Lifestyle Branding in China

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China’s marketplace, and the consumers in it, are distinctly different from the rest of the world, and even within China there are huge differences between individual consumers. Especially as the newer generation of consumers come of age (people born after 1985) and become the driver of economic growth, the expectations and the way that Chinese consumers regard different brands have begun to change.

The younger generation of consumers is not polar opposite from their parent’s generation by any measure: they still care about value and prices and they are very averse to debt; however, they have grown up in an age of relative comfort and greater western influence and this has caused them to be much more relaxed about spending money on luxury and non-essential goods.  The rapid expansion of the middle class, and especially the upper middle class, has also helped to fuel this change in the Chinese economy as more and more consumers have more disposable income.  These two changes have caused a slow but dramatic shift in all parts of the Chinese market.  Even more isolated and less affluent areas such as Tier 4 cities are not immune to these changes as people move to social media, and huge technology brands such as Tencent, JD, Alibaba, and Pinduoduo integrate themselves into every part of the Chinse lifestyle.

This consumer shift has forced Chinese brands to adapt to the new market and adjust the way they market themselves.  Consumers are more willing to spend money, have more money to spend, and are increasingly looking at the perceived lifestyle that a company’s products can give them rather than just the product itself.  As an example, if someone buys a pair of Nike shoes they are not just buying the shoes, they are buying access to the Nike lifestyle.  Brands have been forced to adapt to this new expectation of lifestyle branding and have done so in a few different ways.  Some companies, such as the ecommerce company Pinduoduo, have built themselves around a certain demographic’s lifestyle while other companies, such as Nike and Durex have worked hard to successfully create a lifestyle expectation around their brand.

Pinduoduo

Deals Pinduoduo currently offers.

Pinduoduo is an ecommerce site whose entire platform revolves around the idea of deals.  Their success comes from marketing themselves to consumers in Tier 3 and Tier 4 cities that are overlooked by most other ecommerce giants. They are also successful because they have aligned themselves with the deal/ value focused lifestyle of a huge demographic of the Chinese population.  Although China is an economic powerhouse and quality of life is improving almost everywhere, economic growth has not been spread evenly across the country and much of China is still poor.  This less affluent demographic of China has still grown up with more relaxed spending habits, but in these areas people have less disposable income to spend and the changes and western influences that coastal Tier 1 cities, such as Shanghai, have experience are less prominent.  Getting the best value for your money is still of huge importance in these areas and Pinduoduo was able to tap into that lifestyle.  Their strategy, to create a company whose goal of bargain shopping lined up perfectly with the lifestyle of millions of people, is the reason that they are the fastest growing Chinese app ever and are now the third largest ecommerce platform in China behind only JD.com and the wildly popular Taobao.

Durex

Durex has also managed to become incredibly popular in China through lifestyle branding but did so in a slightly different way.  Durex markets themselves throughout China including in Tier 1 and Tier 2 cities where competition between brands is high.  This competition has forced luxury brands and brands such as Durex to promote not only just their products, but the lifestyle that people can obtain by using their products.  Durex has gone about promoting their brand in a number of ways including creating a hotel guide for sexual experiences, sex education, and other integrated marketing campaigns.  One time they held a three-hour live stream event where 50 couples sat in bed just talking and the “climax” was a puff of smoke erupting from a giant Durex box. Although people complained that it was “the most boring live stream ever”, the event generated a lot of hype and discussion surrounding the brand.  Through creative marketing Durex has managed to become an iconic lifestyle brand whose strategies and campaigns many other companies have tried to copy.

The Durex live stream featuring 50 couples lying in bed.

Durex is also very active on social media posting frequently on platforms such as Weibo and WeChat.  Their content is light hearted and does not directly promote their products, but rather makes jokes about sex or encourages people to share funny stories about their own relationships.  This type of branding engages their audience and gets people to buy their products, but more importantly helps to promote their brand and the lifestyle that using Durex products can give to people.

Lifestyle has become a huge factor in branding for companies in China.  Every company, from ecommerce giant to condom company, has been affected by the changing Chinese market and those that have learned to change and adapt with the market have been very successful.  Companies in China need to recognize that selling a quality product is still important, but it is not always enough to get people interested.  The reputation of the brand and the lifestyle that the brand can give to people are becoming more and more important as the Chinese market becomes more centered around younger generations

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