Why has Discovery become a popular collaborator among Chinese brands?

From beauty to outdoor and automotive sectors, Discovery, an American television network, has been increasing its presence in China’s marketing scene, endorsed by local brands as a campaign collaboration partner.

From TV channel to marketing treasure trove

Launched in 1985, the channel entered China in 1998 following the establishment of Discovery Network Asia in 1994. During the course of its initial expedition in the foreign market, the household-name TV network focused on its mission of producing informative and educational documentaries and non-fiction programming, covering a range of topics including science, nature, technology, history, and exploration.

It was around 2019 when Discovery started drawing in attention in the territory of marketing. Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com was one of the earlier players who set its sights on the channel and the collaboration gave birth to a documentary entitled the Rebirth of Masterpieces.

Chinese e-commerce giant JD.com was one of the earlier players who set its sights on the channel.

Image: JD.com/Weibo

Curated as part of “JD.com World Museum Super IP Day”, the work featured four internationally renowned museums, including the Boston Museum of Fine Art, the National Gallery, The Metropolitan Museum of Art, and the Victoria and Albert Museum.

Alongside the documentary, JD.com also teamed up with Biostime, a Chinese children’s nutrition products maker, to introduce a music box themed with some of the most well-known collections in children’s art classes. As well as Chando, a Shanghai-born personal care brand, which brought out a series of tea sets imprinted with famed paintings.

In the same year, Perfect Diary, another homegrown cosmetics brand, also tapped into the network. This resulted in the Explorer 12-Colour Eyeshadow Palette, which drew inspiration from the hunting looks of four wild animals including tigers, wild boars, dire wolves, and alligators. Since the first collaboration leveraging the aspect of nature made a splash, the two parties joined hands again in 2022, diving into the evolution of beauty among Chinese women.      

What appeals to Chinese brands?

While more local brands followed suit, including KingCamp, a Chinese family glamping gear seller, and the EV maker NIO, the channel also sought to deepen its penetration of the market by landing on Kuaishoiu (one of China’s viral short video platforms) in 2020. The growing brand interest in this TV IP, therefore, begs the question: What could Discovery bring to Chinese brands?

One of the appeals is the international image being carried by the channel, which is appreciated by those local brands who are also actively seeking opportunities to build up their global recognition and pave the way for their overseas expansion. The breadth of the channel’s content is another factor as well as its high-quality production.

The diverse subjects Discovery explores means its output could be compatible with different brand types while leaving more space for its brand partners to readapt their own storytelling. Its high standard production, meanwhile, creates a sense of being high-end, which Chinese brands are also keen to obtain as part of their efforts in response to the overall market premiumisation.

The diverse subjects Discovery explores leave more space for its brand partners to readapt their own storytelling.

On top of that, Discovery delivers messages that are in line with some of those that today’s generations of consumers are in pursuit of. An apparent one is the spirit of exploration and adventure, which is one of the most often adopted aspects by brands in an attempt to cater to the consumer interest in new things and novel experience.

The subject also aligns with the continued enthusiasm for outdoor activities. Therefore, by collaborating with the media IP where discovering the world of the unknown is at the heart of its values, brands are able to respond to the psychological demands of consumers.

Sustainability is another shared message. With the young demographics in China showing more awareness of the environment, brands are swift to jump at the trend, and the education provided by Discovery on environmental subjects, such as biodiversity, create an avenue for brands to associate themselves with the advocacy of the cause.

With Discovery strengthening its presence in the Chinese market, its influence in marketing is also expected to increase. While collaborations with Chinese brands are set to deepen its penetration of the region, such partnerships also serve as a steppingstone for local brands, to level up their brand image while also facilitating their global ambition.