Toronto, Canada – Restaurant Brands International (RBI) has announced two new investments to drive growth in China. The first one includes the acquisition of Popeyes China, and the co-investment with Cartesian Capital into the business of TH International Limited, which operates Tims China.

The two transactions reflect RBI’s confidence in China, one of the largest QSR markets globally, and its commitment to drive growth in the market. RBI’s total amount of capital outlay will be up to US$45m for the two transactions.

First off, RBI has agreed to acquire the Popeyes China business from Tims China on a cash-free debt-free basis based on an enterprise value of US$15m. Following the transaction, RBI will own and operate Popeyes China, which opened its first restaurant in August 2023 and has 14 restaurants in Shanghai today. 

The pace of restaurant growth is expected to ramp up through investments in local teams and restaurant development. Longer-term, RBI expects to bring on local partners to form a more traditional master franchisee, similar to other Popeyes international markets.

Meanwhile, to help fuel the growth of Tims China, Cartesian Capital and RBI agreed to invest up to US$50m of capital into the Tims China business via three-year convertible notes, of which US$40m will be issued at closing with the balance funded over the coming 7 months, subject to certain operational and financial conditions. 

Of the total, US$20m were issued to Cartesian and up to US$30m will be issued to RBI, including US$20m at close. Following the transaction, RBI will effectively have the right to appoint two directors to the Tims China Board and will see its equity ownership in the business increase to up to 18%, on an as converted basis. The RBI team will continue to work closely with the Tims China management team and Board to drive growth in one of the fastest growing coffee markets in the world.

Rafael Odorizzi, president of Asia-Pacific at RBI said, “China is one of the most compelling long-term market opportunities for both our Popeyes and Tim Hortons brands. Popeyes China is off to a strong start and we are excited to unlock its development potential in one of the largest chicken QSR markets globally. Today’s announcement allows Tims China to redouble its focus on quality restaurant development and providing Chinese consumers with our high quality Tims coffee and food offerings.”

Singapore – The Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has appointed luxury and brand technology solutions firm Gusto Collective as its public relations, digital, and social consultancy partner for the China market. 

In this partnership, Gusto Collective will leverage its expertise and extensive experience in destination marketing to actively support the Singapore Tourism Board’s mission of positioning Singapore as a vibrant and inspiring destination, bringing to life its ‘Made in Singapore’ global brand campaign. 

Gusto Collective will introduce fresh perspectives on Singapore’s attractions and experiences, showcasing the city-state’s natural beauty, cultural richness, and emerging status as a thriving innovation and creative centre in Asia. The firm will also work on enhancing Singapore’s standing as a global hub for meetings, incentives, conferences, and exhibitions (MICE) that delivers meaningful business outcomes and impact. 

Speaking on the partnership, Shashin Surti, managing director of Gusto Collective Shanghai, said, “We are thrilled to be partnering with the Singapore Tourism Board to bring Singapore’s vibrant tourism offerings to the China market. This collaboration marks an exciting milestone for both Gusto Collective and the Singapore Tourism Board to shape a dynamic tourism landscape for Singapore in partnership with industry and community stakeholders.”

Andrew Phua, chief representative and executive director of Greater China at STB, added, “China is one of the largest inbound source markets for Singapore, and we have already witnessed an increase in visitor arrivals with the recent visa exemption. This partnership will allow us to continue building a strong presence in China and inspire Chinese travellers to discover how ordinary moments are turned into extraordinary experiences in Singapore.”

Beijing, China – Global beauty brand LUX proudly announces the launch of its new campaign, ‘In Her Name’, aimed at empowering women, as they bring to attention the unconscious bias of naming children in China.

The campaign aims to empower Chinese women and help them rise above their names being treated as sexist labels, with a mission to rewrite the narrative for the next generation.

The ‘In Her Name’ campaign by LUX aims to change the way women are named by creating 100 names reflecting the essence of femininity today, drawing inspiration from classical literature, positive connotations, and the evolving landscape of societal development.

To make this possible, LUX partnered with Dr. Liu Yanchun, a distinguished linguistics scholar from the University of China, to pioneer a movement challenging societal norms and stereotypes. The collaboration with Dr. Liu Yanchun ensured a thoughtful selection process, incorporating unbiased options to emphasise the diverse spectrum of femininity and promote inclusivity.

Speaking on this collaboration, Yanchun said, “In the process of creating these 100 new names, I’ve combined elements from literature, researched terms with positive connotations and took into account present societal norms to craft meaningful names for the women of today.”

Additionally, LUX collaborated with digital artists to showcase each selected name through visually stunning illustrations, with a unique design for every name, enhancing the experience of choosing a name and celebrating the beauty of femininity.

