How Can Fashion and Luxury Brands in China Benefit From Promoting Themselves on Youku?

As China’s leading online video platform, Youku has a massive user base of over 580 million monthly active users. This makes it a powerful video marketing tool for fashion brands looking to promote themselves in China. In this post, we’ll take a look at how fashion brands can use Youku to reach Chinese consumers and boost their sales. We’ll also explore some of the advantages of using Youku over other platforms such as Weibo and Taobao. So read on to find out more!

Youku: Top Chinese video platform

Before discussing how fashion and luxury brands in China can benefit from promoting themselves on Youku, we should first define what Youku is. Known as the YouTube of China, Youku is a leading online video and streaming platform in the country. It ranks third, following other video platforms Tencent Video and iQIYI. In 2018, this Alibaba-owned platform acquired the streaming rights for the FIFA World Cup.

In 2020, there were over 500 million users of Youku. Then, in 2021, the platform had around 68.4 million visits. While it’s usually compared with YouTube in the West, Youku in China also offers different original TV shows and other long-form user-generated content. It partners with over 1,500 licensed networks that have a huge following. Therefore, if your brand aims to connect with more Chinese audiences, Youku may be the right platform for you.

Every week, Chinese users enjoy spending at least four hours on Youku while watching their favorite TV shows, including sports shows, movies, documentaries, and series. Given that social media platforms are blocked in the country, Chinese individuals value online video and streaming platforms like Youku.

However, the quality of the content is crucial in China. We perform heavy research online before deciding to purchase a product or service. Chinese consumers have indeed become more vigilant, especially after various scandals.

Thus, while YouTube has a lot of videos made by rookies, Youku’s content is mostly created by professionals. As a result, you can expect to watch good-quality TV shows and movies on Youku.

Can I Promote My Brand With Youku?

As Youku in China is such a huge video and streaming platform, you might be wondering if it also offers advertising opportunities. Yes, you can certainly promote your brand with Youku. In fact, about 80% of the platform’s total revenue comes from advertising. Advertising options include banner ads, pre-roll ads, mid-roll ads, post-roll ads, and pause ads.

Banner Ads

Banners ads can be placed at the top, bottom, or middle of the page. If you choose the middle banner ad, Chinese users would have to scroll down before they can see your ad.

Meanwhile, the bottom banner ad requires scrolling all pages until the bottom, so they can check the ad. Thus, while bottom banner ads are the most affordable option, they’re not the most effective. Top banner ads are a better option to choose.

Pre-roll Ads

With pre-roll ads, users can see your ad before a specific video starts. The most popular type of ad on Youku China, pre-roll ads can be around 15 to 30 seconds long.

Given that users cannot skip these ads, brands prefer to take advantage of pre-roll ads. However, you’ll also have to spend more compared to the other ads on Youku.

Mid-roll Ads

Mid-roll ads are displayed somewhere in the middle of the video on Youku. Users can choose to skip these ads, so they are relatively cheaper than pre-roll ads.

Post-roll Ads

As their name suggests, post-roll ads can be seen at the end of a video, and users have a choice to skip them. This also means that post-roll ads are more affordable compared to pre-roll ads.

Pause Ads

Also a popular advertising choice on the platform, pause ads can be seen once a specific video is paused. They will remain on until you resume the video with the play button.

If users pause the video multiple times, this means that they’ll be able to see the ad more. Thus, the impression rate for that particular user will be higher.

Loading page Ads

Full page ads when openning the mobile app.

Youku Feed ads

Ads that are displayed in users feed.

Partnering With Youku in Creating Original Content and More

Brands can also partner with Youku in China to produce original content. For example, Endemol Shine collaborated with Youku to create original content designed for Chinese viewers. They started with two original series while aiming to produce content that not only attracts Chinese audiences but also international viewers.

