Since I came into swissrent as Director of Marketing & Communications in 2014, I was always curious about taking the brand international. This year, the opportunity presented itself to take part in the World Winter Sports Exhibition (WWSE) in Beijing under the Swiss Tourism pavilion, and we decided to take on the Chinese market.
I think there is a general misconception on what the Chinese market is, what it could bring in terms of return, and most importantly, how to approach it. Luckily for me, I had spent some time in Shanghai back in 2013 with my good friends at Brandigo (Brandigo was formerley ‘Adsmith’ — we had met years before through the E3 Agency network), and they agreed to help us launch into the market.
Without Brandigo, we would have never made it to China and left the impression that we did. Below you can get to know some of the strategies that they laid out for us, as well as the opportunities that it generated for the swissrent Brand.
*1. Make sure it’s in Chinese: Chinese Name Development.
This is so, so critical. We invested the most amount of time here and rightly so. We had to make sure that the name was on brand, that it resonated with the target audience and that it has a suitable meaning in Mandarin as well as other dialects.
*2. Know your target audience: Researching consumer behavior
We undertook a test survey to better understand our target market. This included their thoughts on traveling abroad, skiing in Switzerland, possible app usage as well as their thoughts on 4 different proposed names for swissrent in Chinese. We settled on 瑞世岚途 [ruì] / [shì] / [lán] / [tú] .
*3. Localising your material
Writing copy specifically for the Chinese market is really critical. Brandigo helped convert our story for the Chinese public in a way the market would understand. This included copy, design, and various presentation materials. They will also assist us in converting all our current content into Chinese.
*4. Visit China to get an understanding of how the consumer and the market works.
China has consumers like no other in the world. You absolutely need to have a mobile strategy with a heavy focus on QR codes and deals! For example, we headed out for dinner on a Saturday night, and we were able to sit, order and pay through WeChat using a QR code found on the table at our restaurant.
*5. Attend an event that relates to your brand
This was really the impetus for all our activities! We had the privilege of being invited by the Swiss Tourism Board to exhibit in their pavilion at the WWSE event in Beijing. This was definitely a strategic decision for us to go over as a collective of Swiss brands, and to be able to share our experiences and services with potential members of our target audience.
*6. Have a translator/interpreter
Mandarin Chinese is the official language of China, and it is the lingua franca for all communications and business conducted in the country. If you don’t speak the language, I would suggest that you learn it or find an interpreter. Brandigo recommended a translator/ interpreter for us to use and she was just fantastic. Although we were informed that English would be fine for the B2B part of the WWSE, just about all meetings and conversations took place in Chinese; so having someone there who could help to facilitate and translate what was being said was more than worth the investment.
*7. Engage and tell a story on WeChat.
So much communication is done through WeChat that one could say it is ubiquitous. Most business cards for individuals and businesses are accompanied by a WeChat QR code. Millions of people in China are on the platform, and it is a great place to launch your brand as well as tell your story. Brandigo set up our account, and are using it to raise awareness amongst respective members of the target audience for the brand swissrent and our accompanying booking platforms both Online and in-App. They are also helping us to educate the target audience on how swissrent and its ‚mountainmiles‘ program work, and encourage them to consider Switzerland/skiing as part of their European itinerary. We were able to engage consumers by creating an H5 animation with the goal of people signing up and receiving a free USB stick at our stand (Giveaways are always a great incentive).
Three great opportunities presented themselves in and after Beijing:
1. Various local Tour Operators will now bring groups to our booking platform to order mountain sports equipment for their trip abroad.
2. Individuals booking their own trip can now collect ‚mountainmiles‘, and conveniently book equipment and services through the swissrent platforms.
3. Local resorts/shops based in and around Chongli (the area in China where the 2022 Winter Olympic Games will be hosted) are interested in bringing the swissrent brand and services into their current infrastructure.
I am utterly convinced that without a company like Brandigo and the experts under its roof, we would have never been able to start off on the right foot in China. Many of the previous misconceptions that we had were carefully thought through and proactively addressed, and we can now move into our next stage of taking the swissrent brand to China with greater confidence.
Disclosure: I am not employed by, or collect any commissions from, Brandigo in Shanghai 🙂