The unveiling of the 100 new names has taken place on Chinese social media platforms Little Red Book, Weibo and Douyin, where women from all walks of life could choose new names for themselves that best represent their spirit and character.

Talking about the campaign, Severine Vauleon, global brand vice president of LUX, said, “Our ambition with the “in Her Name” campaign is to create a movement challenging the status quo that still confines some women to narrow stereotypes today. By collaborating with Dr. Liu Yanchun and harnessing the power of language, we aim to raise awareness about gender bias for Chinese names and inspire women to react to the initiative of adopting powerful names for themselves. By doing this, they will help to foster a more inclusive society where women are celebrated for their strength and resilience.”

Meanwhile, Marco Versolato, chief creative officer – Unilever at VML Singapore, who spearheaded the campaign, commented, “The ‘In Her Name’ campaign represents a shift in how we perceive and celebrate femininity. By reimagining the power of language and visual representation, we have the opportunity to challenge stereotypes and create a more inclusive future for women worldwide.”

Shanghai, China – Global prestige beauty retail brand Sephora has officially named Xia Ding as its new managing director of Greater China to lead its next phase of growth and success. 

In her new role, Xia Ding will be based in Shanghai and will report directly to Alia Gogi, president of Asia for Sephora

She will lead Sephora’s business in Mainland China and Hong Kong SAR, spanning around 350 stores with two e-commerce websites and a robust ecosystem of digital platforms and apps. 

Xia Ding brings with her an extensive background in leadership. Prior to joining Sephora, she spent five years serving as the vice president and general manager of e-commerce for Asia Pacific and Latin America at Nike. 

During her two decades of tenure at HanesBrands Inc., Xia Ding was heavily involved in corporate strategy and led its expansion into China. In 2015, she was appointed the vice president of retail service at Nielsen in China and subsequently joined as the president of JD Fashion, where she was responsible for driving the fashion business covering apparel, shoes, sportswear, bags, and jewellery. 

Commenting on the appointment, Gogi said, “Xia Ding is a quintessential leader with a wealth of experience in running businesses, digital transformations, and strategic business development. I am confident that her skills set, knowledge of brick & mortar retail, expertise in digital and e-commerce, as well as her proven track record in building and sustaining profitable businesses will take Sephora Greater China into its next phase of growth and success.” 

Meanwhile, Xia Ding shared, “I am thrilled to join Sephora at a time when the prestige beauty market in China is on the cusp of its next phase of growth. Sephora’s allure lies in its powerful curation capabilities, strong culture anchored in purpose and DE&I, and an incredible ability to offer beauty enthusiasts an ever-evolving retail experience.” 

Last Women’s Month, global skincare brand SK-II has launched a thought-provoking film, “More Youthful With Age #越大越不ZHUANG”, featuring a docuseries chronicling the transformation journey of five women as they learn to embrace their bare skin and true selves as they age.

This has catapulted into one of the most viral and talked about brand topics on Chinese social platform Little Red Book, sparking passionate discussions on how women are expected to look as they grow older, and courageously sharing the choices they’ve made to stand apart and find their truest selves.

To shed more light on how SK-II made this campaign to effectively reach the Chinese market, MARKETECH APAC spoke exclusively to Sue Kyung Lee, global CEO of SK-II, to learn more about how beauty brands can create authentic campaigns that resonate towards Chinese consumers, and what outlook can the beauty industry in Asia-Pacific expect for this year.

For Lee, consumers are at the heart of all that they do at SK-II. In order to serve their consumers better than anyone else, they seek to have the deepest understanding of the consumer, encompassing her lifestyle and values.

To achieve this, Lee shared, “We talked to our consumers in-store, held focus groups and did a deep dive into social conversations to find out the pressures and expectations that Chinese women were facing. And what we uncovered was a growing cultural shift towards independence and self-aspiration; to ‘unmask’ yourself and redefine society’s expectations of what it means to be a woman.”

She also added that their Chinese campaign is very much aligned with their brand values of authenticity and being true to yourself over many decades. Additionally, this coincides with their latest brand refresh, with a new brand identity with an increased emphasis on natural visuals and the authentic narratives of ‘PITERA’, their exclusive skincare ingredient.

When asked about how SK-II aims to differentiate itself in this landscape, amidst other international and domestic brands, Lee said that the key is to always keep consumers at the heart of everything that they do, being present and raising the bar in serving their consumers wherever they choose to look or shop, across all omnichannel touchpoints.

