As the most popular Wechat account in Dubai, Dubairen - Seeniun Media's publication brand - is honoured to conduct an exclusive interview with H.E.Rashed Matar Alsiri Alqemzi, Consul General of UAE in Shanghai and the youngest Consul General in the history of the UAE. He shares with us his experience and perspective of China, and determines to build a bridge between two countries and help people discover the synergy between Dubai and Shanghai.
Our guest moderator is Yang ErChe Na Mu (Namu Yang), one of the best-selling authors.
Have you heard of the Chinese magazine Dubairen?
H.E. Rashed Alqemzi: Of course. I know that Dubairen WeChat is very popular. Not only the consulate but also our Embassy in Beijing knows Seeniun media. We know that the magazine serves is popular with many Chinese people in Dubai because they can find in your platform the information when they want about restaurants, bars, and entertainment facilities. Thank you for providing information to Chinese people around the world.
How did you feel when you were selected to go to China, especially to a vibrant city like Shanghai?
H.E Rashed Alqemzi: I am very proud and happy that I didnot hesitate to accept this posting from my country. Shanghai and Dubai have many similarities as well as many differences. Both cities have modern architecture, an international work rhythm, both are major stages for setting fashion trends.
Within 9 months, I have seen and learnt a lot. Chinese culture is so rich and colourful. I always remember my first time watching Beijing opera. I enjoyed every move and tune even though I didn't fully understand the format.
When was the first time you learnt about China?
H.E. Rashed Alqemzi: My earliest memory of China came from my brother, who is a fan of the Kungfu star Bruce Lee. He had affixed a photo of Bruce Lee next to the bedside. My first impression was that China was very far away and an ancient country, similar to how many Chinese think about our deserts being very far away and desolate. When I was young, I never thought that one day I would come to work here with my family and children.
What about your first Chinese food experience? Was it difficult to use chopsticks that time?
H.E. Rashed Alqemzi: When I was young, I mixed Japanese sushi with Chinese food. I had no affection on Sushi because we didn't like raw food. Until later I went to a proper Chinese restaurant. The first dish, hot spicy shrimp, was delicious and completely different from my misconception about Chinese food. (laugh)
Fortunately, the restaurant owner was very thoughtful. In case the Emirati didn’t know how to use chopsticks, he would attach the bases of two chopsticks together, easier to use.
Do you drink Chinese tea in Dubai?
H.E. Rashed Alqemzi: We like black tea and drink mostly Indian tea. But our tea trays are from China. Tracing back to the Silk Road time, Chinese tea trays were exchanged to the Arab World. The name of the tray in Arabic became known simply as "China”.
In ancient times, cultural and economic exchanges between China and the Middle East took place along the Silk Road, which depended on camels and horse back. Throughout the history, China and the Middle East learned and benefited from each other both culturally and economically. The longer I live in China, the more I feel that I need to learn more about Chinese culture. Now, I have the advantage to explore the country with my own eyes. Meanwhile I read Arabic versions of the Chinese books to discover and feel the country's profound cultural background and vitality.
Since you came to China, have your friends in Dubai had any changes in their views about China?
H.E. Rashed Alqemzi: Oh, of course! First of all, they are really glad that I come to China. In just a few months, four groups from my family have visited Shanghai. They were surprised at the modernisation, speed of change and overwhelmed by the beauty of China.
Now, the work is very busy. A lot of delegations come to China. The One Belt and One Road Initiatives create more business opportunities as well as more cultural exchanges. The Chinese expats community in Dubai is also growing year by year. Did I tell you the good new? Now, kids in Dubai can study Chinese as part of curriculum, together with Arabic and English.
**Dubairen, Mandarin Timeout for the Chinese community in Dubai, is the go-to-source for the events, bars and restaurants and special offer. Its successful integration of print, online and social media channels is the best example of its integrated marketing speciality.
It is a monthly series where we selected the most interesting and worthing learning social campaigns to share with you, as well as introduce the social tools and campaign formats.
Alibaba Singles Day Ghost H5
When Alibaba brand-platform Tmall was busy with bombarding the customers with all the brands, online and offline, towards the Singles Day Sale, Alibaba Group utilised the momentum to promote its AI design tool by shooting the spotlight on the designers and the mountains of artwork to be produced for the sale.
It is a simple H5 in function, but the idea revokes the emotions and voice are close to the whole interactive video lasts 3min 20s, a conversation between a virtual user and the Alibaba AI designer (Alibaba’s Siri!) The black background and colourful texts are full of wiz and slangs, funny. The H5 doesn’t focus on the Single Day itself, but chooses a different angle to reveal the fact that thousands of creative and high-quality leaflets for Single Day campaign are created by Alibaba’s AI tool.
