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Bottom’s Up! to Tsingtao

by on August 8, 2010

I want to state up front that I am not a China expert by any measure.  I have never been to China.  I don’t even know a single Chinese word…except now: 干杯 (Gānbēi) – Cheers!

As stated above, I am not an expert on China, but I am comfortable saying I am an expert in beer!  I may NOT be able to taste and sniff out spruce and citrus hints, but if an expert can be measured by total volume consumed, I’ve got it in the bag.

Tsingtao is China’s number one beer maker.

If you are American and have tried a Chinese beer at a restaurant, then it was most likely Tsingtao.  Tsingtao is sold in 62 countries around the world and accounts for more than 50% of China’s beer exports.

But, Tsingtao did not achieve success through reaching foreign markets, they did it at home.  Tsingtao Brewery Co.’s core target market has always been sales in China, the world’s largest beer market by volume, and its ad campaigns at home are normally aimed at domestic consumers, not foreigners.

But one may THINK that has changed with a new strategy at targeting the influx of visitors to Shanghai’s 2010 World Expo or finding partnerships with U.S.-based sports teams.  As China’s National Beer, it would be hard to ignore the expected 70-100 million visitors to the World Expo in Shanghai, but KEEPING those visitors loyal customers is not Tsingtao’s end game.  By selling a modest amount in western markets, Tsingtao hopes to impress its ultimate target: the Chinese consumer.

Also, do not categorize NBA as a U.S.-only passion.  NBA popularity in China is staggering:

  • NBA games are available on 51 broadcasts in China
  • 2008 season generated a combined audience of over 1.4 billion viewers
  •, the league’s website for China, gets 25 million unique visitors a month

The Chinese beer market is very much dominated by local beers. China boasts more than 500 breweries, each headquartered in a different city. About 499 concentrate on local consumers. Tsingtao, though, concentrates on everyone.

Tsingtao is the only national brand.

We like local beer even if local beer is not good. Local taste.

-Sun Ming Bo, executive vice president at Tsingtao.

I’ll buy that.  I always drink my local beer when I am home and if given the chance to drink it outside of Rhode Island, I would.

But by operating 50 breweries across China’s vast country, Tsingtao has become No. 2 in thousands of Chinese cities – and thus No. 1 in China.

Tsingtao is #21 on the list of China’s Top 30 Consumer Brands.

Not only has Tsingtao established itself as the powerhouse beer for China, they are holding there with efforts to reach the younger, up and coming Xiao Zi, or Chinese “yuppies.” Tsingtao has engaged this market through several different digital means.

Tsingtao has done a very good job of understanding their market and has taken a bold, yet sometimes indirect approach towards keeping that audience.

As an expert beer drinker, I say it is time to find a cold Tsingtao and 干杯!


From → China

  1. Fun and informative post…Cheers!

  2. Just like China, Tsingtao has definitely gone global. Really fun blog, Ryan!

  3. Dave T permalink

    Fun post…and great topic! Tsingtao is my Asian beer of choice!

  4. Though I can’t claim your beer prowess, I look forward to benefitting from your skills in London! I liked your choice of topic, and am a fan of TsingTao. The brand is certainly doing quite a lot in the digital area, as you found and listed through your research. I appreciated your personal tone of voice that you used in your post as well. The connection and analysis to the marketing and communications aspect of TsingTao was a bit missing in this post for me, though. The connection to the NBA that you were sharing was confusing in the middle of your post, and there was not enough analysis after you shared that great list of activities that TsingTao is doing online about what lessons that might offer or how you might bring all those things together. Without that, this post didn’t have enough of your thinking in here about what made TsingTao so successful. You may not be an expert in China, and you may be an expert in beer … but it is your marketing and communications expertise that we really want to see come through in this post. (4)

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