No Single Channel Excels in China as Consumer Touchpoints Expand

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by Sophie Loras

Marketers in China face an ongoing challenge when choosing and integrating the increasing number of touchpoints needed for a positive brand experience.

Brands in China are under increased pressure to deliver consumer experiences across multiple touchpoints as digital drives ongoing media fragmentation, according to ZenithOptimedia’s latest touchpoint study.

Using a measurement of “brand experience share,” the report found an average of 14 touchpoints – across paid, earned and owned media – are needed to make up 50 percent of consumers’ brand experiences. This number is up from nine touchpoints in 2010. In addition to creating, delivering and managing content across more channels, brands have fewer dominant touchpoints of influence in China’s media landscape.

“Efforts to maximize brand experience share require integrated communications, smarter channel planning and critically, an increase in marketing investment,” says Chris Maier, head of research and analytics at ZenithOptimedia China.

Digital now accounts for one-third of brand experience share, 30 percent more than in 2010. Mobile is showing some of the greatest growth. Five years ago, mobile was among the least influential and recalled touchpoints, but has since seen a 200 percent increase in brand recall from mobile advertising, according to the report.

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While traditional television still has a role to play in a marketing strategy, online video is one medium that has developed more in China than any other country, placing fourth in terms of share of brand experience among paid touchpoints.

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Delivering Content Across Touchpoints and Channels

The study also emphasized the strong correlation between paid, owned and earned touchpoints for performance. Brands that do well on earned touchpoints also tend to perform well in paid and owned touchpoints.

“Although a seemingly obvious point, it’s necessary to stress that only having an earned or paid strategy is not right. Marketing needs to cover paid, owned and earned, and deliver a seamless and consistently distinctive experience across each,” the report said.

Patrick Xiao, director of digital marketing for hotel booking service HRS in Shanghai, says relevance is key when choosing which channels to invest in. What’s relevant depends on the brand’s marketing objective and where its target audience spends its time.

“I treat all channels equally. Your objective directs the strategy and my ultimate goal is a booking, so it’s a more transactional driver,” says Xiao. “I will take any channel if it leads to a final booking.”

Search: Content Beyond CPC

Search engines should also be considered as content channels beyond a cost-per-click (CPC) advertising model, he adds. China’s biggest search engine player, Baidu for example, offers a similar function to Ask.com with its Zhidao tool. By incorporating it into a search engine advertising strategy, branded content can be directed to the Zhidao platform when consumers search certain keywords, giving them a more in-depth view of the product or brand.

“The adage that every medium can deliver similarly as the other is observed in greater detail as the convergence of channel roles on influence and association continues,” says ZenithOptimedia’s Maier.

“The implication for marketers is how to diversify across channels, while maintaining a core spine of key media channels as well as preventing dilution. There are opportunities to embrace the overlapping roles of certain media channels and touchpoint synergies can serve guidance to developing stronger strategies,” he adds.

Vivian Yeh, marketing director of integrated consumer engagement at Mead Johnson Nutrition, agrees that search is one of the most important channels for engaging and acquiring new customers.