Lego on Zhihu & Knowledge Marketing
“What funny behaviours have you observed from your babies?” This seems to be a normal daily question on Quora raised by a passionate young parent, but actually Lego asked this question on their official Zhihu page, Chinese alternative of Quora and a boutique social platform with middle-class audience. It turned out to be a viral online campaign which has been viewed for 42k times and received a dozen of high quality answers.
The question itself contains neither Lego related keywords nor a clear brand sale but the strategy aligns with the brand messaging. Parents share their own experience and actively engage with other users who left the comments. Clearly, Lego hit the target: Those who participate in the online discussion are the target audience – new generation of well-educated parents. Lego doesn't stop at the question, it included a QR code to its H5 page in the answer. The quality traffic generated on Zhihu was smoothly led and to its H5 and Wechat. The H5 page is a mini knowledge hub to imply the answers responding to the question the brand itself asked on Zhihu. It educated parents for the kids' sports, language, recognition skills, emotional behaviour,
Zhihu - A mainstream niche social platform
Zhihu is a niche social platform compared to Weibo and Wechat. But over 80% of Zhihu users have bachelor degree, which means Zhihu gathers people on the top of knowledge pyramid. The insightful and serious content and content quality are the top priority for the platform and brands.
Brands' Zhihu strategy has also changed over the years.
In the early stage, brands search for the existing questions with brand keywords or highly related topics, answer the questions and show their professional insights. Brands, later on, would collaborate with Zhihu KOLs, so that the prestigious KOLs will raise a brand-related topic and have a light touch on the brand message, or launch a Live discussion.
Now, from Lego's recent successful case, we can see that the brand changes its role from a questioner to an answerer, proactively build the community and integrate different digital channels.
The 11th Nov, originally marketed as Singles Day and later promoted into an online shopping fest by Alibaba in China, now become the largest shopping day in the whole universe. The sales smashed its record going up from USD15bn in 2016 to more than USD20bn in 2017 on Alibaba platforms alone, In comparison, Prime Day by Amazon reached USD1bn revenue in 2017.
On the 9th year of this shopping fest, what's the new tactics behind? Our findings are that offline is playing a crucial role in creating the awareness and engagement, and luxurious brands finally join in the battle in a different way.
Offline Ads Drive Awareness
Two weeks from 11th Nov, you can already see Tmall's ads occupying the top spots in Shanghai metro stations. Tmall collaborates and cross-promotes with big brands on the platform. Waves of its signal cat-shaped frame filled with big brand names prepare you for the big promo. Its direct competitor, JD.com also purchased the ads opposite to Tmall's with the same red colour and big 11.11 sign.
Besides, the brands themselves set up Tmall entrance and the big Singles Day promo slogan in the physical stores, expecting the in-store experience would later convert into online purchases (see below). Guerlain took its Singles’ Day play offline by sending sales reps to China to offer two-hour appointments for Tmall’s luxury shoppers to make a personalised perfume.
Tmall Dream House
Tmall Pop-up store is not a new concept, but the Dream House this year upscaled into a powerful tool to build up the offline momentum. Tmall set up 60 pop-up stores, called Dream House, counting down 10 days towards the Singles Day in 12 cities where the city enjoys the biggest foot plan. The Dream House is a container house similar to IKEA's mobile showroom. Each Dream House displayed the bestsellers from the sponsor brands, from furniture to electronics, so that the products sold online became more tangible. Dream House also introduced the branded interactive screen with AR technology, so that the users can see themselves trying the virtual makeup product. The social influencers and celebrity doing live-broadcasting in the Dream House not only helped created noise on the spot, but also brought offline experience online again and reached out a broader audience.
Diversified Marketing Battle
Tmall also segment the shoppers and brands, and diversify the approaches. A good example is that Tmall Luxury Pavillion APP offered a virtual brand tour with exclusive products, experiences and brand stories for the deeper engagement. Different from commodity brands offering discount and promo products, luxurious brands choose exclusiveness. Singles’ Day strategies vary among big brands: La Perla is selling limited-edition pyjamas embroidered with gold; Burberry is selling a version of its trench coat; La Mer is selling its face cream in an exclusive mother-of-pearl casing.
Singles Day Fest grew from a tool to drive sales for Alibaba to a festival to create massive online traffic for brands. This crazy 24 hour marketing marathon started months ago and surprised us every year in a different way.
