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AsiaNext - Volume One: First Generation Discoverists

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AsiaNext is an Edelman-authored thought piece that explores the unique circumstances, needs and desires of different consumers throughout Asia. While certainly not a definitive study, AsiaNext is …

AsiaNext is an Edelman-authored thought piece that explores the unique circumstances, needs and desires of different consumers throughout Asia. While certainly not a definitive study, AsiaNext is meant to offer a broad but uniquely honest and personal look at these consumers to, in turn, inspire exploration of the subsets of consumers that matter most to our clients.

In Volume One, we’ll take you to China, and zero in on The First Generation Discoverists. They are a group that, unlike previous generations, have been granted access to unprecedented opportunity - for the pursuit of wealth, the pursuit of a career and, perhaps the most profound shift, the pursuit of self-driven identity and interests.

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  • 1. ASIA / nextVolume One:First Generation Discoveristshttp://www.flickr.com/photos/hkdollar
  • 2. Meet China’s First Generation Discoverists For more than 200 million young people who sit at the crux between qi ling hou (70’s generation) and ba ling hou (80’s generation), the opening up of China and the development of technology- particularly the Internet- ushered in far more than a new economy. As one 27-year-old female from Hunan told us, “I know that I am fortunate because I was born in this era and I have the technology to access the entire world.” The first middle class, the first born under the One Child policy, the first generation with the luxury to add new dimension to their life, they sit squarely at the intersection between ‘70’s ambition and internationalism, and ‘80’s self exploration and creativity. While their parents’ gener- ation was focused on daily survival and the development of society, they have been granted access to unprecedented opportunity- for the pursuit of wealth, the pursuit of a career and, perhaps the most profound shift, the pursuit of self-driven identity and interests. They are the First Generation Discoverists. In the West, we take hobbies, or the pursuit of a personal passion, for granted. We’ve grown up with role models in our families who show us a path for our exploration. So, imagine the power of a generation growing up in China that now has unprecedented opportunity, but no clear roadmap or limited role models for exploring their personal interests. Their relationship with friends- online and offline- their favorite celebrities, and the brands in their lives is suddenly very important, personal and intimate. Real Life, Virtual Me; Virtual Life, Real Me: “Now, I have the chance to do something more. I’m very lucky to have this. But parents’ expectations on you and what society wants you to be creates so much pressure. Everybody wants you to pursue a career and then suddenly it’s time to get married. It makes you wonder, ‘What exactly do I need? What kind of life do I want to have? What kind of dreams do I need to pursue?’” For First Generation Discoverists, unprecedented opportunity breeds unprecedented pressure. One in five now say that “Work keeps me so busy that I find it hard to enjoy my personal life.” (Source: McKinsey) “In my real life, I exist as a ‘virtual me.’ I go to work. I try to live up to expectations and pressures from my parents, my coworkers, society. Then, I go home. I open my computer and I put on some music and start to dance. That supports me to be refreshed and restart. That’s the real me.” They see their passions, or “disposable interests” as research firm enovate describes, as a chance to relax and explore new dimensions of themselves. Entertainment, personal development, social connection and stress relief drive the exploration of their passions. Spending more than 70% of their leisure time online and more than 13 hours per week viewing video specifically, their reliance on digital platforms for entertainment and expression far outranks many of their Western peers, according to McKinsey. Whether they are listening to music on Xiami, watching a film on Youku or dissecting the elements of an album cover’s design in a forum on Douban, they have the chance to see a parallel for what’s possible in their lives and what resonates with their personal taste without the pressure of having to pursue an entirely new path in real life. Why it Matters to You: In our Edelman 8095 study last year, members of the generation who participated in our study in China told us that the number one reason why they would consider switching brands is if a brand “helps me in other areas of my life.”So, for the past several months, our team has continued on a journey to explore exactly which areas of their lives matter most to them, to understand the perspective of First Generation Discoverists here in China. What follows is merely a thought starter- a collection of three short pieces and quotes from First Generation Discoverists within and outside of Edelman. We hope, if anything, this helps you start to understand this unique time of their lives and how you can be a catalyst for them so they, in turn, can be ahttp://www.flickr.com/photos/alphadslr catalyst for you.
