A Shiba Inu cafe

A Shiba Inu cafe recently opened up in Beijing and is extremely popular with Chinese youth. A Shiba is a Japanese dog and in the cafe people can have a drink, chat with each other and of course play with the cute dogs. Apparently, it gets especially crowded in the weekends. I was there on a weekday (not inside though), looking into the store, with a Chinese GenZ (Generation Z) who was showing and telling me about new things happening now in Beijing. You can sign-up outside for a time-slot of 40 minutes.  The entrance fee will give you entry into the store, experience with the dog and a drink.

A Shiba Inu café is something new in China. Cat cafes have already been there for several years and originally started in Taiwan. These cafes are really attractive for young and busy people in China who can’t have a pet at home.


Check out these selection of articles if you are interested to learn more about this topic:


1. Singles feel love during Chinese Valentine’s Day at dog cafe

China Daily

Singles can feel love and warmth and enjoy a relaxing time with cute dogs at a Shiba Inu café featuring the Japanese breed in Beijing during Qixi, or Chinese Valentine’s Day, on Wednesday. Single people in China often mock themselves as “single dogs” and feel lonely during Qixi. However, at the Shiba Inu café there are a lot of cute dogs who’d love to be petted and hugged, so it’s a wonderful place to spend the special day.


2. Beijing’s first Shiba Inu dog cafe is a crowd pleaser

South China Morning Post

Zhao Songxue adopted a Shiba Inu dog while studying in Japan and when she returned to China she opened the first Shiba Inu cafe in Beijing. Customers can order desserts and drinks while playing with Shiba dogs. After its opening in May 2019, the small establishment became a hit on social media and is now a popular spot in the capital.



Chinese millennials are less and less interested in following Chinese KOLs

The term KOL stands for Key Opinion Leader. KOLs are used by many brands in their campaigns in an effort to reach a bigger audience within a particular segmentation. Chinese consumers used to drift to KOLS to find some authenticity from the traditional approach of digital advertising. The success of a KOL is based on their personality, and how they come across depends on their power to pull in the audience and create a loyal following. KOLs generally have loyal followers and produce quality content on social media.  Most KOLs take in between 20,000 and 40,000 yuan a month. They work regularly in the office, at home, or even in the great outdoors.


Brands’ overreliance on KOLs

Brands are promised to gain more followers, brand awareness and visibility among their target audience. But reducing KOL marketing to must-haves for any advertising purposes has lost its value. When I talked to Chinese millennials in Beijing and Shanghai about this topic, already almost two years ago, a change of view towards KOL’s was already occurring. Three important insights emerged that are getting more cultural traction in 2019:


  1. KOL’s work for so many different brands or change their contract with brands so frequently that credibility gets lost.
  2. There is a limit of KOLs any Chinese millennial is willing to follow and they get tired of all the commercial posts they face on their timeline.
  3. Unknown KOL’s or rather Chinese people with knowledge, experience or a creative take on a particular topic that is of interest to a specific audience is becoming more interesting to follow.


Time to rethink your marketing?

The digital world is becoming more and more saturated with KOLs. For a more meaningful way to reach Chinese consumers it might be crucial to rethink your KOL marketing. At least take the time and care to seek out a Chinese voice that is valued by your Chinese consumer audience and suits your brand. Chinese Millennials can easily tell the difference between an ad and authentic content meant to engage with an audience. Even for a well-known brand like Nike that is using many KOLs, it are not the KOLs that are ensuring the loyal followers and ultimately contribute to an increase in growth. Nike is a great example of a brand that is very good at developing brand narratives that tap into emerging Chinese consumer cultures.


Check out these selection of articles if you are interested to learn more about this topic:

1. China’s new breed of KOLs: Not just pretty faces


New platforms, along with increasingly international millennials and a professionalizing fashion industry landscape, are changing the attributes required of China’s KOL class.


2. Being an influencer is a full-time job for China’s millennials


Upon graduation, Zhang weighted his options between becoming a full-time online celebrity, and doing something else with his life. “My academic performance and life have suffered greatly because of the time I have to spend making videos. It’s impossible to find a balance because time is limited,” he explained.


3. The KOL bubble: how brands can earn the trust of China’s affluent demographic

The Luxury Conversation

Brands need to prepare for when – not if – the KOL bubble bursts; the digital world is saturated with KOLs (each with millions of claimed followers), and consumers may begin to get bored of another person being paid to prance around on their Weibo feed in a particular brands’ garb.


