SHANGHAI: Chinese men are heavy internet users, making it vital that marketers seeking to reach them have the correct digital strategy in place and are using social media effectively to develop world of mouth for their brands.

A pan-Asian study by Kantar Worldpanel, looking at male grooming trends, surveyed 5,300 men across seven countries, and established that digital was the key channel for reaching China's male population.

Chinese men were half as likely as Korean men, for example, to watch more than three hours of television daily (13% vs 26%) but were more than twice as likely to surf the internet for over three hours (54% vs 22%).

This heavy online exposure could be used to build awareness through targeted digital campaigns, Kantar suggested.

Online sites played an important role in male consumers' research habits, with half of Chinese men having visited online stores in the past year to gather information about fashion and beauty trends. Kantar stressed the need to combine education and purchase options on these sites.

A similar proportion (55%) went looking for this sort of information on social media, highlighting the role that digital word of mouth can play. Kantar pointed to the examples of Old Spice and Innisfree as brands that had created effective viral marketing campaigns via these channels.

A similar technique was employed by a gold medal winner in the 2013 Warc Prize for Asian Strategy. Gillette's Shave Sexy campaign started with a clip, which went viral, of two female celebrities falling out over a social experiment as to whether men wet shaving were sexier than those dry shaving.

Kantar also highlighted several categories within male grooming that were ripe for growth, including fragrances and deodorants. In the case of the latter, it contrasted the finding that 66% of Thai men used this product but just 13% of Chinese men did.

While this might indicate opportunities for first-mover advantage, Kantar argued that competition could be more important. It cited the case of Vietnam, where the market for male-only shampoos and shower gels had grown rapidly, thanks to investments by Unilever's Clear Men and local brand X-Men.

"The noise generated in the market can help convert men into buying a product just for them, educating them about their unique needs and growing the pie," it said.

Data sourced from Kantar Worldpanel; additional content by Warc staff