On the frosty winter’s evening of January 3, Wang Sicong, the son of Wanda Group’s billionaire Chairman Wang Jianlin, posted on social platform Weibo that he would be doling out 100,000 RMB ($15,500) every evening at 9pm to users of the Chongding Dahui app. It was to be the dawn of live stream quizzes in China and the latest overnight phenomenon to sweep through the country’s smartphone sphere.
Users participate in a live-streamed quiz hosted by oft-famous quizmasters. Users have ten seconds to answer multiple choice questions which become increasingly harder as contestants progress. Users that remain in the game by correctly answering 12 questions take an even split of the prize money – some now soaring as high as five million RMB ($770,000).
Within the weeks of launching, the sensation has seen single quizzes attract as many as three million users. Within days, other companies such as Internet darling Toutiao, Inke, Huajiao and a host of other platforms have created their own quizzes and incentives to capitalize on the trend. Toutiao’s Watermelon Video Livestream Quiz app occupies the second spot on Apple’s free downloads, ahead of popular WeChat and Alipay, with other quiz apps peppering the top 50, including Wang Sicong’s at number 10.
The speed of adoption by consumers and swiftness of replication by copycat platforms illustrates how well-executed smartphone initiatives can go viral overnight in China. The attraction of live stream quizzes comes down to a number of factors:
- Contestants win real money
- It takes place in an entertaining, rewarding and simple format which is easy to understand but difficult to master
- It promotes sharing with friends, where users encourage friends and colleagues to download the app with the incentive of free lifelines if they answer incorrectly
- It fosters an offline experience, with colleagues and friends all tuning in together at lunch breaks and commutes home
- KOL hosts add to the buzz and also promote through their social channels
- Platforms have invested significant sums of money to lure users, which have grown from 100,000 RMB to five million RMB per quiz in two weeks. Some apps now run up to six quizzes a day.
“Research in social & e-commerce campaigns has shown you can’t underestimate the power of an incentive to Chinese consumers. Even for tier one consumers, a multi-million-dollar inheritance and an incoming property portfolio don’t dull the thrill of a free product or prize,” notes Andrew Atkinson, Marketing Manager at Chinese research and strategy agency China Skinny having witnessed his colleagues crowding around smartphones competing in quizzes together during their lunch breaks.
The increasing number of participants on each quiz has seen the prize money being divided among more winners and the share of the purse dropping as low as 2RMB ($0.30). Lowering incentives and the general trend of Chinese consumers constantly seeking new ways to be entertained is pointing to the game losing its luster.
Searches on WeChat for quiz apps peaked within a week of launching, however interest in Taiwan Yingxiong’s topped out within two days with 2.4 million searches.
A small WeChat survey by one social media company found 80% of respondents thought it wouldn’t last long. 40% in the same survey considered the cash prizes to be the reason behind the millions of participants, which won’t be helped by the increasingly measly returns.
The Social media company survey also delivered some interesting views into how quiz goers thought brands could best integrate into the platform, with ‘implanting the brand into quiz questions’ considered the best option by 39%, and ‘oral mention of the brand’ and ‘title sponsor’ being the next most popular, both on 29%.
The overnight success of live streaming quizzes should illustrate just how quickly fans can come (and likely go) in China. Acting quickly to capitalize on fads, such as Toutiao did, can bring some great benefits such as increasing app downloads, and building awareness and engagement; however brands that have taken two weeks to react are likely to have missed the wave. It is representative of how dynamic the battle for consumers’ attention has become, particularly from nimble domestic competitors. Yet brands can take inspiration from the velocity at which innovative and engaging ways to connect with the much-contested Chinese consumer present themselves.