How do Advertising Work Without Any Overt Reference to the Product Being Promoted in China

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How do Advertising Work Without Any Overt Reference to the Product Being Promoted in China

Zeyu Ren



1.Introduction 1

2.Hengyuanxiang’s Old VS New Advertisement 2

2.1 The old Advertisement 2

2.2 The New Advertisement 4

3.Adidas’s American Spokesman VS Chinese Spokesmen Advertisements 5

3.1 American Spokesman 5

3.2 Chinese Spokesmen 6

4.Apple’s With Product VS Without Product Advertisements 7

4.1 Without Product Advertisement 7

4.2 With Product Advertisement 9

5.Conclusion 9

6.References 11

  1. Introduction

In the 21th century, advertising industry is booming at a rapid speed. Advertisers introduce their products to us through different media such as TV, radio, newspaper, magazine and so on. Especially in Chinese advertising market, advertising has been a billion-pounds industry for years. In the past 30 year’s development, Chinese advertising market total business revenue increases from 1 million pounds in 1979 to 234 billion pounds in 2010. It is an increase of 23,000 times. Meanwhile, the number of advertising company rise from 13 in 1979 till 24.3 thousand in 2010. It also witness a increase of 24 thousand times. They try their best to make their advertisement creative and impressive. High information advertising are showed to persuade potential customers to buy their products. Some advertising are relatively easy to understand while some of them are very hard for people to comprehend. Advertisement can be generally classified into two categories, one does not overt mention the product in the advertisement and the other emphasize the product with overt reference.
In this essay, how advertising can work without any overt reference to the product being promoted will be discussed. After the introduction, contradictory examples of three different brands will be presented and analyzed. Firstly, Hengyuanxiang’s old which maintain for 20 years and the new advertisement show up in 2008 will be compared. Secondly, Adidas’s advertisements presented buy different spokesman in China will be discussed. Thirdly, Apple’s creative advertise with or without product mentioned will be analyzed. At last, conclusion will be given.

  1. Hengyuanxiang’s Old VS New Advertisement

2.1 The old Advertisement

Hengyuanxiang, located in Shanghai, is an old Chinese company which produces knitwear, clothing, home textiles and hand-knitting wool products. The states that 80 percent of its 6 billion products are made by wool in 2013. The total sales of its products always become the champion in wool industry. In 2008, it became the sponsor of Beijing Olympic Games, which made it even more popular. The unique advertisement it used didn’t changed much in the past 20 years since 1994, and it might be well-known by most of Chinese.
In this advertisement, only a sheep cartoon logo, a Chinese word “Hengyuanxiang” appeared with a sound of a boy saying “Hengyuanxiang, yang yang yang (in Chinese, yang means sheep)”. Surprisingly, although their products are selling in most area of China, none of its products ever appeared in the commercial ads. The advertisement which lives in ten seconds maintains a pretty long life. This advertisement can be considered as covert meaning advertising with high context. Then why it chooses this type of advertisement?
Firstly, it is decided by the language culture of China. For low context culture country, messages need to be delivered explicitly and directly. (Judd, 1998) But in the high context culture country China, the simple content of the advertisement can be more efficient, fast, and economical.
Secondly, it is decided by the relationship between product and brand. The strategy of product implemented by Hengyuanxiang is brand-driven rather than product-driven. In other words, the difference is sticking product on brand of sticking brand on product. Those advertisements that are driven by product, they tend to show style, color, technique, material, feeling, package and so on. But consumers seem to have the nature of loving the new and loathing the old. When new product appears, their attentions are attracted by the new one easily, and show their preference by purchasing it. The old fashion brand will die out.
To compare with it, Hengyuanxiang’s product driven high context advertisement focus on promote the memory of the brand, the brand symbol and the brand value. Then they choose the product most related to customers memory of the brand. After that they stick product onto the brand and sale them. The product is only the carrier of the brand symbol. So the communication of Hengyuanxiang work successfully and the role of symbols in conveying meaning is efficient.

2.2 The New Advertisement

In the past two decades, Hengyuanxiang keep applying covert and low context advertisement continuously and repeatedly to promote the memory of customer. Although it looks like useless in short period sales promotion, it lead to a huge potential in long term. However, Hengyuanxiang changed its advertisement for the Olympic Games in 2008 and it failed. The name of the advertisement is “twelve Chinese zodiac signs”. The design of the advertising is relatively simple and can be seen as a extension of the old advertisement. In the 1-minute-long advertisement, the image of Beijing Olympic Game Logo and Hengyuanxiang logo keep dynamic with the boy’s voice. The only difference is that the boy repeat the slogan for 12 times and change “ yang” into other 11 different animals each time.
Appling marketing communication theories, there are three way to enhance customer’s opportunity to code information, repeating brand information, repeating key scenes and repeating the ad on multiple occasions. Obviously, this company tries to use the former two methods. But the creativity of the unoriginal advertisement didn’t receive much preference as it expected, although the company spent at most £5280 for every present on TV. People get bored of the repeatedly boring slogan and turn to other channel when watching this advertisement. It creates misunderstand of the original meaning of the advertisement.
Hierarchy-of-effects conceptualizations of how advertisement works may be used to design linear communication theories. It starts by awareness, followed by knowledge, liking, preference, conviction and end with purchase. (Varey, 2002) Individuals are supposed to be persuading gradually by the power of the message. It certainly did bring awareness to audience for the long-playing boring adverting. Newspaper and TV reported it and a large number of people talk about it. But to the other level, it bring no effects or even bad effects. For the short slogan contain nothing about the product, it could not give knowledge about their products either. Not to mention conviction and purchase, people hate it instead of like it.

