blooming market, the homogenization has wiped out the creativity. Digital marketing becomes an assembly line to produce for the mass interest.
  6. The marketing data transparency is low. Data sources are scarce and difficult to validate. Marketing decision is based on subjectivity instead of scientific process.
  7. Easy to get in, reluctant to get out. Why said so? Well, because the market looks lucrative, when the temptation turns addiction, the gambler mindset leads to a decision to keep betting for return.

These are my opinion based on personal experience. I guess a marketer’s job has not always been an easy-peasy journey to navigate. If you plan to explore China market, then you should set the expectation right and brace yourself.

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