Nike, McDonald’s jump on China mobile gaming craze to entice young consumers

Multinational companies are experimenting with new ways to grab the attention of China’s consumers and are willing to spend several million yuan to garner attention in the world’s largest market.  

The tool that companies such as McDonald’s and Nike have chosen is the simple platform-jumping mobile game – Tiao Yi Tiao or “Jump jump” – on Tencent Holdings’ multipurpose WeChat messaging service, which went viral towards the end of last year.   

Players move a hopping block from one platform to another by tapping the smartphone screen, with a point scored for each successful jump. 

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The platform, also called a box, where the block jumps onto, can be customised with advertisements for 5 million yuan (US$791,000). By comparison, a 15-second, prime time advertisement spot on state-run broadcaster CCTV costs 190,000 yuan. 

“Brands now have opportunities to embed advertisements into the game … help their potential customers to know more of the new products,” Tencent said in a statement without disclosing the advertising fee. 

A Tencent online customer service staff, however, said that “only well-known brands are accepted to advertise on Tiao Yi Tiao,” adding that the company charges “at least 5 million yuan as advertising fees”. 

McDonald’s was the first Western brand to capitalise on it. When the block arrives on McDonald’s box, the company’s slogan – “I’m loving it” – appears. Players get an additional 20 points if they keep the block on the platform for a few seconds, as images of McDonald’s hamburgers and French fries jump out of the box. 

“McDonald’s China has been working closely with Tencent and we were thrilled about the

cooperation of being able to ride on the popular mobile game,” the company said in an email response to the South China Morning Postdeclining to elaborate.

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Nike, the world’s largest sports brand, has also embedded ads of its latest shoes – Nike Epic React Flyknit – on Tiao Yi Tiao.

Nike was unavailable for comment on whether there has been any significant benefits from advertising on WeChat’s mobile game, or if the company plans to continue using it in the future. 

Many popular foreign brands are struggling against their more nimble domestic rivals who know their customers better, and are able to adapt quickly in a market with rapidly changing consumer tastes. 

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In China, where the population of 1.4 billion people has created the world’s largest consumer goods market, foreign brands’ share has been gradually declining from 33.5 per cent in 2006 to 30.2 per cent in 2016, according to reports by Nielsen Holdings and Bain & Co.

A noticeable example is South Korean smartphone maker Samsung Electronics, whose market share has dropped to 2.2 per cent in 2017 from 20 per cent five years ago.  

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“I notice there are advertisements appearing on the boxes, but I cannot remember very clearly which brands are there, because I have to pay all my attention to guarantee the block does not fall when I play,” said Wang Yu, a 25-year-old clerk, adding that WeChat was a bit late in commercialising Tiao Yi Tiao. “I play less now compared to when it was newly released late last year and during the Spring Festival holiday.”

WeChat announced that daily active users of Tiao Yi Tiao had reached 100 million in January, with as many as 28 million players on it simultaneously at its peak during the recent Lunar New Year. 

Shenzhen-based Tencent is expected to report full-year earnings on March 21.

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