This headline and the post below appeared five years ago.

Well, the future has officially arrived.

Our China team is now building self-contained campaigns around WeChat every week, some of which are designed for lead generation. Think of these campaigns as social CRM or if you insist SCRM.

The New York Times created a video on WeChat a few years ago that shows off the app’s massive capabilities.

While the NYT storytelling focuses on the consumer experience, WeChat offers vast potential on the B2B digital marketing side.

It will be interesting to see if Western applications borrow the WeChat playbook in 2020 and beyond.

WeChat Campaign in China Offers Glimpse into the Future of Communications

The tidy sandbox called PR no longer exists.

Social media, search engine marketing (SEM), owned media, endorsement, native PR, paid media and content marketing — they all overlap into the PR world.

Even software programming comes to bear on these blended campaigns.

Work from our China team demonstrates how this plays out in the real world, harmonizing varied elements into a single campaign anchored by a mobile app called WeChat.

For those unfamiliar with WeChat, it’s China’s home-grown answer to WhatsApp, but unlike many Chinese social clones, WeChat delivers several clever twists.

The app combines instant text and audio messaging (like WhatsApp or Viber) and photo sharing (like Instagram and Facebook). Furthermore, it supports social networking via shared streaming content feeds and location-based social plug-ins (“Shake,” “People Nearby” and “Drift Bottle”).  WeChat also enables a social media tool called “Moments” so users can tweet (without a 140-character limitation) multimedia content, which in turn triggers additional interactions.

Unlike Twitter’s Chinese brother, Weibo, WeChat resembles more of a personal social network. The contacts in a WeChat network are more likely to be people you know, a byproduct of requiring connect requests to be approved before you can follow an account.

The concept has traction, gaining more than 600 million users in just two years.

WeChat in Action

Our China team created a campaign based on WeChat for the Japanese restaurant chain Yoshinoya called “凭脸吃我,” loosely translated as “Eat Me The Way You Like” (OK, maybe a pinch gets lost in the translation).

WeChat’s open architecture allows for customized plug-ins, and that’s exactly what our China team did – designing an interactive experience in which users could upload a personal photo in exchange for a mobile coupon customized with his/her photo. There was also a QR code on each coupon making it easy for consumers to share coupons with their friends. Before you say QR codes are dead, you might want to check out the penetration in China.

Even though the following infographic is in Chinese, you can still get a sense of the campaign.

Yoshinoya WeChat campaign case study_The Hoffman Agency

Here are the English CliffsNotes for the infographic:

  • Introduction: The campaign capitalizes on the celebrity of REN Zhong, a rising TV star who is just another active social media user among China’s TV generation.
  • Module A, “Spreading the Word”: The vendor, using its official WeChat channel, spreads the campaigns in which a “selfie,” a photo one takes of oneself, can trade in for a digital coupon from Yoshinoya with a customized “selfie.”
  • Module B, “Online, Offline”: The same message is also printed on every seat in every restaurant, so customers, holding chopsticks in one hand, can free their other hands to scan the QR promo code on the table and take a selfie of “Joe at lunch break.”
  • Module C, “Social Media”: The campaign goes on to address the clout of REN Zhong and other social media key influencers to expand the campaign.
  • Module D, “Show Your Friends”:  As noted earlier, the “Moments” feature on WeChat that includes QR codes allows customers to show friends they are having lunch with their “selfies”, functioning as a digital version of a word-of-mouth channel.

Quick Look at the Numbers

The ability to measure digital actions and content gives PR a way to declare victory for this type of campaign.

Here’s what I mean.

Our custom plug-in was downloaded 26,663 times.

The campaign generated more than 7,000 photos.

Unfortunately, the number of redeemed coupons is client confidential, but it’s obviously a key metric.

Looking to the long term, Yoshinoya’s WeChat account rose from less than 3,000 followers to more than 18,000 by the end of the campaign.

Of course, the program included a media relations dimension, but it’s the quantification from the digital component that takes measurement to the next level.

Know any good programmers?