3 ways food & beverage brands in China are breaking through in advertising today

Header for 3 Ways Food & Beverage Brands in China Are Breaking Through In Advertising Today

Written by Kat Lim, Client Manager @ The Silk Initiative

In the midst of so much “noise”, how do brands ensure their ads get noticed? This week we share examples from food and beverage advertising in China today that illustrate how some brands are doing just that.

Chinese ads – the big picture

Global trends in advertising are moving away from the traditional and more towards the digital, with mobile ad spending expected to surpass $100 billion this year.

The first half of 2016 saw a plunge in spending on newspaper advertising (down 41%) and magazines (down 29%) in China, and a significant increase (77%) on ads for trailers in movie theaters. By the end of this year, China advertisers will have spent around $22 billion targeting mobile and tablet users, close to triple what was spent three years ago.

By the end of 2017, digital advertising spending in China is expected to account for one-third of the world’s total advertising expenditures.


click to go to Go Globe's infographic on China digital ad spending

[click the above image to go to Go Globe’s full Infographic on China digital ad spending trends and statistics]


Below we share three key areas where food and beverage brands are doing it right in China today.

1) Tapping into popular digital media channels

AdAge recently reported on the successful tactics used by Mondelez for its launch of a new Oreo cookie in China. By capitalizing on the booms in live-streaming and ecommerce in China, the company gained the Oreo brand massive exposure among consumers, accumulating more than 30 million views on mobile devices.

oreo china launch

We have also seen both local and international food and beverage brands sponsoring television programs (which are also available on-demand via popular video-sharing websites, such as Tudou). The Chinese herbal tea brand, Jiaduobao, for example, paid to have the host of “The Voice: China”, a popular TV singing competition, read the company’s advertising slogan and commercial script during a program. During every episode that aired for that particular season, the brand’s product image, logo and ad-related text appeared also on-screen. Furthermore, the host read the ad script at such a high speed, it became comical and extremely memorable as a result.

Chinese herbal tea brand sponsoring popular tv show


When the Australian brand Sanitarium, a TSI client, saw their product Weet-bix featured in a popular Chinese drama program called “Ode to Joy”, the response was so incredible that demand for the cereal soared by 50%, making this “the single most profitable move the food company has made to date in its international strategy”.

Weet-bix product placement in Chinese tv drama show


2) Getting the level of localization right

In our work with international brands that are preparing for China market entry, one of the first questions we get asked is: “What do we change, and what do we keep?” The short answer is: It depends.

As we shared in another of our recent articles “China market entry: 3 tips on how to get it right first time”, the sheer size of the population and the country’s economic growth has given rise to so many nuances and varieties of taste and preference amongst Chinese consumer demographics, that there simply isn’t a one-size-fits-all approach. What to change and what to keep can vary depending on product category, target consumer and which region of China they are from, and brand positioning.

For example, the Australian wine brand Jacob’s Creek do a great job of getting the balance right between accentuating the product’s foreign heritage while localizing its ads for a Chinese audience.

jacob's creek China ad

Guinness, meanwhile, totally localized, leaving behind its grittier, raw ad style and positioning the beer in China as a more premium product, targeting the upwardly mobile, status-symbol-seeking, self-actualizing younger generation.

a comparison of Guinness UK and China ad concepts


Nescafe makes a point of showing that China is not a one-size-fits-all market in its ads—and cleverly shows how its coffee appeals to everyone—as a mug of coffee gets passed between people who embody a range of consumer profiles.

nescafe china ad


3) Appealing to the senses and emotions within the China cultural context

Brands that go for emotive, sensory indulgence and evoke positive emotions, such as love, humor and a sense of pride, with their advertising tend to have more success in triggering consumers to try their products.

Love of food and tradition is so deeply ingrained in Chinese culture, you really can’t go wrong when you invest in making your food or beverage ad stir these emotions and indulge the senses at the same time. Take a look at how this local food brand did just that.


In fact, humor with a more slapstick, sillier style works very well in China. A prime example of this can be seen in Leo Burnett’s repositioning of a Taiwanese detox drink with “potty humor”, as shown in this hilarious ad that makes light of constipation.

Constipation personified in new Chinese ad for detox drink


At TSI, we believe that the fast pace of technological innovation today, coupled with the predicted growth rates in digital advertising over the next four years, means brands in China are going to have to step up or lose out.

Attitudes towards advertising strategy need to remain agile enough to continually reimagine the best approaches, while keeping a close eye on what’s going on at ground level.

Want to know how consumers are reacting to your brand? Contact info@thesilkinitiative.com

Special Offer

TSI helps clients design their food and beverage brands’ creative briefs and works seamlessly with ad agencies on execution. For a free 20-minute consultation about how we can help ensure Chinese consumers are inspired to try your products, email us your biggest unanswered question about how to get your brand ready for China market entry.