Reading any material about Chinese consumers, it is hard to miss references to demographics such as Gen-Z or millennials. They are important segments to target, but their needs, behaviours and emotional drivers can be as varied as China itself.
Sometimes, it can be more valuable to focus marketing not just on a demographic, but also the specific city those consumers live in. Youth in Chengdu are fiercely independent, with an underground music scene unrivalled in China, whereas young Shanghainese are much more likely to roll out a yoga mat and sip an Americano than anywhere else in the country. Identifying and tailoring marketing strategies around the target audience in specific cities can be a much more effective way to connect with consumers, than a generic China-wide ‘Gen-Z strategy.’
Some cities or regions in China are much more likely to possess the optimism, or the necessary affluence to purchase premium foreign products above cheaper alternatives. As the recent Economist Intelligence Unit study found, all of the top-10 cities with the greatest economic growth potential are in eastern and southern China, with the exception of Beijing. With many target cities grouped together in relatively small clusters – tastes, climates, lifestyles and cultures related to marketing are usually comparatively alike. Similarly, coverage of regional distributors, retail chains and other sales channels are likely to be more consistent.
Chinese cities warrant some individualised attention in their own right. These cities have the personal wealth, GDP and populations comparable to countries that businesses typically build individual strategies for. Shanghai has more people than Australia, a GDP greater than the UAE and Qatar combined, and millions of people with a net worth higher than $1 USD million. China’s mega city clusters Jing-Jin-Ji, Yangzte River Delta, Pearl River Delta Greater Bay Area average populations of over 100 million affluent residents each, although consumer profiles between the cities in each cluster can vary a lot.
We’ve aimed to help you make sense of the cities in China with our free-to-use City Tier Calculator and City-Nator tools, which have been updated with the latest numbers and classifications. Take a look, you may find them a helpful resource – we use them all the time ourselves!
Most readers will know that ‘localising’ for China isn’t a one-size fits all approach. But brands should also pay attention to what they are actually localising. In many cases, localising a foreign product for China can backfire, particularly if it is the foreignness than is appealing to Chinese consumers. Localisation is often more effective when done for the marketing proposition, sales structure and even the speed of decision making.
In short, when developing marketing strategies for China in segments such as Gen-Z or millennials, it pays not to look at the groups one-dimensionally. At a high level, creating a matrix between the segment and the city/region will build a solid foundation, to then factor in the many tribes who fall under them. Get in touch with us here at China Skinny to learn how we can assist in defining your target audience and ensuring that your marketing strategy will be relevant to and resonant with them.
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