  1. Adidas’s American Spokesman VS Chinese Spokesmen Advertisements

Adidas produces various advertisements in Chinese market. It is a well-known sports company produce shoes, clothing and other accessories. It was founded in German in 1949 and then became one of the leading sports company of the world. (Maslen, 2008) In this part two opposite advertising between American spokesman and Chinese spokesman will be analyzed to show how they work without any overt reference to the product being promoted.

3.1 American Spokesman

One of the most famous sport event in 2009 is the Tracy McGrady moment: 13 points in 25 minutes. To enhance consumer’s motivation, Adidas recomposed it into a commercial advertisement as the method of novel stimuli and prominent celebrity. In this advertising, no product is showed, and McGrady, the core player in Rocket Team in NBA, get 13 points in 35 minetes when their team fell behind Spurs. It can be defined as a miracle in all sport games ever happened in history. The advertisement just simply shows the 35 seconds game and show their slogan “impossible is nothing” with powerful music. In this whole advertising, no product is mentioned, but it still works in promoting their brand. Firstly, consumer behavior is actuated by feelings in finding interests, fantasies and emotions. People tend to buy stuff from a company they like. (Harner and Zimmerman, 2002) When people watch this advertisement, they feel like watching an unforgettable and unbelievable game with interests and passion. Secondly, it creats interests and desires in the A-I-D-A hierarchy-of-effects-model in the affective stage. (Coolsen, 1947) People enjoy it with a relaxing emotion. At the end of the advertising, when audiences see the slogan “impossible is nothing”, they may be inspired by this ads and have potential to take action to buy the product. So they may achieve the sell in the top of the pyramid.

However, for the covert reference of the product in this advertisement, it also cause misunderstanding. Due to only a small part of people in China understand and like basketball, some people even don’t know what does this advertisement talking about. As they are not a basketball fan and unfamiliar with McGrady, they feel nothing about the ads and even considered it as a real game. If there is a commentator explain every detail of the game and McGrady present the Adidas product, things will be much different to these kind of audience.

3.2 Chinese Spokesmen

Compared to American superstar spokesman, advertising with Chinese famous athletes may be more effective than it. Another block buster Adidas advertisement is the 2008 Olympic game series of advertisements. It is showed on TV in the end of 2007. The advertisement include for main sport event which are soccer, diving, basketball and volleyball. In this advertising, the famous athlete Zheng Zhi, Hu Jiayi, Sui Feifei and others are not the main focuses. Instead of it, normal people show as an obvious figure. Replacing the real facilities, hundreds of people compose the soccer field, volleyball net, diving plat, basket and so on. Also, board with slogan of “impossible is nothing” are hanged in auditorium. The whole advertising is commented by an athlete to show a story of its sport.
In this advertisement, no product is mentioned, except the logo of three-stripe can be seen on each athlete’s clothe. There is no denying that the brand identity of Adidas has a lot to do with its extraordinary success. The three-stripe symbol is used to convey the meaning as all best athletes wear Adidas. Three line represented the spirit of the Olympics, higher, faster and stronger. People may be influenced by the symbol even if they do not realize they have seen them. (Blakeman, 2007) This covert communication using novelty to attract attention. It is ingeniously designed and perfectly presented. People may easy get the meaning of this advertising that with the support of all Chinese the athletes may get success.
But on the other hand, Le Pla (2000) states that sometimes advertisement can be too creative or entertaining that making it difficult to tell what does it mean. The hundreds of actors background is magnificent but also chaos. Some customers may be confused about what does it mean or consider it as a public service advertising.
  1. Apple’s With Product VS Without Product Advertisements

Apple is a well- known electronic company headquartered in California. Its products such as Iphone, Imac, Ipod and Ipad lead a revolution in the electronic industry and become one of the best products ever designed. As like Apple’s slogan, think different, apple’s advertisement also think differently and creatively.

4.1 Without Product Advertisement

In 1997, when Jobs became the CEO of Apple company again, Apple company produced one of its most renowned advertisement, think different. In the one minute long advertising, it covered many celebrities including Albert Einstein, Bob Dylan, Martin Luther King, Richard Branson, John Lennon, R. Buckminster Fuller, Thomas Edison, Muhammad Al, Ted Turner, Maria Callas, Mahatma Gandhi, Amelia Earhart, Alfred Hitchcock, Martha Graham, Jim Henson, Kermit the Frog, Frank Lloyd Wright and Pablo Picasso. They are all genius from all walk of life. Finally, this advertisement ends by a little girl called Shaan Sahota opening her eyes. The full advertisement is commented by a man reading a poem.

