2015 Asia-Pacific Gold Winner - Weber Shandwick

Gold Stevie Award Winner 2015, Click to Enter The 2015 American Business Awards

Company: Weber Shandwick, Beijing, China
Category: Communications/PR - Campaign: Marketing - Social Media Focused


In China, electric vehicles or EVs, have not been top sellers. They may be great for the environment given China’s pollution problem, but in the world’s largest car market, consumers have mostly stuck to conventional cars.

However, with government incentives and EV-charging infrastructure becoming more widely available, the EV category promises potential. Recent years have seen the world’s top automakers rolling out exciting new models in an effort to dominate this fledgling segment.

Against this backdrop, BDNT (a partnership between Chinese high-tech enterprise BYD and Daimler) ventured to launch DENZA, China’s first premium EV. In doing so, it faced two challenges: (1) convincing a largely skeptical public to adopt EVs, and (2) competing against the auto industry’s biggest brands for influence in the category.

EV technology would appeal to the digital generation and the agency knew that social media would be its main playing field. It also knew that education alone was not going to be enough. The brand needed to think beyond simply selling a car to getting people engaged in the DENZA story.

Although consumers have not fully embraced EVs, the agency discovered through research that the target audience shared DENZA’s core belief in making changes today to effect a brighter tomorrow. This applied to every aspect of their lives –including children, education, career and the environment. Consumers were making changes every day – big and small – to achieve their goals and aspirations.

This inspired an idea. Can DENZA – a home-grown brand whose innovations are helping make a difference to China’s future – inspire people to come together in celebration of the small changes they are making today to help realize a brighter tomorrow?

This is the underlying rationale behind the #FuturePartners movement, which would not only be instrumental in positioning DENZA as a force for change, but also drawing attention to how its green technology is helping bring about a positive future.

First, the brand engaged with China’s auto experts and key industry influencers in a forum to discuss concerns and doubts about EVs. This equipped this key group of opinion leaders with an understanding of DENZA’s technology that they were able to share with their networks.

Meanwhile, key influencers whose audiences matched with DENZA’s were engaged to kick-start the conversation on “How would you change your future?”. Hash tagged #FuturePartners, the topic instantly resonated with their followers. The conversation touched on the roles of education, travel, and exercise, as well as topics that reflected on DENZA’s role in helping bring positive change, including innovative thinking and being environmentally-friendly.

The conversations helped build DENZA’s profile, enabling it to then draw attention to the car, its features, and advanced Sino-German engineering. A virtual test drive mini-game was then launched which allowed players to race each other. Within just 12 hours of its launch, over 5,000 people were playing the game, ballooning to 34,000 soon after.

A test drive program involving a "FuturePartners" group of 64 industry specialists, media and consumers resulted in over 80% sharing positive feedback on their driving experience with their social networks.

#FuturePartners became the No.1 hottest topic on Sina Weibo among brand-led conversations in the week of DENZA's unveiling at the Beijing Auto Show. Over 10,000 pieces of coverage were generated in print and electronic media including positive reviews in the Financial Times and Wall Street Journal.

The PR-led, integrated campaign was also instrumental in helping the brand win 12 industry awards, including “Best New Energy Vehicle” from International Business Daily and “The Most Anticipated New Energy Vehicle of 2014” from Economic Observer.

Within just one year, DENZA emerged from an unknown brand to among the most awarded and influential names in the EV category.

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