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Social media is "essential" for brands looking to break in to Chinese wine market

Published:  25 November, 2013

A social media presence in China should now be considered an "essential part" of any wine brands marketing strategy in the country, according to analysts Wine Intelligence.

Speaking to following the aftermath of the annual Hong Kong International Wine & Spirits Fair earlier this month, research manager Rui Su said that brands attempting to succeed in the market were increasingly using the micro-blogging site Weibo, seen as a combination of Twitter and Facebook, to co-ordinate their marketing campaigns.

"Having a Weibo account reassures consumers that the brand is real and established," said Su. "Moreover, according to our recent survey it is now the most important source of information on wine for imported wine drinkers," she added.

Wine Intelligence estimates over 350 million people in China now use smart phones to access social media websites. However, Twitter and Facebook have been banned in China since July 2009,  the Chinese equivalents being Weibo and Renren.

Nichole Mao, Chinese brand ambassador for New Zealand's Villa Maria, said Weibo campaigns were a vital part of its strategy in penetrating the market long term. "In 2013, we ran a Weibo campaign which lasted for five days. The purpose of the campaign was to raise brand awareness - after the campaign ended, we had attracted over 10,000 new followers," she said.

"As China is still a very young wine market, we made the campaign very easy to enter," added Mao. "By doing this, the people we attracted were not only wine lovers, but also the ones who had no idea about wine but were interested to discover more. This has helped us to expand our potential customer scope."

"Social media is more trusted in general than television or magazine articles because it is user generated and derived, whereas most forms of media in China are heavily state controlled and censored," added Wine Intelligence's Su.

However, although several key brands and agencies are investing in social media, others like Blue Nun have refused to get involved, citing a lack of control as their man concern.

"Blue Nun does not - and has no immediate plans to - engage in any social media activity. Information spread out rapidly on social media is often out of control, which is a double-edged sword", said Patrick Langguth, export director of Germany's Langguth firm.

Rui Su said that brands considering starting a campaign must set realistic goals in terms of the impact of campaigns on actual sales performance.

"Marketing campaigns on social media could be effective for brand awareness and image building in the long run, but will not necessarily transform the non-buyers into buyers overnight," she said.