The new year is coming rapidly into view, and for marketers, there’s no time to pause to reflect on the canceled events, improvisations, and pivots to digital that defined this year, dominated as it has been by the COVID-19 pandemic. One of the biggest takeaways from the pandemic has been the need for brands to build their capacity for flexibility, but brands can’t afford to go into 2021 without a plan. Marketers can already block out the China 2021 KOL marketing event calendar far the many e-commerce festivals, as well as the commercial spikes that tend to accompany traditional festivals and even Western holidays. By following a few best practices, brands can get the ball rolling and make sure they’re ready to take advantage when those shopping peaks come around.
Set your expectations
As always, brands should go into each campaign with clear goals and expectations. What will success look like? What are the specific sales targets the brand is aiming for? Nailing these foundational elements is essential and gives the team a driving purpose that will inform all the choices that will shape the campaign’s development.
Pick your products
There are also decisions to make about what products the brand is going to centre for a given campaign. Consumers will always tend to come looking for a brand’s hero products during these shopping peaks, but brands are generally well-advised not to offer discounts on such core items. It may make sense to time a new product launch or a limited-edition product or gift box around a shopping event or festival, in which case that may be the brand’s big talking point.
Depending on what the event is, the brand may promote certain products or product categories to line up with the theme. For example, brands will lean on family-centred products or messaging around Chinese New Year. For Valentine’s Day or the Chinese equivalent, Qixi (Double Seven), brands will have love and romance top of mind, though they may also play to single consumers.
Build-in time for China 2021 KOL marketing event calendar
For most regular campaigns, preparations should start around 45 days ahead of the big day (or the launch, if the campaign extends over several days/weeks). The two main exceptions to this rule are 618 and Singles’ Day. These are the most important events on the China 2021 KOL marketing event calendar, and brands must start laying the groundwork as much as three months in advance.
During these preparations, there are several steps marketers can’t afford to miss:
- Adopt an early KOL strategy
Brands are incorporating KOLs (and increasingly KOCs) into every phase of their campaigns around festivals. In the opening phase of the campaign, best practice is to focus on making sure the target audience is aware of the key products. Partnering with KOLs who will review or mention products can help the brand achieve this goal, which may also include expanding the audience or extending into a new demographic. All this product education is planting seeds for the moment when consumers start spending.
- Deliver sharable content
As the peak approaches, consumers will be more actively searching and researching products, brands and deals. At this time, the brand should be using content to build buzz, using keywords and hashtags to ensure consumers discover the content. At this stage, KOCs and KOLs will help get the word out, creating an organic cycle of conversation around the brand. Any conventional ads will start being run around this time to complement the content strategy.
- Plan your sales strategies
By the time festival shopping is in full swing, the brand and its KOL partners are actively driving sales. The brand should also lookout for opportunities to participate or have its products featured in official live streams hosted by the festival organisers, such as the Tmall-sponsored extravaganzas held to promote Singles’ Day.
Keep consumer shopping habits in mind
Timing the peak of the campaign is vital. Obviously, for the e-commerce festivals like Singles’ Day, JD.Com’s 618 Day and Xiaohongshu’s RED Shopping Festival, brands will plan for their promotions to build to a crescendo on the actual day of the event itself. However, for traditional festivals like Mid-Autumn Festival and Chinese New Year, much of the shopping will be done in advance. By the time the festival rolls around, consumers may be preoccupied by travelling home to visit their families, having bought gifts days or weeks ahead. For these festivals, the big sales push and associated KOL collaborations should peak a week or two ahead of the event.
Since some events are more platform-specific, such as the RED Shopping Festival (Xiaohongshu) and 618 Shopping Festival (JD.com), brands should plan their content strategies accordingly. For those platform-specific events, it will likely make sense to target content and advertising on the host platform. However, that’s not a hard rule – the conversation around shopping festivals is often very much a cross-platform affair, and many social platforms are now integrated seamlessly with e-commerce platforms. Singles’ Day is the ultimate example of this, with almost every platform now running its own spin-off sales and live streams on the sidelines of Alibaba’s main event.
Here’s a list of just some of the major shopping dates in the China 2021 KOL marketing event calendar.
China 2021 KOL marketing event calendar date:
1 January: New Year’s Day
12 February: Chinese New Year
14 February: Valentine’s Day
8 March: Women’s Day
9 May: Mother’s Day
20 May: 520 Day
6 June: RED Shopping Festival
18 June: 618 Shopping Festival
14 August: Qixi Festival (Double Seventh)
21 September: Mid-Autumn Festival
1-7 October: Golden Week
11 November: Singles’ Day
12 December: Double 12
25 December: Christmas Day