Nickname Marketing in China| Tips for the Pro’s
As the 2nd largest economy filled with businesses booming doubled, tripled and even sextupled for some uprising categories, China observed the influx of foreign brands tapping on the growing affluence market behind the nation’s consumption upgrade phenomenon. While brands are coming into China with huge ambition, they are also hindrance by the fact that language barriers, cultural nuances, and fierce local competition can be factors that make it very hard for them to thrive.
“Localization” has been one of the buzzwords for foreign brands who choose to lower the challenge of market entry barriers. So, what should brands do when thinking about “localization” strategy in China? It almost goes without saying that crafting an easy to remember yet well resonated Chinese name for the brand/product naturally become the strategic first step as this is the first impression consumers get when encountering your brand.
More cleverly, some foreign brands, notably those with a smaller marketing budget, leveraged on the craze of social commerce through a catchy Chinese nickname and populated it actively social.
For example “熊猫鞋” literally translated as “panda shoe”, is a popular shoe range from SKECHERS D’lites. Panda shoe was successfully marketed digitally across China leveraging on the impact of nicknaming when it first entered China. The nickname was born because of the black-and-white colour resemblance with panda in China. Panda is the beloved national animal in China, this name could naturally appeal to consumers’ interest and awareness in the first place. In China, Panda Shoe has a yearly growth rate of 60% and accounts for more than 20% of SKECHERS’ total sales. (Source: shoes.net.cn)
This hero product helps SKECHERS rise to the fifth biggest sports goods company in China in terms of sales volume, ranked just after Nike, Adidas, Anta and Lining. It is quite an astonishing performance since SKECHERS has entered the Chinese market for only 10 years, compared to Nike’s which has a 38-year history in China.
After getting a catchy nickname, SKECHERS continued to penetrate the shoe market with a large volume of content surrounding with the nickname “panda shoe” from different perspectives across different social media platforms in order to land the traffic back to e-commerce space. Ultimately, the nickname is inscribed onto the consumer’s mind. WeChat Index indicates that “Panda Shoe” accounted for one-tenth of the brand’s total search volume, among more than 200 types of shoes under SKECHERS Masterbrand.
(WeChat search volume of Panda Shoe vs. SKECHERS)
Content and embedded shopping link in WeChat.
Nicknames were first popular in the cosmetic and skin care category. This is an industry where consumers heavily consider reviews and KOL recommendations before purchase. On social media, a huge number of users share experiences towards a product. In the beauty community, they came up with a nickname for the sake of convenience to talk about it. Some are named after the package, such as SKII “Little Light Bulb” (SKII 小灯泡)，the bottle just looks like a light bulb, and it has the function of illuminating your skin. Some are named after the benefit like Erno Laszlo “Tofu Cream” (豆腐霜)，after using it you will have smooth skin as soft as tofu. The naming rules in this category can be also applied to other categories. A deep understanding of the audience is the key to getting a name that could go viral in the community.
So, how could brand utilize nickname marketing to win over consumers’ heart & mind?
The purpose should be set out to increase brand awareness
A catchy and meaningful nickname helps consumers to recall the product, it’s much easier for a brand to pin a name like SKII “Little Light Bulb” on consumers’ mind rather than listing out product benefits in such lengthy manner, e.g. SK-II Genoptics Aura Essence(SKII肌因光蕴环采钻白精华露). According to ISPO news, 90% of all purchasing decisions are made subconsciously. People use mental shortcuts to skip the process and avoid being overwhelmed by the number of available options from competitors. Having said that, when consumers could recognize and recall the product/brand without much effort, this will help them save time on making decisions between competing products, and ultimately drive repeat purchase.
Think with an intention to establish a strong usage relevance with consumers
Generally speaking, emotional benefit communication is sometimes underestimated in messaging. Especially in skincare products, overwhelming ingredient story and chemical information on a product bottle are very hard for consumers to digest, not mentioning to figure out what is good for them. On the contrary, it will gain higher brand recall and immediate resonance with consumers if a brand utilizes a nickname well to communicate the emotion benefit, in this case, we quoted SKII “Ex-boyfriend Mask” (SKII “前男友面膜” ) which literally communicating the fact that “If you are gorgeous enough, you can even win your ex-love back”. Another example is to communicate usage context, for example, “White plus Black Flu Medicines” (白加黑感冒药), which literally translated as take one pill in the morning, and take one pill at night. A strategically planned nickname can reach out to the right audiences and secure a deeper emotional resonance as it relates to consumer needs.
Brands should prepare SEM to engage with consumers and convert traffic
Once customers know what they want, if they can’t find it, there’s going to be a problem. The easier consumers can move from “brand interest” to “brand purchase” on a user journey, the more possible they will buy in the end. Brands should optimize the chosen nickname on digital content platforms such as WeChat, Weibo, Xiaohongshu, Zhihu, etc in order to put consumers one step closer to the transaction. Just like SKECHERS, it’s vital to create a system of the content pool across different social media or even vertical sites for visibility yet easy to locate on e-commerce with the search of its nickname.
Nickname marketing started with a name, but more importantly, it should be originated from a deep understanding of consumer’s needs and wants, and set the core pillar of content marketing.
About the Author
Cyril Drouin- Chief eCommerce Officer Greater China at Publicis Communications