Living in the digital age means that no one is ever truly disconnected for long periods of time. At the same time, human brains are hardwired to respond to validation, rewarding each scroll through a newsfeed, and each like on a social media site with a release of dopamine. Social media is engineered to be irresistible and, unsurprisingly, brands have incorporated this knowledge into their marketing schemes.
But the combination of an irresistible platform and brands’ awareness of its power often produces ad over-saturation. To see this in action one needs look no further than all the sites and apps we visit and use every day: each one of them, from Weibo to Tmall, from Douyin to BiliBili, is most likely using personalized advert algorithms that guarantee that each user is flooded with promotional contents, something which has already been accepted by users as a tradeoff for being able to access these platforms’ services. And this sensory overload has a very important consequence for brand owners and marketers: it presents them with the seeming impossibility of creating unique and effective advertising in the over-saturated environment.
Competition is where creativity thrives.
First of all, we have to get rid of the idea that a competitive marketplace is a bad thing. In fact, it’s quite the opposite: if the specific market that a brand wants to reach is already filled with content, this means that there is a clear demand and that the industry is booming. This means that competitors have already set the tone and established the kind of messages that tend to surround a particular product.
This could benefit a brand in two ways: first, customers will have already heard about the product and warmed up to it, and second, if there are already some established rules for the industry (such as expecting that ads for certain products use certain tropes: cleaning products always being introduced by housewives or sportswear always being worn only by high-performance athletes, etc.), then your brand will be welcome when it breaks them. Breaking the rules is always rewarded by consumers, as it was the case for Nike’s ad for the Chinese New Year2020, where the tradition of handing Red Envelopes turned into a unique, funny and heart-warming display of sportsmanship by an auntie and her niece.
这可以用过两种方式使品牌收益：第一,客户已经听说过该产品并对其进行了热身；第二,如果该行业已经有了一些既定规则(例如，特定的产品采用特定的隐喻: 清洁类产品总是被家庭主妇推荐或运动服装总是被高性能运动员穿着，等等)， 那么当你的品牌打破这些固有的思维，势必会受到消费者的青睐。打破规则总是会得到消费者的回报，就像耐克2020年中国新年的广告一样，一位阿姨和她的侄女将发红包这一传统变成了一种独特、有趣和温暖人心的体育精神。
Tell your brand’s story and relate to your audience.
When a brand is entering a saturated niche, then its branding and story become even more important. This is especially true when trying to separate itself from the competition. One successful example of this approach is the terrific piece of storytelling featured in TVCBOOK and the Jury Prize winner of our last edition of the Golden Lion Awards: the ad “Pujie’s Winter” , a collaboration between China Union Pay and the director Liao Yiyuan.
“Pujie’s Winter” is a really touching piece of filmmaking in its own right: it’s a complete film that tells a bittersweet story about a boy who is trying to transcend his hard situation and develop his talent. It is also beautifully shot and, more importantly, doesn’t pander to the audience or mentions the company that is behind it until the very end, when it simply alludes to the charity work and signals where to find further information about it. This is subdued and socially responsible advertising that is precisely aiming at recovering the human touch.
This type of brand storytelling means building a cohesive narrative that brings together the facts and emotions that the brand wants to evoke in consumers. Banks, for instance, have a reputation of being cold, impersonal institutions but a story like “Pujie’s Winter” can remind us that they are also doing important work that benefits communities.
And, on top of that, this kind of advertising can become a more sustainable and long-term trend for brands, since using social commentary or “relatability” to promote a product has been proven to be very effective with consumers, even making them turn the brand into a part of their lifestyle.
最重要的是, 这一类型的广告可以让品牌呈现出更加可持续和长期的趋势, 通过社会话题或与之相关的“关联性”来推广产品给消费者已经被证明是非常有效的, 这种方式甚至把品牌变成消费者生活方式的一部分。
Add more value to your brand and products.
In order to avoid the temptation of copying the competition and offer exactly the same as them, brands can take advantage of the fact that audiences are always looking for something fresh. This means that brands need to carve out their own identity and one way to make themselves different is to focus on adding more value. From offering offline and online activities like free courses or podcasts, to opening up spaces where consumers can participate like discussion groups and forums, brands can offer experiences to accompany their products and make consumers feel like they are buying not just a product but also an experience.
Invite a new audience or build your audience first.
One way in which brands can shortcut their way to success in a saturated niche is by turning their attention to another audience that perhaps they haven’t considered. Influencers, KOLs, MCNs or other companies selling complementary products that target the same customer demographics can all be utilized to grow on their own audience. When possible, brands should welcome other professionals or companies and build relationships with them to springboard their own marketing efforts.
At the Golden Lions we have done our best to include the work of KOLs and MCNs, as well as to feature product-placement and sponsorships amongst our categories because we recognize that the work that these professionals are doing on social media is absolutely priceless and one of the best ways to add value to a brand.
But besides looking for outside help, something that we have learned is that brands can also have an audience before they actually have a product and build that audience from the ground up by themselves by using social media properly. Brands that create interesting content and manage to get millions of followers on different platforms will have it very easy to break through the noise and successfully launch their products because there is already a large fan base eagerly waiting for them. It will also make it easier to receive valuable insight and feedback from consumers on how to improve the products and make them unique enough to eventually have more value.
A brand that has proven to be really skillful at harnessing the power of social media is Supreme. The apparel company sometimes doesn’t even bother with live events or fashion shows and simply launches its products on social media, often even making exclusive collections available on Instagram and Facebook before they are on stores, so that fans can give feedback and sometimes receive rewards. Supreme decided to become a social media presence first and a brand second, carefully devising its strategy around accumulating likes, fans and friends with high-quality original content, so that they have followers willing to purchase the products based almost exclusively on loyalty. The success of Supreme demonstrates that brands would be wise to stop seeing people as consumers and begin regarding them as friends.
As the strategies mentioned above prove, with the right approach, careful analysis, and a relentless commitment to providing something unique and of value to customers, brands will always find a way to succeed even in the most saturated of markets. It just takes some real creativity and to pay attention to what’s happening in the world of advertising. At the Golden Lions we have managed to discover not only these trends, but we have witnessed how advertising in China is entering a new era where traditional strategies just don’t cut it. Brands that don’t adapt and are not aware of what their competitors’ campaigns and marketing efforts look like are going to have a very hard time adjusting to a market that will only become more competitive. 正如上述策略所证明的那样，通过正确的方法，认真的分析以及对客户提供独特和有价值的东西的不懈承诺，即使在最饱和的市场中，品牌也总是会找到成功的方法。只需要一些真正的创造力，并注意广告界中正在发生的事情。在金狮奖上，我们不仅发现了这些趋势，还见证了中国的广告业正在进入一个传统广告策略无法奏效的新时代。那些无法适应且不了解竞争对手的广告系列和营销方式的品牌将很难适应适应日益激烈的竞争的市场。所有的品牌和代理商都应该明确:人们不信任广告，因为他们看过太多广告，已经不敏感了。消费者对广告的第一反应是冷漠。那么，你打算怎么赢回他们的信任呢?