Furthermore, Lee attributes the strength of the brand to be unique through the narratives of their brand identity. “At SK-II, we have a powerful and authentic story with our brand and our iconic and exclusive PITERA. We are constantly looking to find meaningful ways to connect with our consumers through genuine stories of how and why SK-II with PITERA continues to transform the skin of millions of women around the world,” she remarked.

Talking about the potential challenges and opportunities that the beauty industry in China will face for this year, Lee shared that there is great potential for reinforcing omnichannel marketing in China, especially with the ever-increasing number of platforms, experiences and channels within the market.

Stressing the importance of this, Lee stated, “As we talked to consumers in our research, it was fascinating. We asked them about how much time they spent online vs offline, and no one could respond properly as consumers do not even think about or differentiate online vs offline consciously, showing how the digital and physical world are seamlessly integrated with each other in their lives.”

“We need to ensure that as a brand, we are present and raise the bar in serving her seamlessly across all omnichannel touchpoints she is on in China. This is a challenge as well as an opportunity for all of us in the beauty industry,” she added. 

Lastly, talking about what’s next for the beauty industry in the Asia-Pacific this 2024, Lee said that Southeast Asia has been emerging as the next frontier of luxury beauty opportunities in Asia Pacific.

“Markets like Vietnam, Thailand and Indonesia hold a great deal of promise for prestige brands like us as consumers shift from mass to luxury and become very savvy with the brands that they choose to support,” she concluded.

Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia The Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau (MyCEB) has announced a worldwide cooperation with ACMAR Marketing Xiamen, a subsidiary of the prestigious ACMAR Group. The alliance benefits from the extensive experience and resources that the ACMAR Group offers. The ACMAR Group’s significant presence in Xiamen makes it an invaluable partner for MyCEB in its endeavour to establish Malaysia as a premier destination for business events. 

In order to attract the Chinese market, exchange market insights, facilitate information sharing, co-create business leads, and build collaboration prospects within the private sector, cooperative marketing campaigns are facilitated by the Memorandum of Cooperation (MoC). MyCEB will have a strong connection to China’s business event circles through ACMAR Marketing Xiamen, which will improve communication and open up opportunities for collaborations. 

The cooperation between MyCEB and ACMAR Group is based on a shared dedication to implementing innovative marketing strategies and establishing long-lasting partnerships in order to achieve their shared objectives. It is expected that these initiatives will strengthen bilateral relations and cultural linkages between China and Malaysia, as well as stimulate investment and tourism. 

Furthermore, notable organisations that MyCEB has conversed with include the chairman of Xiamen Welleast Smart City Technology Co., Ltd., C&D Global Tourism Group Co., and the Xiamen International Conference & Exhibition Center. Ltd. and Xiamen Tourism Association president. 

These conversations are expected to open doors for more robust partnerships, more market access, and enhanced bilateral links between Malaysia and Xiamen. This will in turn foster the expansion of business gatherings, tourism, and private sector prospects. 

Speaking about the partnership, Azman Haji Tambi Chik, CEO of MyCEB, said, “The collaboration bolsters both Malaysia and MyCEB’s presence in the promising Chinese market, specifically catering to the Xiamen business community. The MoC signed not only signifies national pride between two Malaysian entities but also a significant step towards fostering bilateral cooperation and enhancing business events opportunities in the region.” 

Meanwhile, Dato’ Steven Tee, JP, group managing director of Acmar Group, stated, “The MoC leverages on the extensive network and insights of both organisations, with MyCEB being able to showcase Malaysia’s world-class facilities, unique culture and unparalleled hospitality. ACMAR is excited to be part of this venture by supporting the Bureau through our footprint and aiming to drive mutual growth and prosperity between Malaysia and China.” 

Shanghai, China – Omnicom Media Group (OMG) agency PHD China has retained the SAIC Volkswagen media business following a month-long public tender, which also saw local and international 4A agencies vying for the account, which included the Volkswagen and Audi brands.

PHD China has been the media AOR of SAIC Volkswagen since 2020, with the agency continuing to provide media consultancy and planning services, covering media strategy, market insights, data analysis, and media buying for the brand.

Joey Zhao, CEO at PHD China, said, “The decision affirms the successful partnership that PHD and SAIC Volkswagen have built over the past three years, as we have worked together to drive brand growth in an increasingly complex media landscape and consumer marketplace.”

He added, “As SAIC Volkswagen continues to move full throttle into the electric vehicle race, PHD will continue to provide the data-driven insights and innovative solutions that turn marketing complexity into business opportunity.”

Meanwhile, Claudine Kwek, CEO at OMG China, commented, “We are honoured by SAIC Volkswagen’s continued trust in us, and PHD’s challenger mindset and focus on innovation, creativity, and collaboration lends itself to our client’s business ambitions in a dynamic market like China.”