Find right platform to promote the right content at the right moment to the right targets – That’s the fundamental social influencers strategy now. The social influencers in China are called Key Opinion Leaders (KOL). It had gone through huge changes and evolution from political and interactive to entertaining and commercial. Seeniun Media sneak peaks the KOL landscape and evolution.
The first wave of social influencers appeared with the viral growth of Weibo between 2009 and 2012. They discuss humanity, livelihood and social affairs. When Wechat was launched in 2012, the social influencers started to diversify. On one side, the knowledge sharing oriented KOLs became active thanks to the long-content form on Wechat, on the other side; the celebrities’ social accounts heated the entertaining trends. After 2014, the diversified KOLs, as well as the niche platforms, bloomed. You can find KOLs in all different niche categories, such as constellation, film review or overseas education.
KOL strategy becomes an important part of the digital marketing. Which KOLs to choose, what’s the collaboration format, how to co-create content that contains the key messages while aligns with KOL tone and voice are among a long list of points to consider.
Dubai cites itself as an example of how to work with KOLs on various campaigns, and balance the commercial hard sell and editorial influence. During the New Year campaign, Dubai Tourism works with @石榴婆, the top fashion KOL on wechat to create an editorial feature with clear call-to-action "Dubai is the perfect destination for winter trip" at the end. While, @丽贝卡的异想世界, smaller than @石榴婆 but with strong proven conversion capability as a fashion KOL, was invited with her mum to visit Dubai and then talked about her experience in the city. The followers of these fashion KOLs usually have strong purchase intention and active conversion.
Papi Jiang (Papi酱), famous for the funny short self-made video, has 20,640k followers on Weibo and 2,504k on Bilibili. She has a strong personal style and also has a strong engagement for the brand. However, if the brand image isn't aligned with her entertaining style, or brand target audience doesn’t match hers, it’s not going to work.
Over the years, the KOL battlefield for brands becomes more complicated and competitive. A few trends to keep in mind:Other than WeChat, Weibo and E-commerce social platform, news platforms with social function is an emerging platform. Brands need to better utilize it too for brand impact. Not all the categories need to rush chasing after social media frequent users.
If you are looking for a specific KOL or want to launch a social campaign, don't hesitate to drop us a line. Based on your objective and budget, Seeniun Media helps you develop a practical social influencer engagement strategy, as well as identify and manage the right KOLs for you.
Mini Program by Wechat indicates Tencent’s ambition to build an APP within the APP, and enhance Wechat as the solo entry for the whole social circle. However, one of the most common confusion is how to differentiate mini program from service/subscription account, how to allocate resources across different channels to maximise the value and close the loop.
McDonald pioneers in the digital wave in China, and becomes one of the top players. Their recent movement of installing digital screens for ordering in the store builds another dimension in its digital journey. It also further integrates Paypal and Wechat Pay, reduces the queue and frees the staff. Compared to the in-store digital experience, McDonald’s digital marketing plays an important role to build the brand awareness and enhance the loyalty. APP, service account and Mini Program complement each other to some extent.
In McDonald’s case, Mini Program called i麦当劳 is dedicated to the loyalty program where users can apply membership, accumulate reward points, and exchange points with gifts. The target audience is children and their parents. The exclusive events and birthday gifts are available.
The traditionally loyalty program shifts from website to the mobile which is easier for members to re-engage with the brand and be motivated to collect more points. The e-gift card function and online customer service serve the same purpose. What McDonlad’s mini program doesn’t include but most of other restaurants do is to book a table, order meal and pay the bill.
Mini program provides services, while the service account curates the brand image. That’s key difference.
The service account is the platform where content campaign, digital campaigns (H5), special discounts and coupon are pushed out. The coupons can be saved into the wallet and used on one-click. McDonald’s can sell collaterals and toys via the e-commerce function, and the geo-location function enables users to see the McDonald’s stores nearby. Though the service account is limited to 4 posts a month, service account has an important feature that guarantees a much higher open rate. Service account notification has its own tab compared to the subscription accounts that all live under one tab.
The service account helps build the brand awareness and provides an entry to the APP and mini program. The purpose and function of APP is to order food. McDonald also links the credits from online ordering with mini program iMcDonald.
Big players might have developed APP before mini program time, or require more complicated functions; nevertheless, the small F&B service providers happily turn to mini program.
What about other B2C industries, such as fashion and O2O platforms? Seeniun Media will bring you more insights.