Brand Personification

Mar 3, 2020

One Simple Way to Connect with Chinese Audiences on Social Media.

What makes a brand? There are good brands and there are bad brands. Maybe you’re even thinking about a handful of brands you admire or dislike right now.

On Chinese social media, to make a good, recognisable and lovable brand, is to create a good, recognisable and lovable character. 

The 10 most relevant brands in China according to the Prophet 2018 China Brand Relevance IndexTM (BRI). They are Alipay, Android, WeChat, Huawei, Microsoft, Taobao, Intel, Meituan, QQ and Tmall.

Brand personification is a well-used strategy in Chinese marketing. Personification gives inanimate objects personal qualities or in this case, marketers and consumers give brands personal qualities.

On Chinese social media, users influenced by various factors including Chinese familial tradition and Japanese cuteness culture, like to refer to brands as “cutified” characters and even family members, giving them nicknames and even human relationships with other brands.

小香 (Little Xiang) the nickname Chinese Chanel fans call the brand on social media. The nickname is first an alternative to some hard-to-pronounce Western names, and more importantly, Little Something is a common way to call a close friend.


What are the benefits of this marketing strategy? Well for one, this trend is an outlet for fans to connect with brands that they like, hopefully in positive ways.

This relationship doesn’t have to be dictated by fans though. Often brands will manufacture a person or creature to personify the brand. This concept has been around for ages. For example, universities have mascots and nicknames that become stand-ins for the institutions themselves.

This is an example of Durex Weibo calling itself a made-up name, Dudu 杜杜. The repetition of the same character is a common way to create nicknames for close friends. By calling itself Dudu, Durex imbues the distant monetary relationship between the brand and its customers with friendly intimacy. The name has been soon adopted by Chinese social media users.

It is easier for people to connect with a personality than benefits or claims offered by a company because most claims sound the same. “Best Value! We’re number one!”

When is it applicable? 

So when is it best to use this marketing strategy?

In Western marketing, this tactic is not recommended for luxury or high-end brands. China is an exception though and consumers can better identify with the brand and what it represents through a nickname or personification. In the Chinese market, this tactic can be helpful for almost every kind of brand. 

The top 10 luxury brands with the strongest Chinese digital presence according to the Gartner L2’s Digital IQ Index: Luxury China. They are Cartier, Bvlgari, Louis Vuitton, Coach, Gucci, Burberry, Mont Blanc, Valentino, Swarovski and Chow Tai Fook.

Of course, careful research is necessary before spending resourcing developing a cute character or name to represent a brand.  It can be difficult to introduce this when the public has already given a brand one. 

Some crucial factors in whether this approach is applicable to a brand are depended on:

  1. Does the brand have a memorable Chinese name that is easy for people to remember? 
  2. What kind of brand image do they wish to leave with Chinese consumers? 
  3. Are Chinese consumers are already calling the brand by some other names.

Why does it work?

This tactic works by strengthening a company's prospects in the consumer decision-making process. Most people imagine sales as a funnel but a more nuanced way of looking at it is a cycle or series of circles. 

It goes like this: a potential customer considers a purchase, they then evaluate their options, make a decision to buy or not, experience the product, advocate for the product, consider the product itself, then hopefully bond with the product or brand and ultimately repeat the cycle again. This is known as a loyalty loop.

The consumer decision-making process model as described by researcher David Court. 

Brand personification gives companies an edge when it comes to: 1. Consideration, 5. Advocation and 6. Bonding and ultimately facilitating or strengthening the loyalty loop. 

Well, brand personification has been a Western marketing tool for decades now, in China and especially on Chinese social media brands have quite literally taken on a life of their own not only with cartoon mascots but with nicknames or familiar ones.   

Marketing teams need to be aware of not only how their brands are perceived but also how fans and critics personify them.

PingPong Digital offers brand strategy and PR services. We would be happy for you to contact us for more information.