4. How China’s hyper-professionalised influencer market could be a model elsewhere

BBC Worklife

Until last year, Zhang “BB” Xi was just another 20-something with a dream of making it big. The 23-year-old from the sprawling city of Chongqing had around 300,000 fans across all her social media platforms who watched her beauty tutorials and vlogs. It was a large number, given her youth, but she hadn’t yet been able to make major inroads into the cut-throat influencer industry.

But her success had set off an alert among the team of talent scouts at Ruhnn Holding, one of China’s largest key opinion leader (KOL) – or influencer – management companies.

















Setting the stage: In Holland do they still pay with cash?

What Chinese consumers want today, is much more connected to global changes in lifestyles and shaped by Chinese technology innovation than in the past. And brands in their localisation journey shouldn’t forget that. Through my ethnographic consumer research studies in 2018 I learnt two key insights.


Key insight 1: The changing perception of Chinese consumers towards foreign countries; China is innovating more (e.g. mobile payments) than many foreign countries.


A big part of my work is listening to Chinese consumers, meeting them in their house, joining them in their daily activities and identifying underlying needs and values in changing consumer behaviour. In Shenzhen I was hanging out with a couple of Chinese post 90s. We talked about their lives and talked about Holland as well. Then during our conversation, one of the guys asked me: “In Holland do they still pay with cash?” Can you imagine being asked that question? When it comes to integrating technology in everyday lives, China is by far further along than the Netherlands or any other country for that matter. Mobile payments aren’t a novelty in China, while paying with cash is practically unheard-of, even with street performers and taxi drivers. When you are in China and need to pay something, they always ask: “Alipay or WeChat pay?” Alipay and WeChat pay are China’s two mobile payment giants. I told the guy that in Holland people still pay with cash, but mostly use a debit card. He didn’t even know what a debit card was.


Key insights 2: Chinese post 80s and 90s aren’t that different from there Western counterparts. In facet they have more in common with each other than their respective parents. 


I “dived” in the healthy lifestyle trend in China later that year.  It got my attention, since gyms have been popping up like mushrooms. Personal trainers are frequently used to improve personal health. No expense is spared. The younger generation living in China’s big metropolitan areas value fitness much more than their parents. With stressful work they increasingly see a healthy lifestyle as a marker for success. Post 80s and 90s Chinese are spending big bucks on gym memberships and healthy lifestyles. It has only been a few years ago when Chinese women were caught up in the online skinny trend by holding up sheets of A4 paper to their waist to show their thinness. Nowadays Chinese women like healthier body figures, from having muscles to a more curvy body. Before this was definitely a no go. For my research I talked to Chinese women, an owner of a fitness centre, restaurant managers, fitness trainers and did many observations. After analysing the data, I confirmed the insight that emerged one year earlier in 2017: Chinese post 80s and 90s aren’t that different from their Western counterparts. In fact they have more in common with each other than their respective parents. For Chinese women, yoga and running are among the activities rising in popularity, but Cross Fit and High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) are also very popular. Something not that different from most Western countries.

Cultural context matters in China and in other parts of the world

Cultural context matters, though. However, this does not merely mean using local social media apps, working with Chinese influencers or making sure that consumers can pay with their mobile phones. Those are just the ‘easy’ stuff. The more you understand your consumer audience and their cultural context – digging deeper than accepted stereotypes and generalisations – the more cultural relevant your brand messaging or value proposition is to them, and that is not different in China than in other parts of the world.

What to think about AR campaigns during Chinese New Year: the Coca-Cola case

This is my thought on the matter: “Merely using AR (augmented reality) during Chinese New Year isn’t enough, it provides consumers an experience and may get them into the stores, but the content always needs to infuse the brand’s DNA and needs to be smartly developed to gain interest with the target Chinese audience.”

The Coca-Cola case is pretty successful. Within two weeks, more than 6.6 million Chinese people participated in the AR campaign. Coca-Cola partnered with mobile payment app Alipay for an AR campaign that gives Chinese consumers a special gift for the Chinese New Year. Alipay is affiliated with the Alibaba Group that has more than 520 million users. In the New Year campaign Chinese consumers can unlock augmented reality (AR) features on Alipay by scanning clay doll figures on the label of the bottle.


To watch the commercial, click here


In the commercial you see AR Chinese traditional folk characters depicted in different scenarios that bring families together for genuine moments of happiness. For the 2018 campaign, the Clay Dolls are causing mischief around a family dinner table in order to create moments of closeness alongside the slogan “Chinese New Year is sticking together”. The animations of the dolls blend with scenes of the real world that users see through their smartphone camera. After the animation finishes, a red envelope arrives on screen for the user to open for a surprise gift of 0.1 to 99 renminbi, about 0,013 eur to 13 euro. The gift that goes to the user’s Alipay account can be used on whatever Chinese consumers would like to buy through Alipay, it is not just a coupon for Coca-Cola’s products only.