Additionally, the shampoo brand Clear — owned by Unilever — was the title sponsor for “Mars Intelligence Agency,” an original talk show on Youku. In turn, Youku advertised Cler in the show. They even had a song specifically created for the shampoo brand in one of their episodes, given that viewers will appreciate the product more if there’s emotional involvement.

For luxury brands, Louis Vuitton is among the first ones to maximize the popularity of Youku. It launched several short, high-quality video advertisements with various sections. Examples include Louis Vuitton Art, Louis Vuitton Travel, and The Story of Louis Vuitton.

Then, Cartier also had advertisements and short films with different categories, such as Watch Series, Brand Style, and Jewelry Collection. 

Moreover, Burberry launched seasonal campaigns and released exclusive videos on Youku. Their promotional video that featured the Autumn/Winter collection was well-received. The content included a British actress with a musician who composed a song and performed it. During their Milan Fashion Show, Burberry also had a live webcast on Youku, which reached over a million views.

Nature of Youku Ads

We have defined the platform of Youku and discussed its advantages. However, we should also understand the possible disadvantages of the platform. 

Given the several advertising options on Youku, you can choose what’s best for your brand to reach more Chinese consumers. Its ad algorithm, however, does not allow you to target a particular audience. That’s because it can’t monitor user preferences yet. Thus, when you place an ad on the platform, all users will get to see your ad. 

If you aim to increase brand awareness and connect with a broader audience, the ads on Youku China will do the job for you. However, if you want to target a specific type of audience, other platforms might be right for you. Understanding Youku’s features and possibilities and working with a Chinese market expert are necessary for strategic and effective brand promotion.

Taking Advantage of Multi-screen Marketing

Your brand can also benefit from multi-screen advertising on Youku. Given the busy schedules of many Chinese consumers and the common use of mobile devices when purchasing products, it will be easier for them to buy the item right after seeing the ad on Youku.

Youku vs Bilibili: Is Bilibili Becoming a More Relevant Marketing Platform?

Apart from learning about Youku vs YouTube, it pays to know that Bilibili is also gaining more attention in the Chinese market. First, let’s establish the difference between Youku and Bilibili. While Youku focuses more on licensed content, Bilibili contains a multitude of user-generated content.

Moreover, Youku caters to a bigger audience, while Bilibili targets younger audiences. Therefore, while Bilibili works quite the same as YouTube and Youku, the platform’s community culture sets it apart from the mentioned platforms. In particular, it connects more to millennials or Gen Z, with its history of focusing on anime, comics, and games. It has then explored different categories, including fitness, travel, food and beverage, sports, and technology.

Compared to Youku, Bilibili highlights user interaction more. The Danmu — or “bullet chat” — feature allows users to provide real-time video commentary. Then, as you slide from right to left, you can check the comments. As a result, Bilibili facilitates community building among users. However, Youku is more established than Bilibili and offers a wide array of traditional Chinese content.

While Bilibili has been around since 2009, it has only risen in popularity in the past few years. In the second quarter of 2021, the platform’s net revenue reached around RMB 4.9 billion or $696 million, which is 72% higher than in 2020. Furthermore, monthly active users fell to around 237 million — a 38% increase from the previous year. In terms of paying users every month, Bilibili experienced a 62% increase too.

Luxury brands’ investments in Bilibili may not be that fast compared to other businesses. However, top beauty brands have become more interested in the opportunities that the platform offers. For example, Lancôme worked with Bilibili influencers to produce branded content on the platform. Chanel Beauty also invested in ads displayed on Bilibili.

Then, Shiseido hosted a “variety show” or live-streamed product launch with Gen Z influencers, which resulted in over one million engagements. To help foster relationships between brands and influencers, Bilibili opened a marketplace. This shows that Bilibi is also becoming a relevant marketing platform that gives various opportunities to luxury brands.

However, given that it has only drawn luxury brands beyond the beauty industry, such as Dior, Gucci, and Feci, it’s still unclear whether the platform could be a powerful marketing channel for luxury brands the way Youku can be.

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