She added, “As we look to drive a more integrated and seamless offering for SAIC Volkswagen, OMG’s Agency as a Platform model, which brings together the various teams across the network’s ecosystem of talent, technology, and capabilities, will be a main force behind this streamlined capability.” 

China – Indian programmatic ad-tech platform Xapads Media has announced its foray into the Chinese market, appointing industry veteran Huang Xu as country head of China in the process.

Building upon established connections and fruitful partnerships in China, Xapads Media’s expansion aims to extend its presence in the region by establishing a local office.

The ad-tech firm’s expansion plan comes into effect after successfully creating a footprint in the Indian digital advertising sector and establishing operational offices in the UAE, US, Indonesia, Russia, and Singapore.

As China’s digital ad market continues to expand, Xapads is excited to explore new opportunities and plans to leverage their premium ad inventories, offering customised products and services tailored to meet the specific needs of the agencies and brands.

Being appointed as country head, Xu has more than 12 years of experience in the Chinese market and prior to joining Xapads, he has held positions with Inmobi, Ironsource, and Appnext.

Speaking on his appointment, Xu said, “I’m enthusiastic about achieving outstanding outcomes for Xapads in China. With our extensive product team, we’re committed to delivering fully localised products and services ensuring benefits for both advertisers and partners.”

Adding to this, Ramneek Chadha, chief operating officer, Xapads Media, mentioned, “I am thrilled to have him join the Xapads family. Adhering to the existing Chinese connections, I anticipate he will strengthen global relationships with partners and extensively contribute to establishing steady ground for Xapads in the region.”

Meanwhile, Nitin Gupta, CEO of Xapads Media, commented, “We’re thrilled to commence our strategic journey in China with the addition of seasoned leader Huang Xu as the Country Head. With his expertise in navigating the intricate digital advertising landscape, we envision a future marked by fruitful partnerships and collective growth in this dynamic market.”

Shanghai, China – Apple has partnered with TBWA\Media Arts Lab Shanghai to launch its latest 2024 Chinese New Year film titled ‘Little Garlic’ that shows the importance of embracing and being proud of one’s self.

The digital film, shot with an iPhone, addresses the insecurity felt by many Gen Zs in China. It tells the story of a young girl, Wei, battling with her insecurities and how she overcame them with the help of her grandfather’s wisdom and love.

With this film, Apple welcomes the year of the dragon through a poignant yet timely message that there is nothing wrong with being ‘just yourself’ and that you are unique in your own way.

Apple’s CNY film tackles the importance of accepting one’s self and to reflect on the meaning of being ‘perfect’.

The film also highlights Apple’s iPhone’s features that were used to bring the film to life.

‘Little Garlic’ will appear on broadcast, digital, and social media platforms.

Apple’s new CNY film comes after the launch of its ‘Relax, It’s iPhone’ campaign in Vietnam, which featured a ‘Shot on iPhone’ music video. This is Apple’s seventh year of celebrating Chinese New Year with a digital film shot by their iPhone.

Indonesia – China-based entrepreneurial public relations and marketing services firm Influence Matters has officially expanded its operations in Southeast Asia with the opening of a new Indonesia hub and the appointment of Emily Xu as managing partner.

The firm’s expansion comes as it adapts to its clients’ expanding regional focus for fast-growing economies, including the SEA region.

Influence Matters’s new office in Indonesia will serve as their hub for SEA operations; it will accompany Chinese B2B tech companies planning to enter the country and the region. The new office will also be working on strengthening existing partnerships and building new ones with like-minded agencies in each market in the region.

The PR and marketing firm aims to provide clients seeking evermore effective and impactful PR programmes with an agency that understands their business, technologies, products, and local market dynamics.

It strategically chose Indonesia, a country with the fastest-growing economy in Asia, for cross-border businesses, with a particular focus on IT, fintech, smart industry, and smart logistics.

Meanwhile, as part of its expansion, Influence Matters also named Xu its new managing partner. A consummate corporate communications strategist, she has been working with the firm for over six years in operational and strategic positions.

In her new role, Xu will oversee and develop the agency’s growing cross-border corporate communications business for international companies in China and Chinese companies expanding in Asia.

Simon Vericel, managing director and founder of Influence Matters, said, “Influence Matters’ mission has always been to bring innovators closer together and innovations closer to markets and customers in Asia by delivering influence through storytelling that reaches business leaders and technology adopters.”

He added, “Our PR and digital communication programmes have helped numerous technology innovators find customers, investors, and partners in China; we are proud to now bring our expertise to SEA and connect more innovators together.”