Why is it that mid-range Western brands send Chinese shoppers clamoring for more? The answer isn’t simple, but Yao Shujie, head of the School of Contemporary Chinese Studies at Nottingham University, and Mike Bastin, a researcher at the school, recently reported their ideas to China Daily.
“Brand positioning, the image of the brand within the consumer’s mind, is no longer a fixed, static concept. Instead, it is becoming increasingly dynamic and often varies across countries and cultures and according to specific consumer experiences,” they said. They also emphasized the new importance that emotion carries when Chinese consumers make purchases. They believe that brand producers targeting China should “focus more on the consumer’s brand experience and not just brand image.
The new emphasis on emotion and customer experience has allowed mid-range brands to be accepted by China’s new wealthy. The attention these brands receive also has a lot to do with Chinese consumers’ impulses as they rush to make purchases they have never before been able to afford. Also, these brands are being picked up by Chinese consumers who may not be able to afford the best of the best, but who still desire to make luxury purchases so as not to feel inferior to friends and neighbors.
It’s also important to note that luxury purchases are no longer being influenced by a consumer’s family. Peer groups, co-workers, and close friends have replaced the traditional societal hierarchy involved in seeking the approval of others. The researchers noted, “Achievement of societal position or ranking has also been replaced by conspicuous brand consumption rather than occupational prestige where “elite” occupations usually included senior Party positions or elevated positions in education.”
However, it is not expected that mid-range Western brands will forever be able to win over Chinese consumers. Yao and Bastin said, “But it is only a matter of time before the typical urban Chinese consumer reaches a level of maturity and feels a desire for change, at which point their brand choice will switch from an emotional, status-driven decision to a far more rational and analytical selection.”
There will also come a time when Chinese consumers choose to develop a more “innovative, non-conformist choice of consumption and lifestyle.”
photo credit: lip jin lee