Why Coca-Cola’s Chinese New Year campaign works particularly well in China

With the surprise money gift Coca-Cola taps into the Chinese New Year tradition of giving cash-stuffed red envelopes. Note that since a couple of years this has become widespread in China’s virtual world. Chinese consumers have embraced mobile payments faster than any other markets. Every day, Chinese people use Alipay to scan QR codes and pay for things or they use other mobile payment systems such as WeChat. China also has the infrastructure in place for consumers to become familiar with the technology. Around 3000 stores in Chinese malls offer AR or VR experiences.


Build an emotional connection between your brand and Chinese consumers

Although China is uniquely positioned to be a global leader in the AR space and AR offers a novel way of communicating messages to a very receptive group of Chinese consumers, what Chinese consumers seek is engagement with brands.

A major appeal of AR for brand campaigns has been its immersive nature, playful capabilities, and gateway to greater product information. When done right, AR can offer a lot of time to tell a story or deepen the connection between the brand and the consumer.

That is also what Coca-Cola has done in its AR campaign. The Chinese audience is pretty familiar with the animated characters. Coke and McCann Shanghai debuted the characters in 2001 and brought them back four years ago. These characters have been localized for the Chinese market. In Western countries they use their polar bears. In China they have local folk art traditional clay dolls. The Chinese consumers are strongly empathetic towards these joyful and exuberant characters .

Constant exposure to new technologies and innovative social media campaigns has become a part of everyday Chinese consumers’ lives. Also with AR in China, the success depends upon the emotional connection brands are able to build with their Chinese consumers.







Will the “Three minutes” Chinese New Year campaign help Apple to (re)connect with Chinese consumers? A sense of longing. #Apple #ChineseNewYear2018

A family reunion that could only lasts for 3 minutes

Apple’s Chinese New Year campaign promotes the new iPhone X. The short film tells a story about a family reunion that could only last for 3 minutes. Hong Kong director Peter Chan has shot the entire film with the iPhone X. Before you read further, make sure you have a box of tissues right by your side. Titled three minutes the story shows the story of a mother who works as a train conductor on one of China’s longest routes during Spring Festival. She only gets to see her son for three brief minutes on the railway station platform. Every year the conductor misses her young son during this holiday. This time she had aranged her sister to bring her son to one of the train stops, so that she could briefly see him. The story is based on real-life elements and the women in the commercial is really a conductor.


To watch the commercial, click here

Key elements: family, obligations and wanting to impress parents

Three key elements create a sense of longing and emotional depth with Chinese people: family, obligations and wanting to impress parents. Every Chinese New Year millions of people travel across China to make the long journey back to their hometown for the holidays. Although not everyone is free on these days and recent years showing quite a few millennials flying to foreign countries, a great many will also have to work through this holiday. Not only the personal sacrifice of the mother creates an emotional moment, also the reciting of multiplication tables of the young son is very moving. It shows the wish of many Chinese children to impress their parents to make them proud. And in these few seconds, the little boy shows his love by showing that he is doing fine.


Will the “Three minutes” campaign help Apple to (re)connect with Chinese consumers? 

That’s the question. Recent years show that Apple has lost share in the world’s largest smartphone market. With the last iPhone, Apple is trying to (re)connect with Chinese consumers through new features that cater specifically to Chinese people: the improving Chinese character keyboard and a new QR code scanning function.

Compared to the performance of its local competitors Apple has seen better days. The most recent demands from Chinese consumer groups about the slowdown of older iPhones is adding towards the weakening positioning of Apple.

Local competitors Huawei, Oppo, Vivo, and Xiaomi already have similar features to the new iPhone. A day before Apple’s iPhone 8 announcement Xiaomi even launched their Mi Mix 2, a phone series that was the company’s own first bezel free-screen design created by French designer and Xiaomi collaborator Phillipe Starck.

The Chinese New Year is a key holiday for sales of the new iPhone X. Keep in mind that the price tag above 8,000 yuan for the new iPhone X is about double the monthly average salary. However, it seems it isn’t the price that is causing difficulties for Apple. Chinese brands show their understanding of Chinese consumers. They offer features that appeal to local users, such as selfie cameras. Their mobile phones’ popularity increase while the iPhone’s is in decline.