“There are people who see the world differently.

They see things in new ways.

They invent, create, imagine.

We make tools for these kinds of people.

Because while some might see them as the crazy ones,

we see genius.

This advertisement is done by editing video resources, the slogan has an obvious grammatical mistake and it does not mention a word of its product. But it conveys the meaning of thinking differently. These advertisements which do not mention any of the product do work to their customers due to two reasons.

On the one hand, it represents a kind of people who unwilling to be ordinary and useless and pursuit extraordinary. It share same feeling with those people who want to be different or cool. As Bulmer and Buchanan-Oliver ( 2002 ) states that advertisements with pictures deliver meaning even though no deliberately refer to the product. It is a symbol that a cool guy buy Apple’s products.

On the other hand, for Cialdini’s six tools of persuasion influence, Apple uses the “authority” to show that talented and cool people have the same value with Apple. (Encyclopedia of communication theory, 2010) And the historical geniuses make it more convincing. Besides, the documentary-style advertisement makes it even more persuasive. In this condition, no mention of the product may also lead to better promotion.

Besides, by using this no product referred but inspiring advertisement, many people from all over the would become crazy funs of Apple’s product. They purchase every product designed by Apple in California. Apple do success in the long run through this advertisement.

4.2 With Product Advertisement

Apple also produces another kind of advertisement in China. In these advertising, one device, for example, an Iphone or an Ipad is the leading actor. In these ads, different people slide the screen happily and using different applications in their lives. The off screen voice says people can learn guitar, go self-driving journey, speak another language or learn a new cuisine.
This kind of advertisements highlights the product overtly and emphasizes the function it contained. The product showed in every second of the advertisement.
In the sender, encoding, transmission device, decoding and receiver process of communication, encoding the information takes a creative idea and transforms it into an attractive advertising. In this procedure, Apple shows a revolutionary creativity and delivers it to all the audiences. With a delightful music, the advertisement may be considered as enjoyment examples of lives.
Compared with the advertisement without products showcase in advertisement, it is hard to say which one is more efficiency. For the former one works for a long-term while the latter one may cause purchase in a short time.

  1. Conclusion

To sum up, three methods may be used to make advertisement work without any overt reference to the product being promoted in Chinese market.

Firstly, advertisers may create desire and conviction to their customers in the affective stage. In the hierarchy-of-effects, only through the affective stage may lead to the behavior stage gradually. It is because of the linear communication theories. Only if on the next stage, behavior stage, purchasing may happen. Apple use extremely creative advertisement to draw people’s attention and make audience love their brand and product. Adidas hire super athlete star to attract people’s eyes.
Secondly, the style of the advertisement may be carefully and creatively designed. For Apple use the documentary-like advertisement and edit historical moment and celebrities into the video making the advertisement more convincing and effective. And for Hengyuanxiang uses the simple unchanging style to impress its brand image in every audience’s mind. Besides, choosing spokesman may make difference in the advertisement effects. For Adidas it proved that foreign spokesman may cause more than the native spokesman.
Thirdly, advertisement may be made for a long term rather than a short term. Due to the product are not referred in the advertisement, the company could aim to promote the brand instead of the product. Apple’s no product referred advertisement produced in 1997 still effect people’s mind and purchasing in the 21th century. It is all because Apple creates a brand image of think differently. This advertisement does not expect for current product selling but raises the brand value effectively. To the long-term it stimulates the selling greatly. If crazy fans like the Apple fans could be cultivated through the long term strategy, the product selling problem could never be a problem. Although no product are shown in the advertisement, people like and believe in the product and purchase it.

  1. References


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Blakeman, R. (2007). Integrated marketing communication. Lanham, Md.: Rowman & Littlefield Publishers.
Bulmer, S. and BuchananOliver, M. (2004). Meaningless or meaningful? Interpretation and intentionality in postmodern communication. Journal of Marketing Communications, 10(1), pp.1-15.
Coolsen, F. (1947). Pioneers in the Development of Advertising. Journal of Marketing, 12(1), p.80.
Encyclopedia of communication theory. (2010). Choice Reviews Online, 47(06), pp.47-2913-47-2913.
Harner, S. and Zimmerman, T. (2002). Technical marketing communication. New York: Longman.
Judd, V. (1998). Consumer behavior: buying, having, and being (3rd ed.). Psychology and Marketing, 15(1), pp.111-113.
Maslen, A. (2008). Trade marks: ECJ rules on Adidas three stripes trade mark. J Direct Data Digit Mark Pract, 10(1), pp.72-79.
Varey, R. (2002). Marketing communication. London: Routledge.

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