In Blog / Trends

Zhihu knowledge marketing: a new tool for Chinese upgrading consumers

08 June 2018
Knowledge marketing Zhihu2

Evolving Chinese consumer

The Chinese consumers are evolving. Savvy and sophisticated, they are becoming more cautious about the money they spend on specific product, gone are the days of indiscriminate spending. 

The upgraded Chinese consumers, with high education, disposable income, and purchasing power, are trading up from eyeing on mass products to buying premium products. They are seeking a more balanced life where health, family, and experiences rank the top 3 on the priority list. Extra attention is given to the reason and its significance of purchasing. Understanding the story and responding to the cultural identity of the brand is decisive in determining the purchase. The changing dynamics of Chinese consumption seems sure to topple some marketing tool of the past and elevate new champion.

The marketing dilemma

In China, the marketing is facing a significant dilemma. Here are some complaints from marketing specialists: 

"We spared no effort and finally made our content the headline, the so-called ‘information fatigue syndrome’ has made our marketing budget go down the drain, not to mention the conversion rate."

"User-generated content (UGC) is supposed to be the new driver for marketing, while the output from the use of prizes to encourage UGC is somewhat spotty."

Content is released at an exponential rate, yet consumer's brain remains a finite organ that can only handle limited information. The overload information, in turn, leads consumers to block or ignore it easily.

"Platform x Content" is continually being used. After experiencing loads of content consumption, the upgraded consumers are becoming more and more challenging to be struck by native advertising, or any kinds of content marketing. Their demands for the content values continue to rise - even the best platforms, the most exposed contents, and the most refreshing gameplay all have to face the challenge of consumers' insensitivity.  It is trapped in a downward spiral, where every penny spent trying to reach consumers offers a lower return on investment, potentially accelerating the very obsolescence of the marketing tool as we know it.  

Marketing Trends

To meet the needs of Chinese upgraded consumers' intellectual curiosity and their cognition. The use of knowledge to covey the truest and the best aspect of a brand is standing out as the best form where Zhihu is the battlefield.

Feed the intellectual hunger leading to purchasing desire

Zhihu, a question-and-answer website, is Chinese largest knowledge platform with social function.  Its Q&A characteristic makes it a perfect place for native ads.

There are 100 million registered users and more than 26 million daily active users. What makes Zhihu outstanding out of many other platforms is the quality of the subscribers. 80% of them have an undergraduate degree or above, and those with a monthly income of over 16,000 RMB (2000 EURO) are around 30%. 50% of the users are under 30-year old. As of now, Zhihu stores 17 million questions and is home to 63 million answers. These Q&As involve 250,000 different topics, covering all walks of life, including finance, philosophy, internet, IT, etc.

Chinese-language internet users nowadays increasingly resort to Zhihu for the knowledge and insights into various topics. The depth of the topics dwarfs many professional forums. Zhihu also ranks among the top three platforms that influence consumers' consumption decisions. In contrast,  WeChat public account and Weibo have entered the stage of winner-take-all, traffic is occupied by large players. If you miss the golden time of Weibo and WeChat, it is difficult to catch up now. 

Most of the transmission paths are: brewing in Weibo, spreading in WeChat, fermenting in Zhihu. Zhihu is the tipping point. 

What is Zhihu knowledge marketing

The ability to provide subscribers with the valuable, deep communication with knowledgeable contents. The active subscriber volume and its high value make it possible for Zhihu to have a robust content production capability. It establishes long-term trust among consumers. Zhihu's content has an extremely long-tail effect, while a hot topic on Weibo and WeChat may last for a maximum of several days. According to Mercer, a Zhihu institution account, there are still new comments from some of there articles published in 2016. Besides, Zhihu does a great job on Baidu SEO: if you search for a keyword on Baidu, contents from Zhihu will always appear on the first page, regardless of the publishing date. This is undoubtedly an additional long-term effective promotion.

How to gain consumers' trust? How to leave a mark on their cognitive "high walls"?  How to form a long relationship with them? 

As a brand, it is essential to use Zhihu's Q&A, videos, articles, columns, ideas, and roundtables to continuously export brand knowledge, analyzing the constitutional principle of each product. Eventually, it would be able to impose an effect on the decision-making process of the company.  An objective perspective to understand products and develop brands cognition which can minimize the doubts of consumers and gain their trust.

From price, inform (shallow expression), to interest and cognition:

Li Si, general manager of Zhihu Marketing, once pointed out: “In the context of consumer upgrades, the increase of consumer knowledge has a direct impact on the path of consumption strategy.”  Consumers want to understand more about products and brands before placing the order. The underlying knowledge and connotation drive consumption decisions. This is particularly prominent among the high-end consumer groups. Brands must not only motivate them to purchase, but also inspire them to “share.”

Knowledge marketing transforms products and brand information into knowledge reference points. For consumers, it satisfies the curiosity and is more conducive to forming deep impressions. They are also willing to share ads that bring knowledge, adding value to them and encouraging the sharing with their social circles. Knowledge marketing makes the brand's followers become the ambassador of brand communication, and establish a longer-term information supply and demand relationship between the brand and consumers.


Trust, depth and long-term relationship are the three most prominent values of Zhihu knowledge marketing. From the three progressive stages of knowledge marketing,  brand continuity delivers valuable content to consumers, and imperceptibly, consumers build the brand awareness and more likely act as a reference point to promote the brand itself. In return, secondary transmission for the brand is largely enhanced. 

Two of the indicators that prove the effectiveness of Zhihu's profound communication:

1. Full-text reading rate: click doesn't mean thorough reading.  Siemens has a 3000-word article about dishwashers on Zhihu; the full-text reading rate exceeds 60%.

2. Ads closing rate: a measure of user's approval for brand advertisement 

Around 8000 institutional accounts are being set up on Zhihu; any brand can easily apply for an institutional account as long as they get through the verification process and stick to the community rules devised by Zhihu.

Is the new tool working? 

I'll list three examples for you.
The famous plastic toy manufacturer, Lego, initiated a question in 2017: Which puzzling behaviors you have encountered with your baby?

There are more than 460,000 views and 140 high-quality answers. Among them, many high-profile users actively participated in the interaction and elevated the popularity of searching on major searching platforms.

The global automobile marque, Mercedes-Benz, threw out another question: What great explorations have been done by the human, that have changed the historical process?

The topic was view by more than 1,2 million times and attracted over 110 high-quality replies, including a handful of PhDs, significantly deepened the loyalty of the current and potential customers. The high-quality questions can inspire users' interest to learn more about the brand story. It is also an excellent way to attract high-profile professionals to create quality UGC.

Another A-list automobile brand, Infiniti, gave his first attempt to Zhihu Live. They dismantled an Infiniti car in 10-hour live streaming on Zhihu Live, allowing the audience to see every detail of the car and get a full understanding of the technical excellence that Infiniti incorporates. There were more than 14,000 people watched the Live, and the page view exposure exceeds 1 million times.

It seems that Zhihu has gradually become the new champion for knowledge marketing. As the brand promoter or simply a marketer, are you ready?

Yu Tang