How to win in China using WeChat?

WeChat – 900 million users within your reach!

Luxury brands are putting more resources into China’s booming mobile app WeChat, where they can sell products directly to more than 800 million users. That’s no surprise. According to Bain & Company’s 2016 survey of nearly 1,500 Chinese consumers, 60 percent identified WeChat and Weibo as their online source for information on luxury goods.

Here is a little step by step on how to market on the Chinese social giant. But before we get into the good stuff, I want to clarify a few things that are too often overlooked by brands before they take the plunge.

The main thing is to never forget that Chinese buyers buy into something that we call Q.S.S which stands for Quality, Story and Status. Before marketing your brand in China, you have to check your Q.S.S, because even if your product is great, if you lack a story (note: content is king), your brand won’t look legitimate in the eyes of Chinese consumers and your chances of conversion are extremely slim.

I work a lot with major luxury brands who are marketing in China everyday and we always make sure that we have the story part right and high quality content ready to represent the brand and its origin and values before we launch any type of campaign behind the great firewall.

The reason for this is simple. Chinese buyers are not easily impressed as they buy into quality products, emotional storytelling and status. More importantly, if you are a luxury brand, you already know it. China buys into the Western dream. To simplify, if you are a Western luxury brand, your name needs to be known in Paris, trendy in New York and exciting in London before you can attract Asian markets. My point is simple, don’t market in Hong Kong if you haven’t leveraged your brand in Europe and North America first. This mainly applies to the luxury industries that are interested in marketing in China.

Do things in the right order.

If you are already there, you might be ready to get into WeChat and to put your brand out there! How exciting! So, grab your smartphone, download the app, and let me show you how it’s done!


First, you’ll need to Setup an official WeChat account. It sounds simple but many Chinese regulations will make that first step a tad complicated if your company is not registered in China.

To create an official account you will need ID documents that are usually hard to get if you are a foreign company :

  • A Business Registered in China
  • A Chinese Business License
  • A Chinese ID
  • A Residency and Citizenship ID

Note : You can register your foreign business as a local business in China but there are high costs and delays involved. 

If you can’t obtain these documents there are still 3 different ways to get an official account:

  • Register a company (means a large $ investment and can take up to 6 months to be approved)
  • Rent a license from a local Chinese business (cost about $500/year but the account will be attached to the company you rented the license from)

Note : You still get to keep your brand name and your logo on the account but the main downside of this is that the company has the right to remove your account for any reason at anytime and in this case, you could lose all of your content and followers.

  • Apply through the Tencent foreign company process (cost $300 and the approval is not guaranteed but it’s the method I recommend, especially if you represent a quality brand).

Once your company gets approved, you’ll need to choose the type of account you want to create.

Luxury brands typically use two types of accounts to push content on WeChat.

1 – A subscription account to deliver the content allowing them to post once daily.

2 – A service account to promote the content posted, allowing them to post only once weekly.

Depending on your marketing needs, choose a type of account and you’ll be ready to post great content on WeChat!


While this can potentially be highly rewarding (when done properly), advertising on WeChat is not only complex, but expensive. The advertising cost in major cities like Shanghai and Bejiin are around $30USD per 1000 impressions. Second and third tier cities are about $20USD per 1000 impressions and non-specific location advertising will set you back around $10USD per 1000 impressions.

If you want to advertise on the app as a foreign business, you will also have to apply through a special Tencent process at :



They work like the sponsored ads that you see on your Facebook feed between your friends’ content, although you don’t get the ability to link out to your website. Instead, you can link to a white page hosted by Tencent with a little bit more content and a call to action.

Also, these ads don’t show up for users who don’t have many friends. You’ll need around 500 friends to see one of these bad boys pop up and even with a lot of friends, the ad will only show up once every 48 hours. If the user doesn’t click or interact with the ad, it won’t appear again. If he does, WeChat offers free re-targeting and you can reach out to that user later on with an almost 100% success rate.

Note : Targeting on WeChat is pretty basic. You’ll be able to target age, interest, location, gender, device, and phone network. 

