China’s digital world is changing faster than anywhere else in the world, but some elements remain stable, says marketing expert Tom Doctoroff, author of What Chinese Want: Culture, Communism, and China’s Modern Consumer to Warc. “Chinese people are so emotionally engaged with the images and experiences they share with the “like-minded” – that is, people who “matter” because they have the same interests.”
“China’s digital landscape is evolving rapidly. But timeless cultural truths – that is, a regimented, rules-bound offline world – ensure the relationship between individuals and their online identities remain highly compartmentalised and emotionalized,” said Tom Doctoroff, Chief Cultural Insights Officer at brand consultancy Prophet, in an exclusive story for WARC.
“Compared with day-to-day reality, [the internet is] a blank canvas of self-expression. That’s why Chinese people are so emotionally engaged with the images and experiences they share with the “like-minded” – that is, people who “matter” because they have the same interests.”
This motivation implies two imperatives for brands. First, they must provide a platform for emotional release and creative liberation. Second, they must provide social currency and peer endorsement on a scale unimaginable in the West.
“In China, pride is never separated from purchase. Self-image is inextricably linked to consumption because: a) there are relatively few ways to express identity given society’s conformism and b) brand choice represents forward advancement,” Doctoroff said.
Doctoroff advises brands to look toward four key principles when engaging with young Chinese online: encouragement to break through traditional barriers or ‘old world’ expectations, empowerment to try new things, opportunities to project their status and offering a gateway to ‘greatness’.
“Purchases need to reinforce the new generation’s aspiration to maintain a modern, multi-faceted identity. They want to project discernment in relationships, evolution of social consciousness, worldliness, and contemporary “health and wellness” practices.”
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