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Marketing to Chinese consumers outside China using Facebook and Google

September 15, 2020 |   Ada Wang

When it comes to marketing to Chinese consumers, understandably much of the focus is directed to those within China. But there is often a substantial Chinese population located within your own country’s borders. In Australia, for example, according to the latest census data, there are over 1.2 million people of Chinese ancestry. Migration from China is also continuing to trend upwards – at the end of June 2018, there were over 650,000 Chinese-born migrants living in Australia, more than twice the number at June 2008. After the UK, China is the second-largest migrant community in Australia.

Then there’s of course the thousands of Chinese students that arrive on our shores each year. In 2019, there were over 150,000 Chinese international students, and while this number will have dipped quite substantially in 2020, thanks to the pandemic, we expect numbers to rebound in the coming months and years.

In a previous post, we discussed how WeChat is a key channel for marketing to Chinese consumers outside China. But there is also a case to be made for using Western channels like Facebook and Google. Here, we take a closer look at why Google and Facebook are important channels and how brands can use them to target Chinese consumers outside of China.

Why Google and Facebook are key channels in marketing to Chinese consumers outside China

Multi-channel marketing is more effective

An integrated marketing campaign across multiple channels works much better than a single-channel approach. If you’re already creating assets to use on WeChat or in offline channels like newspapers or magazines, it won’t take much extra budget to adapt your assets to Facebook and Google and purchase some ad spend, but your return-on-investment will likely be higher.

Allows you to grow your capacity for multicultural marketing

Around the world, particularly in highly multicultural countries like the US, the UK and Australia, there is a growing trend of multicultural marketing, which, according to Hubspot, is “devising and executing a marketing campaign that targets people of different ethnicities and cultures within a brand’s overarching audience”.

There are several advantages associated with multicultural marketing:

  • Allows you to serve previously untapped markets: In multicultural societies like Australia, there are many ethnic communities that remain underserved by brands that typically target the majority ethnicity or culture. Multicultural marketing allows you to reach out to these untapped markets, and potentially expand your sales base and grow your revenue.
  • Allows you to stay relevant in a competitive marketplace: As societies continue to grow in diversity, being flexible enough to be able to adapt to a changing marketplace and appeal to different demographics will stand your brand in good stead. As a report by the US-based Center for Multicultural Science states, “The sooner brands understand what [demographic] changes mean for their business, the sooner they can align their growth plans to the changing demographic landscape and drive revenue with the new mainstream.”
  • Promotes diversity and inclusion: Acknowledging different ethnicities and cultures through your marketing can be a powerful way to promote diversity and inclusion, so if these are important values to your brand, multicultural marketing is one way to communicate this.
  • Appeals to the youth market: Evidence shows that the youth are not only highly receptive to multicultural marketing, but that there are becoming more multicultural themselves. “Youth is on the side of the multicultural population, which is an asset for companies looking to build brand equity and long-term value,” says the Center for Multicultural Science. “It also speaks to the importance of Millennials and Generation Z, which are largely multicultural by definition.”

Due to their ubiquitousness and sophisticated targeting capabilities, Facebook and Google are both key channels for digital multicultural marketing.

“Brands should think digital first and develop integrated marketing communication plans across their growth segments. Digital at this point is not at the heart of multicultural marketing, which we believe needs to change,” the Center for Multicultural Science states. 

Can have a higher engagement

While many Chinese users outside China still use Chinese platforms such as WeChat and Weibo, there are still significant numbers on Facebook and Google. On Facebook, for example, there are 350,000 Chinese users in Australia. Unlike Chinese platforms, though, much of the content and ads on Facebook and Google are typically geared towards the majority ethnicity.

Because of this, campaigns that specifically target Chinese consumers can stand out from the crowd and therefore achieve more cut-through. There is evidence that Chinese language ads have a higher click-through rate (CTR), because the use of Mandarin jumps out at users and is more familiar to them, and therefore feels more targeted towards them.

How to use Facebook and Google to target Chinese consumers outside China

Google and Facebook ads

Facebook display ads and Google PPC ads are excellent tools for spreading awareness, particularly as their sophisticated targeting options (such as by language or by socio-demographic) mean you can easily get them in front of Chinese consumers.

It may be worth experimenting and doing some A/B testing to see what works for your particular target audience. For example, while evidence suggests Chinese language ads may result in a higher CTR, a 2019 study suggests that ‘mono-ethnic marketing’ is much less effective than ‘multi-ethnic marketing’ when targeting millennials in particular, as mono-ethnic marketing can seem almost too targeted and even a bit manipulative. A younger demographic may be more drawn to an ad with diverse models, written in English, than an ad with only Chinese models, written in simplified Chinese.

Brands also have to be very wary of stereotyping and highly attuned to cultural nuances, as any mis-steps can have a highly negative effect on your brand perception.

That said, it’s a balancing act.

“One also needs to find a balance in the level of customisation so that it’s not so specific that the segment becomes too small or unprofitable to target and yet it’s not so generalised that it will not be effective,” says Dr Geetanjali Saluja, marketing lecturer at the University of Technology, Sydney.

Facebook company page

Just as Chinese consumers may use WeChat and other social media apps like Little Red Book to get reviews and recommendations from their peers, they may also use Facebook in the same way. It’s a good idea, therefore, to set up a Facebook company page where users can leave product reviews.

This can also be a great way to attract followers and build a community, so you can continue building a relationship with these prospective customers. A company page also allows users to speak to you directly via the chat function, so you can answer any questions and respond to any comments in a timely way. This type of dedicated customer service is looked on very favourably by Chinese consumers in particular.

For these reasons, a Facebook company page can be a good tool for nurturing leads in the sales funnel.

Google and Facebook remarketing

Once you’ve established a relationship with a prospective customer, Google and Facebook remarketing – placing ads in front of people who have previously interacted with your website or mobile app – can be a great way to build on that relationship and keep your brand and product front of mind. This is another good way to nurture leads.

Google SEM and SEO

There is evidence that Chinese search engines like Baidu are gaining in popularity outside of China. That said, many Chinese consumers will also rely on Google as it will likely produce more locally relevant results. It can therefore be worth including Chinese consumers as a target audience in your search engine optimisation and search engine marketing strategy, as this can be another useful lead nurturing tactic.

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