How Douyin Is Changing the Face of Luxury Marketing in China


Lydianne Yap | March 04, 2019

As brands continue to search for ways to constantly engage Millennials and Generations Z-ers today, short video app Douyin stands out from the pack for features that resonate well with younger Chinese consumers.

It is no secret that the attention spans of consumers are getting shorter over time. Driven in part by the faster pace of life and digital technologies that feed their growing need for instant gratification, the average human today is said to only have an attention span of eight seconds – which is, apparently, even less than that of a goldfish.

Which is why when tech startup ByteDance launched its short video app Douyin (known as Tik Tok internationally) in late 2016, Chinese users jumped on it instantly, propelling the app to fame domestically. Instead of watching endless live-streams, users cycle through a series of short videos created by other users, each lasting no more than 15 seconds. While often compared to Instagram’s Stories feature and Snapchat, Tik Tok has now surpassed them at a global level to be the leading short video application with 500 million monthly active users and 250 daily active users.

International luxury brands have picked up on this, with many starting to invest in campaigns on the platform. American label Michael Kors became the first upmarket brand to work with Douyin in November 2017. Many other big names followed in its wake, including Montblanc, Dior, and more recently, Hugo Boss.

Reaching A Younger Chinese Audience

As the demographics of luxury consumers change with time, brands have to adapt their digital marketing strategies accordingly, reaching them on the appropriate platforms. Douyin is highly popular with younger Chinese consumers – both Millennials (born between 1980 and 1995) and Generation Z-ers (born between the mid-1990s and 2000s). According to figures released by the brand, 46.3% of its users are aged between 24 and 40 years old, while other sources placed its number of users under the age of 24 at approximately 25%. As such, the platform presents an interesting opportunity to luxury brands, seeing as to how Millennials and Generation Z-ers are fast shaping up to become two of luxury’s biggest consumer groups. A recent study found that over 50% of Gen Z-ers, and 32% of Millennials, spent more than 50,000 RMB on shopping in 2017.

Richer Content Formats

Audiences are faithless, and brands need to be constantly innovative in coming up with fresh concepts and angles when it comes to creating content to capture their attention. Research has shown that the human brain is programmed to retain visual content better than that of the written variety. While this by no means discounts the importance of good written content, it most definitely indicates the importance of leveraging video as a marketing tool in tandem.

A short video application like Douyin stands out for not only being one that is focused solely on the video medium, but also for the fact that it is built upon user generated content. This then allows brands brands to engage with consumers in a variety of ways on the platform, keeping things interesting for the end user. For instance, American label Michael Kors launched a campaign on the platform’s hashtag Challenge section in November 2017 to promote The Walk Shanghai, a digitally-driven experiential event it was hosting in China. Campaign mechanics had users uploading their versions of a catwalk with custom filters (or stickers, as they are sometimes also referred to) provided by the brand.

Image: Sekkei Studio

In encouraging users to create their own content with branded assets, not only did Michael Kors manage to stimulate engagement with its brand, it also gained huge amounts of exposure through content sharing. Douyin’s commitment to constantly innovating and improving its capabilities on this front is also reassuring for brands, especially luxury labels looking to take the plunge into a new marketing medium. “We want Douyin to be a cutting edge product,” says CEO Zhang Nan. “While we continue to explore machine learning as a core technology so as to better use it in shooting tools and product functions, we will also open up the special effects and sticker platforms to allow the works of even more designers and creatives to be discovered and enjoyed by the public,” she adds.

E-commerce Capabilities

While previously unable to support external linking from within its interface, Douyin now allows top content creators (with fan bases of at least one million) to post links to e-commerce listings on Taobao and Tmall directly within the video post. Late last year, it also enabled the linking of Mini Programs, boosting the platform’s status as a social commerce solution for brands. Louis Vuitton made use of this functionality for its Christmas campaign, providing viewers with a direct link to its website to pre-order the products advertised.

While not all luxury and premium brands have jumped on the bandwagon yet, this capability will likely prove transformational for luxury e-commerce down the road.

Appointed Agencies

To make the process of working with Douyin even more streamlined and convenient for brands, the platform has recently announced its list of certified digital agencies in China. Agencies with this certification would be granted direct access to the team at Douyin, making any future conversations about collaborations and potential campaigns much simpler for the brands involved.

“The luxury industry is undergoing a new stage of growth and if brands want to keep up with that and ride the next wave, Douyin is the platform to look out for,” says Pablo Mauron, Partner and Managing Director China at DLG (Digital Luxury Group)* – one of the strategic Service Providers recently appointed by Douyin. “Previously, luxury brands were hesitant about investing in Douyin as there were concerns that its core demographic was too young. However, the numbers today are telling us a different story, with 24- to 40-year-olds making up more than 45 percent of its users. Users under the age of 24 also account for a sizeable portion of its numbers, presenting a very interesting marketing opportunity to brands as well. After all, brand building isn’t just about making it count for the next two years ­– but about creating something that will last the next 20,” he adds.

This move by Douyin is also coming at a time where it is becoming increasingly clear for brands that beyond having a presence on the platform, a well-defined and carefully thought-out content strategy is needed. Unlike working on a campaign basis, maintaining a permanent presence on the platform would necessitate a consistent flow of content – and creating engaging video content is no mean feat. “Mobile video marketing requires a very specific approach. One notable change in this instance is that brands need to move towards vertical video formats instead of the typical landscape ones. Then there is also the question of scripting and storyboarding – videos need to deliver a message in just 15 seconds, and the tone of that video has to be aligned with the potential user generated content, which is bound to be more spontaneous. Brands cannot simply repurpose their traditional video assets,” says Mauron.

That said, brands should not be intimidated by the commitment that comes with starting one’s own Douyin channel and instead focus on all the added benefits the platform brings: Such as the power of user generated content. More than just a content broadcasting platform for brands, Douyin’s unique setup allows even closer connections to be forged between brands and their target audiences. “Today’s generation of consumers want to feel involved in the process – they don’t simply want to be marketed to,” explains Mauron. “By allowing them to create content for you as a brand, you are bringing them into your community and allowing them to foster a deeper and more lasting relationship with you.”

To find out more about how DLG can help you build your brand on Douyin, please click on the link below.

DLG x TikTok

*Luxury Society is the editorial division of DLG (Digital Luxury Group)

Cover Image: MobileSyrup

China | Generation Z | Millennials