In recent years, China’s biggest tech giants have entered the Chinese short video industry one by one. ByteDance, B Station, Tencent, Baidu, Ali, Sina, Meitu, NetEase and 360 series are competing for attention in the short video industry. Among them is one of the most popular video platforms, Douyin, owned by ByteDance, is the China facing counterpart of TikTok. According to QuestMobile, in September 2020, the number of active Douyin users per month reached 600 million. Monthly usage time per capita reached 1,569 minutes, or 26.6 hours. Considering the success of this app, Douyin marketing in China can offer wide opportunities for brands on the market.
Data Source: iimedia, Douyin’s MAU
Douyin targets millennials and Gen Z
Douyin is very popular among young Chinese consumers; hence millennials and Gen Z are the key users of this app. 59.1% of users are between the ages of 24 and 40, and the number of users under the age of 24 is approximately 25%. Thus, Douyin, or TikTok marketing in China represents a great opportunity for various brands as millennials and Gen Z emerge as the largest consumer groups.
Data Source: QuestMobile, Douyin user distribution, by age
How Douyin helps to enhance e-commerce
Marketing on Douyin enables brands to integrate e-commerce. For example, the most common way to sell on Douyin is to link it to a Taobao store. Recently, Douyin added a function that allows brands to connect an account not only with Taobao, but also with JD and Tmall. This opens up new opportunities for Douyin marketing in China and makes it easier to sell through the app. However, there is one condition: this function can only be used by any brand with more than 10 posts on Douyin.
Source: iefans, Taobao’s link on Douyin
In 2018, during the 12.12 shopping festival, Taobao sales from Douyin key accounts reached over RMB 100 million. The most popular categories were womens’ wear, mens’ wear, cosmetics and food and beverage. Douyin also allows sellers to add mini-programs to sell items. Thus, users can buy products without leaving the app.
According to Oliver Verot, the founder of Gentleman Marketing Agency (GMA), “Douyin is offering brands CPS campaign. CPS campaign is very interesting for brands because they can buy some traffic and can be paid by sales, so it could be between 6% to 10% of sales. Every time they make a sale, 6% to 10% will be directly given to Douyin”.
These programs got popular on WeChat to make it easier for users to shop online. They are a good alternative to cumbersome applications.
3 types of ads on Douyin
There are several types of advertisements that brands can use to market on Douyin in China.
Open screen ads
An open screen advertisement appears when a user enters the application. It can be a static advertisement like a poster or a dynamic video. Static ads last for three seconds, while dynamic ads last for four to five seconds. The brand pays based on impressions, also known as CPM (cost per impression). Such advertising has a strong visual impact, which makes it more effective. The number of open screen advertisements for users per day is unlimited. However, there will be no open screen ads for new users in their first 7 days.
Source: Zhihu, CLINIQUE open screen ad on Douyin
Brands can use short videos of 5-60 seconds that appear as native ads on Douyin’s feed. Because these ads integrate harmoniously into the feed and have a strong visual impact, brands can quickly achieve their China marketing goals. The brand’s account starts building fans and allows users to share ad content with friends or on other social networks. It helps in spreading brand awareness across multiple platforms.
Source: qu-zhan, Feed ads on Douyin
Brands can create customized stickers to promote a product or their company. Douyin users can use these stickers to create content. For example, Vivo has actively used stickers to promote its new phones. They started a company in which they offered users to shoot videos for a specific song and with specific stickers. Users with the most likes received prizes from Vivo. The brand’s stickers ranked as the fourth most popular TikTok sticker in China. Such advertising implies native usage and long-term interactions. Sticker videos inspire other users to get involved, which expands the reach of the brand.
Source: seoxiehui, Sticker ads on Douyin
Using Douyin KOLs for marketing in China
Brands are actively recruiting KOLs for Douyin marketing. Brands use KOLs primarily to target Gen Z consumers and Douyin KOLs can make brand advertising go viral by attracting large numbers of users. However, it is important for brands to pay attention to some aspects of KOLs when doing TikTok marketing in China.
