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How tech giant Apple used Bilibili to market in China

By Michaela Zhu | Marketing executive

Emerging Communications


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September 9, 2021 | 6 min read

Heard of the Chinese influencer He Tongxue? Well, you should have!

In February 2021, college student and influencer He Tongxue landed an interview with Apple CEO Tim Cook. The exclusive meeting with Cook went live with the hashtag ‘HeTongxue interviewed Apple CEO’, immediately trending on social media. It gained a staggering 210m views in 12 hours.

Emerging Communications on Chinese social media platform Bilibili and what marketers can learn from the brand collaboration between influencer He Tongxue and Apple.

Emerging Communications on social platform Bilibili and what marketers can learn from Apple’s collaboration with He Tongxue

It was a lifetime opportunity for He Tongxue and a superb way for Apple to connect with his mighty, devoted followers – an outstanding example of a breakthrough brand collaboration.

To reach a colossal loyal audience on Bilibili and reap the rewards, businesses need to connect with the right key opinion leaders (KOLs). But how can this super platform help brands get a slice of that Apple marketing pie?

What is Bilibili?

If you don’t know by now, Bilibili is a powerful social media marketing platform in China. With more than 237 million users, it successfully fought its way to the second largest video-sharing spot online in China.

Aimed at Chinese millennials and gen Zs with a penchant for anime-related content and gaming culture, watching niche videos and uploading to Bilibili is number one on the agenda with more than 7,000 core fields.

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Not only has the platform made its presence known, but it’s also developing at a staggering rate. Boasting extremely high traffic and visit rates, its revenue increased from 0.8bn RMB to 4.49bn over the last year.

Bilibili and KOLs

Gradually building audience trust is vital for sales and engagement on Bilibili.

At the center of the platform’s marketing is its young content creators, who produce high-quality interest-related PUGVs (professional user-generated videos) in a wide range of cultural areas. In addition to this, established communities interact and communicate to inspire other followers.

In Q3 of 2020, the monthly activity of Bilibili KOLs increased by to an astounding 2.4m and the submission volume increased year-on-year to 8.4m. The content categories are quickly expanding in topics such as digital, knowledge, fashion, food and lifestyle. These figures show Bilibili’s vast growth is an opportunity not to be missed by brands wanting to market in China.

Tech giant Apple chose to collaborate and market on the platform, so more brands are sure to follow.

KOL marketing on Bilibili is unparalleled, as He Tongxue has proven. After his exclusive meeting with Cook went live He Tongxue’s Bilibili video went viral and amassed an astonishing 10m views – quite a feat for an 18-minute chat.

If brands team up with KOLs on Bilibili who complement their products, the marketing world is their oyster.

Bilibili resonates

The way young people in China communicate has changed.

Bilibili allows niche content to flow freely and resonate with Chinese gen Z and millennial interests. This group relies on video for engagement and contact more than any other generation. And for them, it holds a deeper meaning.

Compared to traditional social media interactions, this generation uses Bilibili videos to inspire how they look and affirm their values through content they love. Making, watching and sharing content gives them a sense of identity and a place in the world. This is also true of their learning experiences – new thoughts and ideas are discovered via interest-based communities, platforms and friends.

Bilibili exclusivity

Setting it apart from its rivals, Bilibili is the only large-scale video-sharing platform in China with strict access requirements. If a user wants to sign on as an official member, they need to complete a 100-question quiz – ranging from company history to Japanese manga artists. That’s dedication!

And just like He Tongxue, the platform actively develops professional uploaders who bring with them a tight-knit community of fans. They sign on as exclusive content creators and, in return, work in partnership with Bilibili on video pitches and receive insights on trending topics. This keeps creativity flowing and ultimately increases screen time and membership on the platform.

Bilibili marketing

Unlike RED and Weibo, the content-seeding approach on Bilibili is through the consumers. Followers seek out uploaders, leading to an interest in more specialized content creators in various niches. The right influencer is crucial to gain full exposure in China.

Marketing on Bilibili to a unique, loyal user base is a super profitable way to advertise and the power of its reach is undeniable – it is a marketing opportunity that Western brands cannot afford to miss out on.

Want to invest in KOLs? If you want to know the best ways to manage and partner with KOLs and communities in your niche, download our in-depth guide here.

For a deeper understanding of the Chinese gen Z market, click here to download our comprehensive guide. It’s packed full of concepts, tips, insights and strategies for maximizing marketing impact in campaigns across every sector.

Rocky Chi, head of planning at Emerging Communications.

Digital Advertising Agency

Content by The Drum Network member:

Our mission is to fuel the growth of world-leading brands by building profitable relationships with Chinese audiences globally. Our unique insights into Chinese consumers, social themes, market trends and digital landscapes drive potent campaigns that successfully target, engage and sell.

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