Marketing to the Affluent Chinese: Target the event, not the individual !
Targeting a specific type of consumer or client when designing a product for China can cause serious headaches. Indeed, it is common knowledge that there is no single « Chinese Consumer », but rather a multitude of Chinese consumer types. The Northern Chinese may be opposed to Southern Chinese, East Coast Chinese to Chinese from the backward central regions, New Money to Old Money, “hard-earned” money to “dirty” money. Is there a key to targeting potential clients in this extremely fragmented market?
For over six years, we have been interviewing affluent Chinese of all sorts about their lifestyle and associated product purchases, and this has convinced us of the following: there IS a common denominator among all the affluent Chinese. For all of them, social events in China are extremely codified and require the display of specific categories of luxury products.
Rich Chinese often display numerous, expensive luxury watches, which makes us smile and think that the Chinese are avid watch collectors. In fact, during our interviews, the Chinese explain (quite logically) that each watch fits a specific event and therefore multiple watches are necessary: one for the workday, which will be common / low profile i.e. a Rolex or a simple Omega; one for the Board or Communist Party meeting i.e. a premium watch such as a Patek Philippe with complications or an Audemars Piguet ; one for sports activities – a Tag Heuer or a diving watch like the Omega Submariner ; one for parties with sophisticated friends – a diamond watch from Piaget or Cartier… And as people get richer, the events subdivide, specific sports will require specific watches i.e. a diving watch for diving, a Jaeger Lecoultre Reverso for Polo, etc …
The same pattern exists in the women’s universe, clothing for example: at work (all the women work in China) a skirt and a sophisticated top, for shopping a casual outfit which may include trousers, for an evening event a evening gown, for a Charity lunch among women a very sophisticated but this time short dress, for sports – sportswear, for golf – golf apparel, for yoga an indoor outfit made of expensive fabric such as single thread cashmere…
Events are codified and the Chinese are very formal. While it is difficult to describe a « typical » Chinese, all the Chinese across the country will agree on the same attributes to wear at the same types of events. This flows from the strong influence of Confucianism, which dictates what is called Chinese « good taste », or rather the importance, as taught by Confucius, of behaving in the appropriate manner in each specific circumstance. What the Chinese call « Good Taste » today is nothing more than what Confucius called the « virtue of the gentleman ».
The key to marketing a luxury brand or product in China, therefore, is to find the related event, rather than to determine the type of client or consumer. Once you’ve identified the event, you will be able to roll out a lifestyle-marketing plan that will be simple, effective – and very lucrative.
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