For example, it’s important that the chosen KOLs deliver high-quality content and that their audience matches the brand’s key consumer group. It is also important to pay attention to their interests and values. Brands also need to trust KOLs, which have achieved success through their authenticity. A brand can contribute to the content that KOLs post, but still not take away their creative spark.
The founder and co-director of UPLAB, Fabian Ouwehand, said “there’s a big opportunity still for brands to at least get started to leverage Douyin for marketing. But it’s also how far you want to go as a brand in terms of your type of content, what you’re creating on the platform”.
KOC marketing in Douyin
While KOLs are the macro-influencers of China, KOCs are the micro-influencers. Like the foreign facing TikTok, Douyin is filled with micro-infuencers, and the short-video app would be the ideal platform to launch a KOC marketing strategy. The advantages to KOC marketing on Douyin are that the influencers come off as much more authentic and are more likely to be loyal to a brand.
Additionally, Douyin’s sophisticated algorithms bring a continuous flow of catered content to each user, meaning that the app feeds strongly into niche groups, giving KOC content a chance to be seen by many people of a consumer tribe who share the similar interests.
Douyin opportunities for all industries
Douyin marketing tips for F&B brands
Food and beverage brands can partner with Douyin KOLs to post food reviews or mukbangs. For example, “Pi Pi Teaches Cooking” (@ 皮皮 教), whose cooking demonstrations have attracted over 12 million subscribers. F&B brands may also be interested in culinary KOLs like Liang Wei Xian (浪 胃 仙), over 33 million subscribers) or “Battle of Xiang Xiang” (翔翔 大 作战 Fly) over 13 million subscribers.
Also, brands can promote their account by arranging culinary challenges, tasting and encouraging users to join. Food and beverage content is one of the leading categories on Douyin.
Data Source: Kasi Data, Top popular categories on Douyin
Kang Shifu case
Kang Shifu (also known as Master Kong) is a famous noodles brand in China, owned by Ting Hsin International Group. Despite their Taiwanese ownership and origin, all of their manufacturing facilities are located in mainland China. Kang Shifu actively uses Douyin marketing in China. They launched a hashtag #好烧意不止一面 (there is more than one side), where people could share the way they cook noodles. Its’ official Douyin account also broadcasts a city’s food guide every week-in Shanghai, Yangzhou, Wuhan, Chongqing, etc.
Source: Douyin, User 31190243401 Kang Shifu mukbang
Luxury brands are coming to Douyin for promotions
More and more global luxury brands are entering the Douyin platform. Since Douyin has a youth user base targeting woman with high purchasing power, it attracts luxury brands. For example, Christian Dior, Louis Vuitton and Chanel already have an account and advertise on the platform. About 67 percent of Douyin users are women, and about 70 percent of them live in the top-tier cities of China.
Data Source: Jiguang, Douyin users, by gender
Taking Christian Dior as an example, it has already attracted about 282,700 subscribers and received over 1.3 million likes on Douyin. Supreme also uses Douyin marketing in China. According to Fabian Ouwehand, “Supreme challenge went viral and had billions of views on different types of videos. So, that also became very popular and it was very down to earth China style content”.
Michael Kors – first luxury brand on Douyin
One of the largest American fashion houses, Michael Kors, started using Douyin for marketing back in 2017. It was the first luxury brand to use TikTok marketing in China. In 2017, Michael Kors participated in the Walk Shanghai event attended by representatives from Douyin KOL. They promoted the hashtag “urban catwalk” on the platform. This campaign received over five million views and 30,000 users took part in the challenge.
Source: luxury society, Michael Kors promotion on Douyin
Key takeaways for Douyin marketing in China
- Using Douyin for marketing in China will help brands to reach a big number of young customers (millennials and Gen Z).
- There are three main ad methods each with a different purpose, brands should choose one which best aligns with their China marketing goals. The open screen ads are ideal for reaching a wide audience. Feed ads fit into the flow of regular content and should be entertaining. Sticker ads are the engaging and fun for users.
- Douyin KOLs will promote a brand or a company using viral challenges, KOCs can also help your content be seen by niche groups while being perceived as more authentic.
- Thanks to its wide range of content, Douyin is suitable for marketing strategies of different brands – from F&B to luxury.
- Douyin ad content should be engaging, entertaining and fun to provide the best user experience.