However to use Moments advertising, you’ll need to be either :

  • A Chinese registered company
  • A WFOE* with $5k to invest in ads per month
  • A Foreign business with at least $20K to invest in ads per month

*WFOE :  a large entreprise that submits a request to the chinese governement to do business in China and has plans to registering their company there. They would then be considered as an entity of  the Chinese business landscape, but entirely foreign owned.


This is my least favorite way of marketing on the app as it’s very expensive and the results are often disappointing.

To run this performance-based cost ad, you’ll need to reach an agreement with a big official account holder to display banners on their profile. Tencent will usually require you put down between $20K and $75K to start a campaign. It’s pretty expensive and in my opinion, not the best way to advertise on WeChat as you could reach the same amount of people by using the right partnerships with influencers (which would cost less money).


You contact them directly to negotiate and make a deal (I personally like that), then you agree on what kind of partnership you want to create with them :

  • Banner on their account
  • Paid product review
  • Paid article about brand or product
  • Giveaway

Obviously the costs vary depending on the influencer’s popularity and can start around $50 and go up to $50K.

You can find some Chinese influencers on these websites :


Well known lifestyle and luxury brands tend work with significant budgets on their Chinese campaigns, allowing them to purchase the best performing type of ads (Moments) to promote their content. If your budget is tight, you will probably be left with only one choice: working with key influencers. If you happen to find the right one to carry your brand’s message, it might be well worth it.


Whenever my clients want to market their products in China, we first talk about their experience within Asian markets and the budget they are willing to spend on their Chinese campaign. I often face one of these two situations:

  • The brand is well established, has a campaign running on their website and have a significant budget ($100K/200K) to create a real campaign on WeChat in order to convert more Chinese buyers. It’s usually not the first time that they have marketed in China.

This profile allows us to create an interactive campaign that will lead to conversion. Here are some examples of what we can do at Digital Little for these type of clients :


  1. The campaign starts from an H5 copying the design of a WeChat article. The article is torn out to give way to an exciting video presenting the latest BMW model. Here, BMW is showcasing a now classic technique of creating a “fake” article and surprising the user by revealing an H5. The key however, is in the outstanding design of the overall campaign which transition the user smoothly from the first click to the final action call.


The campaign opens by showing a funny comic book illustrating the conversation between two friends talking about how the first SUV was created. At the end of the comic book you get a call to action to click and discover the new Mercedes SUV through a weather app that showcases the Mercedes models you’d need depending on the weather.


We set up a powerful campaign with the car company Buick, enabling users to play an “escape game.” A secret agent gets captured by a gang and it’s up to you to re-order and select actions which will enable him to escape.

The graphics of the story are beautiful and most importantly, the Buick plays a prominent role as the secret agent uses it to escape before finally leaving it behind and fleeing in a helicopter (not manufactured by Buick).

The story ends up with an invitation to join a test drive for the latest model: a simple action call at the end of a well-crafted WeChat campaign meant to drive foot traffic in Buick’s stores.


  • The brand doesn’t have a running campaign and wants to market in China usually for the first time with a small budget (30k – 50k)  in order to convert new Chinese buyers.

Developing an innovative and successful conversion campaign for the Chinese market is usually pretty costly. It doesn’t mean that brands with tighter budgets can’t generate good awareness campaigns on the network. The secret here is to switch focus. Instead of creating brand new content exclusively made for China, we mirror the content initially created to promote the brand and mirror it through classic WeChat articles on an official account. Adding a few good partnership with key influencers also helps a lot to grow the campaign’s global reach.

Well established luxury brands are actually using that technique too and even add it to their interactive campaigns to maximize ROI.

Here are some examples of WeChat articles that we produced for some of them while generating awareness and conversions :

Maxime R.
My name is Maxime Rançon. I'm a french marketer, blogger and entrepreneur currently living in Los Angeles, CA. I'm also the founder of the creative marketing agency Digital Little and the Co-Founder of the messaging app Riddle. Let's chat!

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