We are very proud that LITAO has been covered in a three-page feature by World Market, an influential Chinese-language magazine on international trade and economics. World Market, a government-run bimonthly, has been in publication for 35 years – almost since the beginning of China’s economic reforms. The magazine has won the Outstanding Chinese Periodical award and was the only Chinese economics magazine accepted during the APEC meeting in Shanghai. Nowadays, World Market is one of the few Chinese economic publications that you can find in front of you on overseas flights.
World Market was intrigued by the ingenious official WeChat campaign that LITAO ran to promote Lithuanian businesses participating in the first China International Import Expo (CIIE). The campaign resulted in multi-million euro deals for companies with zero prior presence in China. Even though it has been some five months since the event, Word Markettalked to us recently to find out how LITAO made it happen.
A MULTIFUNCTIONAL WECHAT PLATFORM: RUN BY LITAO, EXCLUSIVELY ENDORSED BY THE LITHUANIAN GOVERNMENT
The multifunctional WeChat platform 想掏完来立陶宛 (an edgy take-on nation branding, bringing Lithuanian national identity closer to Chinese consumers – a play on Lithuania’s name, it suggests the joy of discovery and exclusivity) , LITAO’s brainchild, officially represented not only 18 Lithuanian brands which participated in the expo, but the country itself. We received exclusive endorsement from Enterprise Lithuania, a government agency promoting entrepreneurship and supporting business, Ministry of Economy and Innovation, Lithuanian Embassy in the PRC, and top officials in the government.
Minister of Economy Virginijus Sinkevicius with LITAO team at the CIIE
The WeChat account laid the groundwork for the success in CIIE of Lithuanian enterprises. Virginijus Sinkevicius, Minister of Economy and Innovation, even made a special appearance on the WeChat account. “It was a matter of a phone call,” remembers Lina, LITAO’s Founder and Managing Director: “We were in the office, bouncing ideas around how to really make Lithuanian delegation stand out. I said, how about we call the minister and ask for an interview? He was onboard with the idea immediately.”
Understanding the importance of the expo, minister Sinkevicius agreed on a casual and fun video interview, promoting the bond between the two countries in the most accessible way – WeChat. In the interview, minister Sinkevicius talked about his passion for basketball and which Chinese foods he was planning to try once in Shanghai for the expo. It was unprecedented for a government official: no minister of any other country has done anything like that on WeChat before. It was therefore really appreciated by business representatives and consumers developing interest in Lithuania. We are proud that minister Sinkevicius went the extra mile to bring Lithuania and China closer together.
This is one example how LITAO harnessed WeChat’s connectivity. We Love Lithuania became a digital microcosm of strategic marketing and communications for Lithuanian delegation. Brand presentations attracted over 20,000 targeted B2B views and more than 6 million digital impressions, resulting in deals totaling over 10m euros for 2019 alone for brands with zero prior presence in China. The account promoted the brands not only B2B, but also directly to Chinese consumers: LITAO used advocate marketing and gamification to hook the increasingly picky Chinese audience. The most active followers of the account received gift baskets of products of the 18 brands we represented – competition was tough!
GOLDEN AGE FOR IMPORTERS – BUT KEY IS TO KNOW HOW TO MAKE THE MOST OF IT
The first China International Import Expo, which took place in Shanghai last November, was one of the biggest events of 2018 for both entrepreneurs and state officials around the world. Lithuanian President Dalia Grybauskaite was in Shanghai on November 5 to meet Chinese president Xi Jinping; we were delighted that she stopped by the expo to visit Lithuanian delegation.
The expo marked an especially favorable time for Western importers: decades-long economic growth has created a Chinese middle class with unprecedented levels of disposable income. China’s government is putting every effort into increasing domestic demand and fostering growing consumption habits. While promoting import, China is also meticulous about who to allow in: only goods and services of the highest quality will meet the mark. This trend will only grow stronger. Our experience has shown that to stand out in an event like CIIE, you have to be ready to go the extra mile. “Smart selling” starts before the event – distributors are bound to seek collaboration with westerners who come prepared.
That is why LITAO took the time to showcase the magnitude and opportunities of digital China to Lithuanian businesses. They are already reaping the benefits: apart from deals resulting from the WeChat campaign, we have also trained them to use WeChat and Alipay for business purposes and share first-hand insider information in WeChat groups – something that is still unheard of in Europe, but indispensable in China.
When asked about what aspect of the multi-layered WeChat campaign and expo she is most proud of, Lina smiles: “LITAO managed to unite everyone – high-level government figures as well as entrepreneurs – making sure we were all directed towards the same goals as a single force.”