As the New Zealand Asian population increases, so do the business opportunities both domestically and offshore. If China is your target, you better understand their culture and purchase habits—quite literally, you must speak their language.

At Bananaworks, they know how to do it. A brainchild of Kenneth Wang, Bananaworks specialises in cross-cultural communications and is renowned for having its finger on the pulse of the Asian market. By using an integrated, multi-channel approach, the Auckland-based marketing consulting firm can transform any campaign into an engaging narrative that resonates with Asian consumers, working as a bridge between these two very distant cultures. Services range from market research, brand strategy and positioning, packaging design, through to marketing and promotion executions.

james shi 4-3

James Shi

As young Chinese are going digital, mastering those channels has become essential. Chinese consumers buy everything online these days including food, clothes, laptops, appliances and even home services. Cross-border e-commerce in China is massive. China’s e-commerce retail sales account for over 40 percent of the global e-commerce retail sales in 2015. The top two B2C platforms are Tmall (owned by Alibaba.com) and JD.com, where Asian consumers are doing research, comparing and making purchasing decisions, with a soft spot for NZ food, beverages and supplements.

Another hot topic creator which can influence online purchasing behaviour is Chinese social media. WeChat is usually a good platform to interact with Chinese New Zealanders since it focuses on close circle communication, while Weibo gives New Zealand business an opportunity to talk to mainland China audiences.

But always be prepared before launching your Chinese market strategy. “Understanding the overall market is the first step to winning,” said James Shi, account manager, Bananaworks. “With our clients, we usually start from the very beginning, understanding their business and product, assessing their brand position among the mind of target audiences and creating an authentic Chinese brand name if necessary, and then we help them work out their tonality, their style and their target sectors in the Chinese market context.”

A perfect example comes from a Taranaki-based pure Manuka honey. Bananaworks started from its brand name and came up with ‘Naki’, short for Taranaki, but also meaning ‘contain’, ‘miracle’ and ‘amazing' in Chinese, as well as ‘shining’ in Maori. Bananaworks also developed Naki brand’s international visual identity, as well as its Chinese brand name and premium package design for the offshore China market, including a certificate of authenticity featuring a scannable QR code and unique individual product serial codes. Everything was then set to launch the product into the Chinese premium market through promotions, events and e-commerce, both in China and New Zealand.

“We know how to get into their hearts because we know what they want,” said Wang. “And China trade opportunities come both ways; we help brands get into Asia, but we also bring buyers to New Zealand.”