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It's hard to get one's head around China. The scale and the speed are vast and fast.

So, I thought I'd round up some companies doing interesting things online in China, just to give a snapshot of marketing in the country.

Full credit where it's due, these are all taken from Barney Loehnis' presentation (he's head of digital in APAC for Ogilvy & Mather) at the Future of Digital Marketing 2014.

Three Squirrels

How experiential can nuts be?

Well, Three Squirrels is the largest supplier of snack foods on Tmall and Taobao, despite being a young company. It made $25m in January 2014.

With each pack of nuts ordered online, one receives a clip to keep the nuts fresh, a wet tissue and a nutcracker and shell bag if needed.

What really marks the company out is the animated world that surrounds the brand. Animated characters advertise the brand, are very popular on Youku (the nation's biggest video hosting site) and interact with customers on WeChat.

Customer service is marked with quirkiness as customers are referred to as 'owners' who 'adopt', rather than customers that buy.

Brand mascots are an important part of many Chinese brands' marketing strategies.

three squirrels 


With roseonly you can order some pretty luxurious chocolates, hand-picked roses and a handsome fellow or lady to deliver them. But one thing you can't do is send gifts to more than one belle or beau.

True loves only with this service - one per lifetime.

A bunch of roses costs upwards of $150 but Valentine's day is big business in China. As is its opposite, Singles Day. Taobao and Tmall took a combined $5.75bn on Single's day 2013 (11/11).

The aspirational element of Chinese life is clear here.



Xiaomi's founder Lei Jun has modeled himself on Steve Jobs and the Xiaomi handsets perform impressively well for their pricepoint.

What's particularly impressive is the company's crowdsourcing of ideas for design features on new handsets. Customer feedback is highly valued.

Once a new limited run of handsets is announced, customers put their names forward on social media for the opportunity to buy. The company sold 100,000 of the Mi3 in 83 seconds after such a launch.

xiaomi mi3


You've probably heard of WeChat, the messaging app from Tencent.

The adoption is impressive, with the platform boasting more than 350m users. What's impressive is both how much the app is used, with friends using it to keep in touch but also to canvas opinions on purchases, but also the expanding functionality of the app.

South China Airlines is now taking bookings via WeChat (through an online travel agency's account) and using it as a customer service channel.

WeChat payment is also utilise for Dididache, China's version of Uber, for private hire cars. Using WeChat a car can be hailed and paid for. Look out for more happening in this channel.

wechat logo

Read more on China's culture and platforms, and more on WeChat

Ben Davis

Published 26 June, 2014 by Ben Davis @ Econsultancy

Ben Davis is a senior writer at Econsultancy. He lives in Manchester, England. You can contact him at ben.davis@econsultancy.com, follow at @herrhuld or connect via LinkedIn.

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Comments (1)



I was told by an insider that Roseonly actually starts from a small community which the founder capitalised later. The business is social media oriented.

On the other hand, since Chinese online shoppers are more obsessed with e-commerce platforms, I believe WeChat stands a good chance with social commerce - it recently launched its own online store on its 'Public Platform'.

over 2 years ago

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