What to think about when ordering printed marketing material in China

Key summary

  • Environmental awareness in China is rising - Gelato works with its customers to cut delivery distances by 90 percent and cut print volume by 50 percent
  • Expectations are rising, those within China expect the same quality of print materials as their foreign counterparts - Gelato provides business of all sizes with access to the latest and greatest print machines
  • Translation applies to text AND design - Chinese is an incredibly efficient language and text requires a smaller space than marketing material elsewhere. Using Gelato’s editable templates, elements can be easily manipulated as appropriate

China was able to maintain steady GDP growth throughout the economic downturn. However, the 2008 Sichuan earthquake, which had a deep and profound impact across the country, caused huge disruption to manufacturing and made many realise that an overreliance on exports could leave China vulnerable in the future. The result has been a shift from dependence on export, to a focus on domestic consumption.

There has also been a massive leap forward in digitization and new IT companies are springing up with increasing regularity. Just in the bike-sharing area, a big boom business in China, there are two or three unicorns right now. There is a big focus on embracing new and more efficient ways of doing things; always mobile first.

As more international companies arrive and new domestic companies start-up, print materials are needed on the ground to support sales and marketing efforts. That is why Gelato launched in the BRIC countries (Brazil, Russia, India and China) earlier this year.

Here, we look at what needs to be considered when ordering printed collateral in China.

Imports require a time buffer

As the local Chinese population starts buying more and more from overseas, the import process has had more to cope with; needing to ensure appropriate taxes are paid and that goods are appropriately processed. This can cause delays and means that those importing goods need to allow extra delivery time. This is particularly true for printed materials, which may also need governmental review before entering the country.

Delays can be frustrating for organisations, especially if they cannot track the status of their order when it enters the country.

That Gelato produces prints locally in China, means there is no need to import goods and the import challenges are leapfrogged all together.

Read more: The challenge with shipping marketing material and why it’s better to leapfrog customs altogether

Translation applies to text AND design

Appropriately translating materials in Chinese is a big challenge for global businesses. I’ve personally seen a lot of big (and often funny) mistranslations.

Whereas Google Translate may work well for languages derived from Latin, it’s not great when it comes to Chinese.

It’s not just about the technical accuracy of course, brands need to speak with the same tone of voice. For a global CMO or senior marketer who doesn’t speak the language, ensuring processes are in place to spot technical mistakes can be difficult enough, but ensuring tone of voice consistency can be near impossible. Gelato enables local teams to modify text within preapproved materials, ensuring brand consistency and making sure the text is actually appropriate for Chinese speakers.

An added challenge when translating to Chinese is that even if you have a good translation, the language is more efficient than many and therefore requires a smaller space. A lot more can be expressed on Chinese Twitter, compared English Twitter for example. This is a major advantage of Gelato’s editable templates. Elements can be moved and resized to account for differences in text length and size.

Digitization is an ongoing process

Ordering print materials such as brochures, flyers and business cards can be quick and easy but lacking in digital process. For example, before joining Gelato, I once sent a PDF of my business card design to a printer and received back a product with my name spelt wrong. On another occasion, my job title had been changed. This was especially odd as I’d shared digital files, but the reality is that many printers still rely on manual processes, where mistakes can be made.

If you’re a global company, ordering materials and unable to check (or you quite reasonably assume that the text will not be changed) a lack of digital process risks faulty material making it into the field. With Gelato, everything is carried out in one system and centralised control is ensured. Content owners can freely and easily allocate permissions to view and edit materials to different individuals, while still maintaining ultimate power over the final product.

Mobile first, desktop second

The new and rising stars of Chinese enterprise were born with a mobile first mindset. Many consumers are experiencing the internet for the first time on mobile phones, rather than desktops. This also applies to professional lives. Hence, there is an expectation that everything be accessible on mobile devices.

Mobile first has always been at the core of Gelato services; the Gelato platform is designed to give perfect user experience across all devices. This is beneficial across global operation but is particularly relevant for the Chinese market.

Environmental concern is rising

A lot of businesses in China are recognizing the importance of reducing their environmental footprint. Beijing has traditionally faced criticism for its impact on the environment because of the coal consumption required to heat up northern China. However, there is a growing desire amongst the Chinese population to reduce pollution in general, which has partly been the result of social media and government initiatives that focus on improving environmental awareness.

Locally producing marketing material is aligned with this of course. We work with clients to reduce shipping distances by 90% and reduce print volumes by 50%. Cutting delivery distances reduces carbon emissions by cutting down on cross-continental plane flights and shipping. Reducing volume reduces emissions caused by paper and pulp, along with landfill waste.

Read more: Why 90 and 50 will make a huge difference when managing your marketing material

Raising expectations

Rightfully so, those within China expect the same quality of print materials that their foreign counterparts have. It’s a positive attitude. But this can be a challenge and requires access to the latest equipment. If you’re smaller or midsized company in China, you might struggle to get access to these sort of operations. Not with Gelato.

The printers that are part of the Gelato Network use the latest and greatest print machines. In fact, our print house in south China is one of the most advanced print houses in the entire network.

China has in the past suffered from a reputation of producing products of questionable quality, but things are changing. China is the home of iPhone production and innovative companies such as Huawei, which are the envy of the world. Print should be no different.

Per capita GDP is low… but rising

Per capita GDP is much lower in China than in the western world. It is quite common to have an assistant to take care of all printed material in what can be a very manual process. But per capita GDP is growing tremendously and whereas labour is still quite cheap, there is expected to be a tipping point, where efficiency will only improve through digitization.

As digitization grows and companies become increasingly environmentally conscious, Gelato is perfectly placed to provide the top quality products that the population demands, while helping to reduce emissions and completely eliminating pain points such as lengthy delivery times and print wastage.