A new report, “Decoding China,” by the global marketing consultancy LEWIS, reveals that U.S. brands are not achieving the desired success in the region due to a cultural knowledge gap and overconfidence.

According to the report, which surveyed 351 U.S. marketers, China, the second-largest global market, remains a priority for major brands stateside. Among the brands surveyed, 71 percent reported that they are currently marketing products or services in China; 80 percent said they feel their marketing has been extremely or very successful; 62 percent are increasing marketing and communications budgets in China, and 55 percent are planning to increase budgets in the upcoming year. 

Despite this, the researchers found that a serious knowledge gap, especially in localization, preferred social channels and technical aspects, prevents U.S. brands from succeeding in China. 

VP insight and research at LEWIS, Matt Robbins, told AList: “One of the main issues that the report uncovered is senior U.S. marketers’ false belief that they fully understand marketing practices in China.”  

In fact, 80 percent of the respondents reported that they completely or mostly understand Chinese marketing practices, while 88 percent said they are very confident in their ability to accurately measure their campaigns in the country.   

“The good news,” Robbins continued, “is [that] Chinese consumers are typically more homogenized than their U.S. counterparts, meaning campaigns don’t need to be overly personalized or individualistic in nature. That being said, the motivators that spur consumer purchasing are entirely different than those of U.S. consumers, and knowing the cultural principles behind those motivations will be key to US marketers having success in China.”

The research also found that 41 percent of respondents make a mistake of applying the same marketing plans in China as they do at home, disregarding platforms, demographics and cultural differences in the region. And another 30 percent of marketers surveyed admitted to being not at all or only somewhat familiar with Chinese social media and e-commerce platforms. 

“China is at the forefront of adopting new social media and message platforms. Unlike in the U.S., where websites are still the main place that consumers go to interact with brands, in China those interactions are happening on consumers’ mobile devices on platforms like WeChat, Weibo and Tencent, among others. If U.S. marketers are focusing a lot of their time on western social media applications (Facebook, Snapchat, etc.) or on the Chinese version of their website, then they are likely not reaching the audiences that they had hope,” Robbins said.

It is important to note, however, that another piece of the puzzle is a lack of transparency in marketing and communications industries in China, which 77 percent of the respondents identified as a tangible challenge to further marketing efforts.