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Tencent

Steven Change, Tencent

I recently spent time in China interviewing C-level leaders across different industries (see here for insight&nbsp;from&nbsp;18 leaders&nbsp;and here for insight on how&nbsp;firms are using closed-loop data to improve CX). After several interviews, I was struck by a pattern I observed. Not one marketer had talked about promotions or advertising or any of the top-of-mind tactics that might arise from a discussion with CMOs trained in the West. Instead, a term that kept emerging was KOL. The consistent, key lever that CMOs focused&nbsp;on to drive growth was engaging KOLs, or key opinion leaders.

Content and influencer-based marketing have been hot topics in the West for some time, especially among B2B firms. However, despite interest in them, they rarely make the list of top strategic priorities, and few companies are able to demonstrate any significant proficiency. However, firms located in China believe that developing a KOL strategy is essential to growth for three key reasons: 1) KOLs can drive faster awareness than traditional marketing tactics, 2) they also help strengthen the brand’s image as it benefits from the endorsement of the KOL, and 3) it can often deliver (when effective) much better results at a fraction of the cost. Importantly, firms are highly focused on driving immediate, fast awareness and there are few marketing efforts that can achieve the degree of relevant awareness in China that KOL programs can. Below I share&nbsp;three&nbsp;examples of effective KOL programs.

A Tencent Case Study

Steven Chang,&nbsp;Corporate VP of Tencent&nbsp;&nbsp;(one of the largest Chinese conglomerates with market-leading businesses in gaming, news, social, video, sports, and financial services) discussed&nbsp;a campaign they had developed called “Next Idea”. It is a contest aimed at China’s youth, designed to identify the next big innovation ideas. To drive immediate awareness, Tencent used KOLs as the centerpiece of their strategy partnering with two well-known individuals to drive virality and interest. The first was Karry Wang, an 18 year old pop singer, and the second was Stephen Hawking. This combination of a leading Chinese business partnering with a top, young pop singer and arguably the best-known contemporary physicist may be unusual but it is this type of unlikely pairing that drove interest. On the morning of November 24, 2017, Karry Wang asked Stephen Hawking a question about the future of humanity via a pre-recorded video. This video was shared on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. On the afternoon of that same day, Stephen Hawking replied via a pre-recorded video. On the 24th, this became the #1 trending topic and by the end of the day, the videos had nearly 30 million views, 2 million shares, 49,000 comments and more than 500,000 likes. Tencent “Next Idea” following increased from 20 to over 52,000 in one day. Imagine the cost of creating these two short videos relative to a traditional advertising program. Now imagine how long it would take to drive awareness using traditional advertising techniques versus what Tencent achieved in a 24-hour period.

A VW Touareg Case Study

On Touareg’s 15th anniversary in 2017, Volkswagen was facing a problem. How should they market this niche, yet legendary, SUV to as many people as possible? How could they quickly reach out and expand the fan base? They knew that they needed something groundbreaking, that would break through the clutter. In cooperation with Tencent, Volkswagon invited a series of high-profile KOLs with different backgrounds to travel for six months to retrace the route of the legendary Silk Road, visiting famous cities on the way. They filmed each trek, resulting in 18 episodes. Each was brought to life by a re-telling of historical and cultural tales, mixed with personal tales of happiness and hardship from the celebrities themselves.

The series was a significant success on many dimensions.&nbsp; At over 9,000km across two continents, it was the longest recorded SUV journey in history. The content of the show, the locations and the stories featured were all directly intertwined with the DNA of the Touareg brand. Combining beautiful cinematography with entertaining storytelling and personally interesting tidbits from the KOLS with a celebration of the Touareg’s 15th anniversary had impact beyond each 3-minute episode. It was the very first native KOL programming in the form of entertainment to be aired on Tencent News (one of the largest news platforms in China).

How did it come about? The Tencent Brand Story Editorial Room planned the whole campaign from start to finish with the VW team. To begin with, a native story was created that connected to the brand story and served as the backbone of the show. This was then integrated with different locations. Finally, KOL celebrities were chosen based on their fit with the objectives of the team. Once key elements of the show were decided, the team worked to create integrated content across Tencent’s various platforms to enhance the campaign. This included airing content across the Tencent News app, Tencent Video, and Tencent’s social media app WeChat. This meant that viewers were able to watch, like, interact and share the content in a natural, ‘softly-integrated’ way, and the results were record-breaking. The program resulted in 400+ million brand impressions and the video received over 50 million views within four months. The program exceeded expectations with regards to new leads and sales.

