WeChat says it's partnering with Burberry, a digital innovator
that has worked with Apple, Google and Instagram, to
develop content and improve storytelling. Both share the goal of
"building word of mouth organically instead of pushing," said
Sophia Ong, the Tencent executive who helps marketers navigate the
internet giant's platforms.
She added: "Chinese consumers, especially those who were born
after the 1980s and are looking at luxury brands, have a high
demand for customized and personalized products and
So while WeChat offers up potential for innovating on
personalization and social CRM, it's rewriting the rules for
marketers accustomed to using Sina Weibo (the "Chinese Twitter") to
push out viral content on a mass scale.
WeChat and its relative privacy are luring traffic away from
Weibo, which is suffering because of a government crackdown on
influential microbloggers. Many people also complain it's now
overrun by brand messages, something WeChat is trying to avoid.
Weibo is "no longer driving the cultural and social agenda,"
said Bill Bishop, the publisher of Sinocism, an influential
newsletter on China.
Marketers that have relied on Weibo to build brands, monitor
public opinion and do crisis management "now have to figure out
WeChat, a whole new, much more difficult-to-mine social media
platform," he said. (Another tricky issue: Monitoring services can
keep tabs on Weibo easily because it's so open, but since WeChat
conversations are private, "your product can be trashed across
group chats and nobody will have any idea," Mr. Bishop noted.)
Challenges aside, here's a look at a few buzzed-about campaigns
by marketers using the platform successfully.
During the lunar new year period, Chinese people send good wishes
to friends and family. PepsiCo, as part of a huge annual holiday
campaign called "Bring Happiness Home," gave the tradition a
People used WeChat to record an audio message that would get
mixed in with a soundtrack of the well-known "Bring Happiness Home"
"You could also add in effects like the sound of a train, and
say, 'Mom, I'm on my way home,'" said Tim Cheng, chief creative
officer of DDB Group Shanghai, which created the
campaign. Another sound offer was a horse's gallop, since it's the
Year of the Horse. (WeChat is big on audio messaging – many
Chinese people prefer that to texting because typing in characters
The brand message, coming mostly from the theme song, was
"It's about spreading happiness, as opposed to 'buy Pepsi,'" Mr.
Like PepsiCo's campaign, McDonald's latest offer plays with
WeChat's voice capabilities.
The fast food brand sponsored a contest asking people to record
a "Big Mac Rap" in the style of the host of the hit singing show
"The Voice of China." MC Hua Shao's monologues – reminiscent
of auctioneer-speak, with quick staccato syllables – have
inspired online chatter and countless spoofs.
As China-based branding agency Labbrand points out, uploading the audio on
WeChat is simple, and the app opens up possibilities of
user-generated content on a mass scale.
The most ingenious, and viral, Chinese social marketing campaign
lately came from WeChat itself.
As WeChat moves into e-commerce and prepares to challenge
China's online shopping giant Alibaba, it needs people to plug
their bank numbers into its payment service, Tenpay.
So it offered an updated take on another lunar new year
tradition: exchanging cash-stuffed "red envelopes," or hongbao, as
WeChat digitized the tradition and created a gambling-like game
where users sent money to a group of friends, with sums randomly
distributed among them.
The feature was a smash hit at family gatherings, in offices and
online, and 20 million envelopes reportedly changed hands.