Brian Buchwald

Breaking into the Chinese market continues to pose a challenge for many Western-based brands.

Brian Buchwald, cofounder and chief executive officer of Bomoda, a business intelligence and data collection service centered on Chinese consumers, discussed integral nuances of the demographic.

In order to comprehend the Chinese consumer, Buchwald proposed that brands must first understand the social, shopping and communication platforms used by individuals in the region. “China is a totally unique place in terms of the digital landscape,” said Buchwald. “There is no Facebook, there is no Twitter, there is very little Instagram in China. The country’s population, size and the distribution — you have 1.4 billion people — there are huge mega-cities — far larger than anything in the States — and concurrently the countryside.”

Buchwald said Chinese consumers heavily rely on multifunctional platforms like WeChat, Weibo, or Alibaba that incorporate social networking, messaging, content sharing and naturally, shopping. Given the all-encompassing nature of these platforms, devising teams that understand their intricacies and corresponding consumer behavior is necessary.

Buchwald cited a case study that Bomoda conducted with New Balance based on its campaign “My Future Self.” The U.S. iteration of the program spotlighted Olympic athletes and their various travails to accomplish the status of a best-in-class competitor. The China version, however tapped top comedian and video personality, Papi Jiang.

“It’s not easy right now being a 20-year-old woman in China. It’s incredibly competitive. We think about the pressure from Millennials in getting jobs today. It’s even harder in China,” he said. “Women especially feel this challenge. The brand worked with Papi to create a version of this campaign, which was all about her using running as an outlet for getting rid of that stress and putting herself in a position to feel more comfortable with herself.”

The benefit? China’s campaign saw higher engagement levels than any of its Western counterparts. Buchwald said, “What the brand did, what the China marketing team did in partnership with the global marketing team was take the campaign and localize it not just with the content, not just for the celebrity but also for the state of mind in understanding who they were, what they were about, what drove them. It was a tremendous success.”

Buchwald then turned the focus to China’s gray market — third-party vendors that turn profits by selling products that aren’t directly available in the area. “The best thing that brands can do is start to combat them. One of the brands we see doing that effectively is Gucci, it now has e-commerce globally through desktops and mobile. They focus on things that really work in China like exclusive styles.” Considering cross-border platforms that take into account tax regulations and shipment policies will behoove brands looking to tap into the market.

More from WWD:

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