  • 3. Meet Rebecca Xia, 32, Beijing, First Generation DiscoveristI watched the movie “Real Steel” last night. It was awesome. Actually I was in a deep blue mood and felt very defeated beforeI went to the cinema. But when I saw that the main character in the movie finally gained his courage back and fought for him-self, for his family, I felt like standing up and fearing nothing. I was so excited during the movie. I felt that I returned to myself.It was fiction but it brought the real me back.Before describing my virtual life, let me tell you a little bit about my real life and how I got here. I am the second generationafter the Cultural Revolution generation. My generation watched our parents leave their hometowns when they were teenagers.They were distributed to big factories, owned by the country. In their memory, there was no concept similar to changing jobs tofollow your passion. Everything was set for them and they followed the path that was set for them.I witnessed this, watching my parents work as I grew up in a beautiful countryside town. There were no computer games or anymodern things in my childhood. But, I could play freely in the mountains, by the rivers, with all kinds of animals every day. Thingswere pure and real and I always had a child-like feeling in my heart.Then, I grew up and the new China awakened. Things have changed dramatically with super speed. My parents have beenthrough the experience of giving up their careers, lives, house, friends and pretty much everything in the town where they spent22 years during my childhood and have moved to Beijing. They did this so our family- so I- could have more opportunity in theplace where they grew up- Beijing. However, they couldn’t hand the huge changes when they got here. I witnessed their weak-ness, confusion, when they feel hopeless, when they even look for spiritual support from me.Most of the time, I couldn’t look to my parents to find answers for myself. Compared to other generations, to their generation,I have more life experience and very different challenges. I had no choice but to face these difficulties. I always knew I had toform my own opinions, make my own decisions and fight for myself because no one else could help me. The happy child-likefeeling inside me that I experienced when I was growing up in the countryside was too relaxed and happy to be recalled then.By the time I was 20, more new things came to China. They confused me. There was so much opportunity but our educationshowed us there is only one way to achieve so-called “success”: study hard, go to a good university, find a good job, get rich,get married; no one cares about happiness; no one realizes the differences of an individual. It made me wonder, “Why shouldeveryone follow the same road?” “Why do I have to follow?” “Who am I?”I remember when I first watched Titanic and when Jack won the ticket, when he felt like he was flying on the boat. I suddenlyfelt like I could fly like him and someday I might go to Hollywood! I wanted to create something real, something original, to tryall new things, break all the rules, to stop listening to other people and start listening to myself! I started exploring.The computer and the internet helped me explore. This was the time that happiness spoke.My “virtual life” supported me to keep going and keep exploring.When I was offline, in the real world, it was still a difficult fight. I met defeats. I kept quite. I hid my dreams. If I actually said,in real life, that I believed in having the kind of life Jack had in Titanic, people would think I was insane. So, I followed rules. Indaily life, I smiled, I worked hard, I did what I was supposed to do.But, every night, I read, I watched movies online, I listen to music and cried. I didn’t need to face anyone but me. I was free andI could keep or create my dreams. This feeling that virtual life gives me supports me to keep going in real life. When I listen tomusic or watch TV or movies online, I can be Sheldon in The Big Bang Theory; I can be Carry in Sex in the City; I can be Bettyin “Ugly Betty.” The characters fulfill my dreams. My virtual life gives me strength for real life. It shows me that something is re-ally happening out there. As long as I don’t hide, I don’t escape, I don’t give up, the real me is always possible!
  • 4. “I work hard but I also believe that enjoying life is the mostimportant thing for me right now. We are only young once... I feellike different aspects of my personality are surfacing with each newthing I try.”-Female, 26, Shanghai“I think of myself as a very outgoing and open-minded person.I am always up for trying new things, be it a restaurantor a new product.”–Female, 26, Shanghai“I never imagined myself to have such an interestand love learning what else I can do with it.”–Female, 31, Suzhou“I’m excited about learning and accumulating experience every day…Reading books broadens my horizon and adjusts my view of life…Brands can reflect my status and my taste/ aspiration of life.”–Female, 31, Beijing http://www.flickr.com/photos/arndsan
  • 5. Meet Rui, 23, Shanghai, First Generation DiscoveristMy family members, maybe back to eight generations or even more, all stayed in a small town in Hubei province. Everyone, in every single generation, was a farmer and theywere very poor. My dad’s biggest regret is that didn’t finish high school because his family didn’t have money for him to finish. He was a top student in his school, so healways regretted it.It wasn’t until my parents got married and my dad’s mom and my dad’s older sister lent him and my mom some money to set up a very, very small shop for selling drinksthat someone in my family had the chance to move from the countryside to the middle of town. After eight years of hard work, their little shop turned into two largershops. That’s how they got their money. They didn’t do it because they always wanted to open a shop. They did it to make a living- for income- and to support the family,especially me and later my