Three Big Takeaways for Getting Your Creative Strategy Right in China

Stella Zhu

Running alongside Casual Connect London, Mintegral’s The Bridge event was an opportunity for games publishers and marketers to learn what strategies work best when it comes to the Chinese market, and it is a great honor for me to join the event and share some tips about those creative strategies that work in China.

Here are the three takeaways about my sharing and I hope it would be helpful if you are looking to enter the market.

1) Why visual localization is important – starting with your app store page

Getting localisation right is essential because it indirectly affects everything from app discovery, ratings and recommendations, install rates and even the overall revenues that are generated. Localisation goes much deeper than just translating the in-game text and app store pages. This was something Mindworks reinforced, with some real examples of games where the original creative approaches simply weren’t in consistent with Chinese consumers’ tastes.

An example is Naosi-No from JoyPac, a hyper-casual game from Japanese developer Global Gear. The original Japanese screenshots focused on the key gameplay mechanism of repairing the different stores and buildings the player has to manage. Model-making is a very traditional and popular activity for Japanese children, so for a Japanese gamer, this subject is quite nostalgic.

However, whilst this may be the USP of the game for a Japanese consumer, for a Chinese player it’s not that exciting, as there isn’t the same association with childhood. Plus, the style of the screenshots and the amount of text on them simply didn’t fit with the reading habits of Chinese consumers, who prefer things to be more visually interesting. So even though the game was popular in Japan, Global Gear quickly found it didn’t work well in the Chinese market.

Screenshots for the game before they were optimised

To help the game acquire users more effectively, we set out to create screenshots that better captured the aspects of the game that would resonate with Chinese players. Some of the Japanese elements were kept, like the kawaii (which means cute in Japanese) characters.

The result was a much cleaner layout, with a much greater emphasis on the collecting aspect of the game – something that is known to be popular with female gamers. As a result of the new screenshots the CTR for the app store page increased by 70%.

Screenshots after the improved localisation

The key point was to show that localisation is a much deeper topic than many publishers think – and taps into trends and culture.

2) Less is not always more: capturing Chinese gamers’ attention with meme and other fun elements in video ads

Secondly, it is important to know how the style of video ads needs to reference the cultural and media preference of the audience.

It’s not easy to capture users’ attention in a modern culture where information overload is the new normal. This means it’s essential that video ads are really high-quality with a strong creative hook so that they stand out from the competition.

That’s often harder than it sounds; showing the key features of an app whilst making it fun and entertaining in less than 30 seconds is no mean feat. Using memes and on-trend references is one effective way to capture people’s attention.

Whilst it’s still pretty common to see video ads that are just a montage of gameplay clips these kinds of ads tend to look quite dated. In China, video ads tend to be more story-driven, and increasingly use AR and VR elements to make them more interactive and engaging.

Another tip is to use creative ways to pack as much information into the ad as possible, so viewers get the maximum insight in the minimum time. Using elements like streamer style commentary, captions and memes are a way of layering on more information in a fun way.

Another video ad combined gameplay footage with a real-time chat function called bullet comments, turning a traditional video ad into something new and creative.

Bullet comments are a way of overlaying short user comments over video in real-time, allowing viewers to see and share the opinions of other users. It’s an innovation that has caught on in China and Japan, and especially on the Chinese video streaming site Bilibili, which has more than 30 million registered users who share a passion for animation, comics and games. So it’s definitely an approach that seems to appeal to young, social-media-savvy users.

Adding the bullet comments had a significant effect compared to the previous, non-interactive version. The number of people downloading the game after watching the ad increased by more than 200% and the click-through rate of the ad almost doubled.

3) Interactive ad formats like playables and AR deliver the best results

The explosion of hypercasual games in the Chinese market has been accompanied by a big increase in the use of interactive ad formats, as the business model behind most hypercasual games depends on high volumes of new players with as low an acquisition cost as possible. So formats such as playable ads and interactive end-cards are being used because they are so effective.

To demonstrate the effectiveness of interactive ads,  here is an example of a 3D playable ad for a game called – a snowball game in which players win by manipulating the snowball car to roll the snowball and hit the other player into the sea.

The ad creative perfectly copied the 3D graphics and gameplay, giving viewers an authentic taster of the full game. As a result, the CTR for the playable ad was 50% higher than the non-playable version and IVR increased by 30%.

There were also examples of AR and VR end-card ads – these are a good option as they are a lower cost to produce than a full 3D playable ad, but still offers a very engaging experience.

The big takeaway – the right creative is essential for success

For short, it was clear how important the right creative approach is to the success of a mobile game. These are some of the insights from the team of Mindworks that have been proven to work in the Eastern market. I hope that our sharing on these campaigns will also have a positive impact on marketing campaigns in other markets you target.

Mind Insights