How to create great earned social media campaigns for China

Three clever social media campaigns in China work hard on earned media to help them go viral.

Social media marketing is very popular in China at the moment, but one trend I’m seeing that really irritates me as a digital marketer myself, are the number of lazy campaigns that rely on paid media to get the message out.

A strategy I see frequently in China is campaign with content focused around, for example, a social topic, a video, a poster, a quiz, an HTML 5 page. It is then amplified with the use of a key opinion leader, followed by much praying that consumers on social media will read it, like it, and share it.

I find myself asking, how many of these so-called social campaigns I encounter every day stay top-of-mind? And the answer is, almost none of them.

To me, the best social campaigns are those that integrate the following ingredients: real life experience, cultural insights, brand positioning, and consumer engagement.

A social media campaign doesn’t necessarily start on social media, it starts with a life experience – one that consumers can relate to in their day-to-day lives. These are real human experiences amplified by cultural insights that are aligned with brand positioning in a way that is engaging.

Following hot topics and blindly blending in brand elements is not a way to engage your audience. Marketers should of course have a clear social media strategy, but then ensure it is led by consumers’ needs and desires, not from the medium itself. They need to think beyond how to make their social content go viral, because good content will be viral in itself.

Here are three brand examples I believe echo these key factors for a successful social media campaign:

1. Under Armour: I Will What I Want

Under Armour did a great job with this when it partnered with supermodel Gisele Bundchen for its I Will What I Want campaign. Granted this is not a Chinese brand example, but it resonated with a global audience because it went with a simple relatable theme – motivation comes from within.

This social campaign encouraged consumers to tweet their encouragement (or discouragement) to Gisele, with messages appearing on the walls around her as she worked out in a boxing ring. The tweets appeared in real-time – giving a different experience with each view.

The campaign led to 1.5 billion media impressions, $15 million in earned media, a 42 percent increase in visits to the site (with an average time on site of four minute at the campaign’s peak), and a 28 percent sales increase for the brand.

The campaign’s fusion of social and real-time technology won it the 2015 Cannes Lions Grand Prix for the Cyber category. But its real win lies in its thinking behind the social activation – making use of the nature of social media for an uncensored real-time conversation.

Consumers tweet good and bad things about Gisele but she keeps her faith in achieving her goals, showing the brand spirit of I Will What I Want.

2. CCSER / WeChat

Last year, WeChat launched a special charity app in conjunction with China’s Child Safety Emergency Response foundation (CCSER) – to help parents find or prevent their children from disappearing.

This is a major social issue in China where child abduction is not uncommon. WeChat was able to use its huge database of more than 600 million users, the Tencent network, and sophisticated technology to help raise awareness of this critical social issue.

From the time the account launched in November 2015, WeChat moments feeds in China were dominated by this message. It was widely talked about and shared.


Not every brand can have this level of support from an influential platform like WeChat, but it does show that Chinese audiences will respond and share content that reflects a socially relevant topic.

3. Supor: It’s all about a bowl of rice

Chinese kitchenware brand Supor ran a successful social media campaign for promoting the features of its rice cooker when it captured the tensions between a mother and daughter-in-law. The social campaign, which ran across WeChat and Weibo, encapsulated the conflicts of daily life familiar to many Chinese families and turned them into pieces of content to sell a rice cooker.

For example, in one cartoon, a mother-in-law is berating her daughter-in-law for small family related issues. The wise daughter-in-law decides not to argue with her mother-in-law, instead preparing some rice for her in the Stupor rice cooker. Naturally, the mother-in-law thinks the rice is perfect and stops criticizing her.

China_supor_rice cooker series_600

In another, the campaign relies on the small tricks a wife might use to please her husband. Naturally, the wise wife uses her Supor rice cooker in one of these bids, ensuring her husband is as devoted to her as he was the first time they met.

China_supor_rice cooker husband wife series_600

It’s not easy to come up with a clever way to sell something as mundane as a rice cooker. Supor’s ads resonated well with its Chinese audience as it tapped in to two of the most important relationships in a Chinese family – that of mother-in-law and daughter-in-law and that of husband and wife.

To some, these images might be reminiscent of the Mad Men era, but in China, where new wives traditionally live with their husband’s family, keeping the peace at home is of the utmost importance. These messages were received as funny, clever and engaging and were widely shared throughout China.


Real life experience, cultural insights, brand positioning, and consumer engagement are the four key factors of an authentic social media campaign.

A clever marketer thinks through how a brand can best align social media content that resonates with target audiences, finding ways to maximize earned media over paid media.

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