SINGAPORE: Western brands needs to make sure they get the basics right to find success in China –including the bureaucratic elements – and to avoid common pitfalls, according to a China marketing expert.

While China’s ‘lifestyle upgrade’ trend is opening up huge opportunities for brands, there are still many ways to fail, believes Kenneth Ho, CEO and founder of business connector platform BEAM. (For more, read WARC’s in-depth story: Building blocks for brands in China)

Ho cited setting up an official WeChat account – an imperative social media channel for brands in China – as one common mistake brands make in China. Getting the right paperwork is vital, because having a WeChat official account does not guarantee that it will be accessible to Chinese consumers. Ho revealed that only accounts created in China, by companies with a Chinese business licence, can be viewed by consumers in the country.

“If I set up an official account (outside of China)… no one in China can access the account,” Ho said at a General Assembly event in Singapore recently.

Ho noted that is also mandatory under Chinese law for company websites operating in China to have a commercial ICP (Internet Content Provider) licence – a long process in itself – or be blocked. Company websites operating outside of China do not require an ICP licence, but load more slowly, with the added potential complication of the domain being blocked in China and on important platforms such as WeChat.

“If you don’t have that licence, your website is inaccessible. Most of the time, in order to promote anything in China, you use WeChat,” Ho said.

“The problem is that when you click on a link (to a non-CIP licensed website), it goes to a blank page.”

Ho advised keeping a close eye on data to get a sense of what is working and what’s not.

 “Numbers never lie,” he said, explaining that what has worked for BEAM has been to experiment diligently, measure the degree of success for these different approaches, and then generating more success by zooming in on the efforts that paid off.

“We collect a lot of data and experiment on a weekly basis. If you are doing a marketing campaign, try 10 different things. Collect data. Find out what works and what doesn’t work. Double down on what works and cut those that don’t work,” he said.

Sourced from WARC