Searching for ways to design future-proof cultural relevant brand narratives towards Chinese millennial consumers.
A cultural branding experiment, a particularly good way to avoid hidden cultural traps.
Almost daily we witness yet another Western brand accused of some level of cultural appropriation. The line between winning over Chinese consumers and setting them off is a thin one, and cultural relevance gaps between China and the West can’t be shuffed away with good intentions. Chinese consumers are shaping their own path towards modernity. Contemporary China offers bold and oftentimes challenging glimpses into the future. How can brands connect to the modern cultural identityof chinese consumers? That’s the question. The mission of The comparative cultural branding EXPERIMENT is to identify and co-create effective means that Western brands, brand and communication agencies and the like can use to design future-proof cultural relevant brand narratives for Chinese millennial consumers in comparison with Western millennial consumers.
Comparing Chinese with Western millennials
In the EXPERIMENT we don’t just talk about or analyse brand mistakes. If you want to brand to Chinese millennials it is important to understand who they are. Not by magnifying the cultural differences and also not by underlining the global similarities. By moving away from blatant generalizations, emerging lifestyles of Chinese millennial consumers are compared with those of Western millennial consumers. In searching how to design future-proof cultural relevant brand narratives and messaging we start with fundamentally rethinking and redefining our understanding of Chinese millennial consumers. Critical questions are asked. Perceptions are challenged.
Cultural branding equips your brand to resonate culturally in the future
Western brand practice that is trying to resonate to Chinese consumers is in dire need of a new approach. It is becoming increasingly difficult for Western brands to reach Chinese millennial consumers, but it is not impossible. Cultural branding helps brands to scale sense and align meaning to create meaningful, relevant and resonant strategies and brand experiences across a multitude of brand touchpoints, regions, markets and geographies. There is no way for brands to tell a story outside of the context of culture. Culture is omnipresent. You might not see it, you might not be aware of it, but you cannot ignore it. People are impacted by it, no matter what brands might think and say. If brands fail to shift with the flow of Culture, their advertising will not be relevant. Brands operate within their consumer audience’s cultural context. This context has its own values, ideologies, symbols, meanings, and recognized makers and influencers. It also has cultural tensions and contradictions. More and more, whether they’re aware of it or not, consumers demand that brands acknowledge and contribute to this cultural context. It’s about brands playing a proactive role, confidently taking a stand, and doing so while being accountable for the images and messages they put out there.
Hacking the cultural system of the everyday lives in the near future of Chinese and Western millennials
Through prototyping and testing different narratives and messaging based upon emerging lifestyles that symbolises new values, needs and motivations in China and several Western countries, insights are gained on how to adapt global content to a Chinese and Western local mindset and also vice versa find universal principles for global expansion to build strong brands that are locally relevant. It starts with analysing the trends emerging in China and Western countries and dissecting the rights codes to understand how trends play out globally and to better fit the cultural specifics of the concrete regional markets brands are active in.
What cultural factors need to be considered in designing narratives and messaging for Chinese consumers? How to assess the cultural meaning of your brand for Chinese and Western millennials? If, why and how to design differently to realize cultural relevance for Chinese in comparison to Western millennials? Are upcoming lifestyles that symbolises new values, needs and dreams really so different in China than Western countries? Which tools can assist in narrative and messaging designs that connect to Chinese and Western millennial consumers of tomorrow? Global and local influences are in a continuous rebalancing, how will Chinese and Western consumers show their identity, experience freedom, take care of their children or apply technology in the near future?
- Get the insights and the means needed to design future-proof cultural relevant brand narratives and messaging.
- Get a ready-to-use scalable cultural framework to strengthen the cultural relevance of your brand to both Chinese and Western consumers and align brand meaning across markets around the world.
- Get a custom-made cultural branding manual with guidelines to design narratives and messaging that contributes to the culture, or perhaps even resolves specific cultural tensions.
- Get the insights and brand specific learnings to navigate through potentially hazardous cultural spaces, know why they might trigger cultural meanings and connotations you don’t want your brand to be associated with or know when to steer clear of some topics altogether.
- Get the insights and brand specific learnings to systematically capture, scale and optimise cultural meaning. This will help brands to prevent their brands from eroding and losing their value throughout the process and boost brand equity.
- Know how to offer both Chinese and Western consumers relevant meanings rooted in the world that they live in and can identify with on a personal, emotional and cultural level.
- Prevent any possible future damage (backlash from consumers) and assess the cultural context in which your brand operates. Understand what the brand is saying and how this meaning lives in the world of Chinese and Western millennials. This is always more effective and less costly in the long run than blindly following an advertising or content strategy without a proper cultural contextualization.
- Digging through the multitude of cultures in China alone for insights can be difficult and time-consuming, let alone together with Western countries as well. That is why more and more brands fall back to generalizations or disconnected stories.
The initiator of the Modern Chineseness cultural branding experiment is Marleen Spijkman MSc LLM. She is an independent cultural insights specialist and ethnographic forecaster. Already for more than 12 years she continuously follows what Chinese consumers do, how they express their identity, and how Western brands try and succeed or fail to resonate with Chinese consumers. Since 2007 she is frequently in China visiting Chinese people’s homes, observing daily activities or going shopping with them to get a better picture of unconscious behavior and talking with them to reveal the perspective of Chinese millennial consumers. She gained workexperience in (international) communication, marketing, sales and education before turning to cultural branding towards Chinese consumers.
Previous research studies have led to understanding:
- How Chinese millennial consumer re-inmagine the global and shape their own path towards modernity.
- Why cultural branding campaigns applaud by Western media have resulted in a misunderstanding that have led other Western brands to fall for the same misunderstanding with social backlash and declining sales as a result.
- Why and how Western sport shoe brands have successfully created a brand culture in China.
“After working with Marleen (owner Modern Chineseness) we had a much better understanding of Chinese parents. Marleen her ability to really connect to our Chinese audience gave us the feeling of having been really close to our Chinese target group. It has enriched marketing intelligence, branding, sales, marketing and product development professionals on their understanding of our Chinese consumer. What I also find valuable is the following discussions on how to localize our product, branding and product communication to the Chinese market. We have come to realize that we need to localize differently to get our message across.”
Tom Jan, Marketing Intelligence Specialist at Bugaboo
How do I participate?
- Modern Chineneseness is working together with Western brands, brand and communication agencies and the like to co-create a system, a cultural trend database and possible other means that can be used in designing future-proof cultural relevant brand narratives and messaging for Chinese consumers.
- If you are interested to participate, fill in underneath form and Marleen will answer you shortly.