The Most Important Chinese Wine Marketing Trends For 2019
Wine brands from around the world are looking for new ways to access this vitally important market.
China is already the largest red wine market in the world. Perhaps not surprisingly, then, wine marketing in China has been increasingly dynamic in recent years, as wine brands from around the world look for new ways to access this vitally important market. Here’s what you need to know about Chinese wine marketing trends for 2019.
Momentum shifts from the mega-cities to smaller inland cities
To date, the growth in China’s wine market has largely been linked with the growth of mega-cities such as Beijing, Shanghai, Tianjin and Shenzhen. But now it looks like wine market momentum is shifting to Chinese cities such as Chengdu (the capital of Sichuan province) and Xi’an (the capital of Shaanxi Province). Economic growth in China is creating a vibrant, dynamic middle class across the nation. Very rapidly, the economic dynamism found in China’s coastal cities is moving inland.
In fact, it’s almost impossible these days to read a report about the Chinese wine market without mention made of the strong growth happening in China’s “second-tier” and “third-tier” like Chongqing. While these cities might not have the epic scale of China’s mega-cities, they are still growing extraordinarily fast. For example, in Xi’an, the year-over-year population growth was 500,000 people. And Xi’an is hardly a provincial capital – with a population of over 12 million, it is larger than virtually any other Western European or North American city. And for wine brand owners, even more, encouraging is the fact that overall per capita consumption of wine and spirits appears to be higher in these inland cities.
Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) embrace foreign wine brands
Until recently, Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) in China’s wine industry did not promote foreign wine brands. But that’s no longer the case. In September 2018, Wine Australia made international headlines by lining up two Chinese social media stars – the so-called “Kardashians of China” – to showcase Australian wines to Chinese consumers. The two stars, Chufei and Churan, were actually brought to Australia for a two-day whirlwind of tastings, events, and of course, glamorous selfies. The “Kardashians of China” was paid a reported AU$34,000 for their trip, including complimentary food and wine. Look for more wine brands to embrace KOLs in 2019 as they look for new ways to expand their presence in China.
Marketing to young female wine drinkers in China
New demographic groups of wine drinkers are starting to emerge in China, and one of the most important of these is female millennial wine drinkers. This trend is important because it could open the door to new white wine varietals in China. Until now, red wine has been dominant, but the influx of so many female wine drinkers is starting to change that dynamic. For example, one big trend that started at the end of 2018 was Chinese housewives buying white wine. These female drinkers prefer fruitier, sweeter drinks. Some foreign wine experts have suggested that white wines from New Zealand, such as Marlborough Sauvignon Blanc, might have a great opportunity to gain market share in China over the next few years.
Online video marketing
Just like in Western markets, online video marketing has taken off in China as a way for brands to establish connections with consumers. The key has been the rise of video-centric social networks such as TikTok, as well as the ability to live video stream on platforms like WeChat and Weibo. If anything, live video streaming has accelerated the importance of KOL marketing in China: the people best able to communicate your wine brand to a large built-in audience of fans are these young, mobile-savvy social media influencers.
Wine marketing that emphasizes health and wellness
One major allure of wine for many Chinese consumers is the fact that wine has lower alcohol by volume (ABV) content than the traditional national drink, baijiu. As a result, the perception is that wine is healthier to drink than spirits. Wine marketers are getting ready to hop aboard this trend by promoting the health and wellness aspects of their wines.
Wine Intelligence, for example, recently looked at the typical motivations of why Chinese consumers drink wine. The No. 1 reason was the health benefits of wine. In fact, according to Wine Intelligence, only 32 percent of Chinese wine consumers drink wine because they actually enjoy the taste. Most of them, especially young female consumers, drink wine for health and beauty purposes. It’s perhaps not surprising, then, that many of the most influential Chinese KOLs are female.
Wine tastings, wine education and wine tourism
The Chinese government is very keen to develop wine culture in China, and as a result, has dedicated significant resources to wine education. Wine retailers, too, now host wine tastings. And within certain demographic groups, wine education is now seen as a mark of social prestige. Being able to talk knowledgeably about wine is one way to demonstrate social cachet. So wine marketers are also embracing this trend, seeing it as a way to establish much closer links with Chinese wine drinkers.
On a related note, wine tourism is also growing in popularity, thanks in part to support from the state. The hottest wine region in China right now is Ningxia, which now boasts Bordeaux-style chateaux and internationally recognized wines.
Australian and Chilean wines on the rise
Australia is just the most prominent of the New World wine regions that are gaining market share in China. Chile, too, is very rapidly gaining momentum in China. Both countries are supported by free trade agreements with China, making their wines more affordable for the average Chinese consumer. Thus, keep an eye on how Australian and Chilean brands are marketing their wines in China. Some of it can be quite innovative – such as the Australian wine producers experimenting with technologies like virtual reality (VR) in order to show Chinese consumers the exact vineyards where the grapes for their wines are being grown.
2019 is shaping up to be a very exciting year for the Chinese wine industry. Wine marketers are finding new and creative ways to establish their wine brands in China, and that is creating even more momentum for the Chinese wine market.