Volkswagon

VW Touareg

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Tencent

Steven Change, Tencent

I recently spent time in China interviewing C-level leaders across different industries (see here for insight from 18 leaders and here for insight on how firms are using closed-loop data to improve CX). After several interviews, I was struck by a pattern I observed. Not one marketer had talked about promotions or advertising or any of the top-of-mind tactics that might arise from a discussion with CMOs trained in the West. Instead, a term that kept emerging was KOL. The consistent, key lever that CMOs focused on to drive growth was engaging KOLs, or key opinion leaders.

Content and influencer-based marketing have been hot topics in the West for some time, especially among B2B firms. However, despite interest in them, they rarely make the list of top strategic priorities, and few companies are able to demonstrate any significant proficiency. However, firms located in China believe that developing a KOL strategy is essential to growth for three key reasons: 1) KOLs can drive faster awareness than traditional marketing tactics, 2) they also help strengthen the brand’s image as it benefits from the endorsement of the KOL, and 3) it can often deliver (when effective) much better results at a fraction of the cost. Importantly, firms are highly focused on driving immediate, fast awareness and there are few marketing efforts that can achieve the degree of relevant awareness in China that KOL programs can. Below I share three examples of effective KOL programs.

A Tencent Case Study

Steven Chang, Corporate VP of Tencent  (one of the largest Chinese conglomerates with market-leading businesses in gaming, news, social, video, sports, and financial services) discussed a campaign they had developed called “Next Idea”. It is a contest aimed at China’s youth, designed to identify the next big innovation ideas. To drive immediate awareness, Tencent used KOLs as the centerpiece of their strategy partnering with two well-known individuals to drive virality and interest. The first was Karry Wang, an 18 year old pop singer, and the second was Stephen Hawking. This combination of a leading Chinese business partnering with a top, young pop singer and arguably the best-known contemporary physicist may be unusual but it is this type of unlikely pairing that drove interest. On the morning of November 24, 2017, Karry Wang asked Stephen Hawking a question about the future of humanity via a pre-recorded video. This video was shared on Weibo, China’s version of Twitter. On the afternoon of that same day, Stephen Hawking replied via a pre-recorded video. On the 24th, this became the #1 trending topic and by the end of the day, the videos had nearly 30 million views, 2 million shares, 49,000 comments and more than 500,000 likes. Tencent “Next Idea” following increased from 20 to over 52,000 in one day. Imagine the cost of creating these two short videos relative to a traditional advertising program. Now imagine how long it would take to drive awareness using traditional advertising techniques versus what Tencent achieved in a 24-hour period.

A VW Touareg Case Study

On Touareg’s 15th anniversary in 2017, Volkswagen was facing a problem. How should they market this niche, yet legendary, SUV to as many people as possible? How could they quickly reach out and expand the fan base? They knew that they needed something groundbreaking, that would break through the clutter. In cooperation with Tencent, Volkswagon invited a series of high-profile KOLs with different backgrounds to travel for six months to retrace the route of the legendary Silk Road, visiting famous cities on the way. They filmed each trek, resulting in 18 episodes. Each was brought to life by a re-telling of historical and cultural tales, mixed with personal tales of happiness and hardship from the celebrities themselves.

The series was a significant success on many dimensions.  At over 9,000km across two continents, it was the longest recorded SUV journey in history. The content of the show, the locations and the stories featured were all directly intertwined with the DNA of the Touareg brand. Combining beautiful cinematography with entertaining storytelling and personally interesting tidbits from the KOLS with a celebration of the Touareg’s 15th anniversary had impact beyond each 3-minute episode. It was the very first native KOL programming in the form of entertainment to be aired on Tencent News (one of the largest news platforms in China).

How did it come about? The Tencent Brand Story Editorial Room planned the whole campaign from start to finish with the VW team. To begin with, a native story was created that connected to the brand story and served as the backbone of the show. This was then integrated with different locations. Finally, KOL celebrities were chosen based on their fit with the objectives of the team. Once key elements of the show were decided, the team worked to create integrated content across Tencent’s various platforms to enhance the campaign. This included airing content across the Tencent News app, Tencent Video, and Tencent’s social media app WeChat. This meant that viewers were able to watch, like, interact and share the content in a natural, ‘softly-integrated’ way, and the results were record-breaking. The program resulted in 400+ million brand impressions and the video received over 50 million views within four months. The program exceeded expectations with regards to new leads and sales.

Volkswagon

VW Touareg

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