For the longest time, China was a society where it was advantageous to fit in. From an early age, children were taught to conform. However, as China aspires to transition from assembling products to designing them as well, there is much incentive to create free and creative thinkers to drive China’s businesses up the value curve.
Whilst recent Beijing policies such as tightening Internet controls and banning foreign media will discourage wider perspectives and free thinking, many more policies are cheer-leading independent thought. Initiatives such as increasing creativity programmes in schools, the rise of overseas study, and waiving overseas travel restrictions for lower-tier cities are all encouraging Chinese consumers to view things differently.
Although Government policies are helping to slowly build independent minds, much of it is being driven by increasingly educated and aware Millennials. This is evident scanning content that post-90’s consumers are publishing on social media, which is often more imaginative than content from those born in the 70’s for example.
After health and wellbeing, products and services that encourage creativity are one of the top priorities for the post-80’s generation who are becoming parents. If we look at the fashion industry, youth are making statements with the clothes and accessories they wear, much of it far more adventurous than even five years ago. And the obvious segment is tourism, where three quarters of China’s 120 million-plus outbound travellers have a preference for independent travel over organised tour groups.
There are also the less visible signs of Chinese consumers’ growing independence and individualism. A Chinese Academy of Sciences and London Business School study into Chinese names has found more creativity and variations in the names Chinese are giving to their children. Similarly, the lyrics in popular songs are becoming less about the communal ‘we’, and more about ‘me’.
Chinese consumers, particularly the high spending youth segments, are looking to express themselves by the goods they buy and experiences they share, to show their networks that they are different from 1.4 billion other Chinese. Marketers should be factoring this in with their product and service offerings, positioning and communications. Go to Page 2 to see this week’s China news and highlights.