China Watch: Shanghai Disneyland, McDonald’s, KFC, Alibaba and More

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Shanghai Disney

china disney weibo 2Hours-long lines and 30,000-plus guests were how Shanghai Disneyland rung in its first days. The long-anticipated opening of the $5.5 billion park has attracted thousands of visitors, prompting some western publications to run headlines like “Disney Shanghai is annoying people on its very first day.

But it’s not annoying so many people, because Disney is already planning its next China park. Sichuan’s two largest cities, Chengdu and Chongqing, are reportedly vying to be considered for future China Disneylands. The Chongqing foreign trade authority has confidently stated, “It’s likely that our city will win selection of this project.”

For its part, Disney has kept mum, insisting it is only concerned with making the Shanghai park a success at the moment. But it would make sense that Disney flood the China zone with future parks. Indeed, Disney rival Wanda Group has announced plans for 15 theme parks across the country.

china weibo disney

Disney. meanwhile, has sued a number of Chinese film production companies for their role in a Chinese movie titled The Autobots. The film is a nearly identical reproduction of Disney Pixar’s Cars franchise (trailer below).

Disney isn’t the only iconic American brand making moves in China. As Disney plunges into China, McDonald’s is looking for an exit—or a mini-Brexit—of sorts. China’s Manpower Group is reportedly in talks to buy some of McDonald’s 2,000-odd restaurants in China, one of a half-dozen reported bidders. At the same time, McDonald’s is expanding its operations in China.

Chinese brands, meanwhile, are pushing to expand in the opposite direction, into global markets.

Speaking of Wanda Group, the Chinese conglomerate has partnered with adidas to help develop the sports of basketball and soccer in China, and also sponsor Wanda’s Ironman triathlon events. But it’s not just sports that Adidas is targeting in China, but also fashion.

While the wealthy are eschewing luxury brands, they are spending more on foreign sportswear brands. Nike’s sales in Greater China were up 35% and it too is entering an agreement with China’s government, to fund physical education activities.

While Chinese consumers may be flocking to foreign athletic gear, they are less enthusiastic about foreign automakers. A J.D. Power China study reported that the “proportion of car buyers who found the sales experience better than expected dropped to 40 percent, from 64 percent in 2015.”

To help win back some of those luxury shoppers in China, foreign luxury brands are increasingly turning to digital platforms like WeChat and Weibo. One of those luxury brands is Tag Heuer. The LVMH Swiss watchmaker is plowing resources in to growing its share in China despite lackluster results for luxury timepieces there. Swiss watch brand sales are down almost 10% worldwide, due in large part to flagging demand in China.

But brands shouldn’t shun in-store experiences in a push to chase Chinese consumers online. A survey by London consultancy OC&C found that Chinese consumers prefer to shop in-store. In fact, many of them treat it as a social experience, “with many arranging to meet friends” in stores.

By 2020, it’s estimated up to 5 million Chinese will take to the water for a cruise. To bring in the passengers, China’s Genting Dream cruise line will turn to the PR mavens at Leo Burnett. Chrysanthemum fish served on the lido deck!

We’ve noted before how powerful and persuasive product placement is in Chinese programming. The latest example is a run on Weet-Bix after the Australian breakfast cereal appeared on the Chinese TV drama Ode to Joy. Weet-bix aside, CPG/FMCG sales are sliding in China, even as Alibaba strikes a deal with Mars to sell its brands across Tmall and its other sites. Even beer sales are down significantly.

Move over Vivo, Oppo and OnePlus—the new mobile brand hotness in China might be imoo. The imoo website advertises a smart watch designed to track and find children. But the new imoo handset is a full phone with modern specs.

On the subject of tech in China, The Wall Street Journal has an interview with Andrew Ng, chief scientist for Chinese internet giant Baidu, in which Ng compares working with the Chinese government to creating Google’s porn filter. Speaking of timely interviews, The Holmes Report spoke with Steven Chang, VP of  China media juggernaut Tencent.

And we’ve previously looked at the mind-blowing marketing power of Chinese celerity Lu Han—now Lu has partnered with a robot named Dumi on behalf of KFC.

And more on Shanghai Disneyland below:

Photo credit: Guests at Shanghai Disneyland via Weibo and the Disney Parks blog

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