brother. It was really stressful for them but they really wanted to provide a better environment for us.With my dad’s regrets of not finishing school, he always made sure that I had the best education. I went to the best school in town and in high school, they sent me toanother city that was two hours away but was really good.Growing up, my dad also encouraged me to learn something besides studying, something that was a hobby. He said that I didn’t need to practice something that I wouldturn into a profession but that I had to learn something new to enjoy myself.I learned keyboard as my first hobby when I was seven. Then, I continued my whole elementary school year. In middle school, I played the piano. After that, I picked up theguitar all by myself and I learned the flute.That’s the big difference between my parents’ and my grandparents’ generations. My dad loved to write calligraphy when he was young but he gave it up. I don’t know whyand I never asked why. My grandparents never thought about doing a hobby. Things were very different then. When you have basic needs, you can start to think about hob-bies, but they were just thinking about getting by and making a living. Their thoughts were very closed. They told him, “It’s good to stay at home and stay with family. Juststay in the small town and make a living.”When I was a sophomore, my dad decided to try to send me to America, because he thought it was more liberal there and focused not only on being a good test taker,but on other things like literature, art, music… America was always a dream place for that. He helped me prepare to take the test for my visa three times. I failed eachtime. Then, when I finished high school, I took the test and passed. So, I had the chance to study in America.I’m the first in my family to have this opportunity.When I graduated, instead of telling me to stay at home and just make a living, he told me, “Don’t come back to Wuhan (my hometown).. You have to be in Beijing, Shanghaior Hong Kong- to be in a big city and have more challenges.” It was my dad’s hope for me and I understood.In America, I felt there were always chances for musical kids like me to form together and have their own groups. When I got there, my friends said, “We’re gonna start apunk band.” I said, “What’s punk?!” I didn’t know what it was. In China, it was all pop or sad slow songs at the time. So, they introduced me to a lot of music on MySpaceand I started watching a lot of videos. I learned about the music, joined a band and physically became part of the scene there. In America, my friends were very easygoing about putting a tag on themselves. They were a “musician” or a “photographer” even if it wasn’t their major. They have so many platforms and chances to meet up.China is starting to get that but it’s not so easy to access it.Now that I’m back in China, I use QQ music and Sina Weibo’s music radio station. On Sina Weibo’s music station, I can instantly share my music with everyone. I’m not try-ing to be a professional musician. That’s not very real. I think a hobby is something you do in your free time. You proactively do it but it’s not something you feel pressuredto do. It makes life better- not so boring. It’s something outside of work. It helps you relax and feel very meaningful. It’s maybe even something that’s spiritual.I change my hobbies a lot. I think when you go to a new environment, have those new milestones in your life, you change. When I joined Weibo, I changed too. I feel I al-ways use those stations to explore. Your environment changes your hobbies.I’m helping my parents get back into trying hobbies now too. My mom is taking calligraphy classes right now and she knows everything about technology now. My dad reallywants to learn. She started by just wanting to learn QQ to talk to me when I was in America. She learned how to video chat with me. When I opened my Sina Weibo, mymom opened hers. She plays online games, reads news… During spring festival, I’ll show my dad how to use Sina Weibo, my QQ blog and texting too.
  • 6. I want companies to understand that I just graduated and am about to start my first full-time position in a totally new city.This is the most unique and challenging time in my life. I’m able to support myself on my own. When my parents were at myage, they already had me and were starting their career path by themselves. However, right now in China, even a master de-gree is not a big deal. There’s a lot of competition now and it’s challenging to figure everything out in this new environment:housing, transportation, friendship building, etc. But it’s exciting too. I have the chance to prove myself, find my purpose, myhobbies and feel my own power and strength. I think some companies still think that a celebrity’s effect is essential.However, as a recent college graduate, I am not affected by this phenomenon any more. I am looking for products that Ican afford yet are good quality and I’m looking for companies that help support my own power and strength.I want brands to help my parents too. For example, I want some travel brand to send my mom a camera- a professionalcamera. She started taking photos with her phone and I want a company to help her explore that more. I feel like I havehad so many chances already. But, right now, I don’t have enough money to buy my mom a professional camera. If a brandwanted to do that, my mom would be happy. She wouldn’t feel bad or that it was a burden if it came from me. We are thefirst generation to be able to do something on our own. We want to help our parents enjoy that opportunity too.
  • 7. “I think rock music is a form of rebellion. Rebellion and free-dom… There’s not a second that I’m not listening and thinkingabout it… Not everything you do has to have value or some sortof reward. The reward is you’re doing something you’ve alwayswanted to do.”–He Fan, Birdstriking, Noisey.com “My parents are supportive in the sense that they never saidthey disapproved.” –Ren Yilan, 24 Hours, Noisey.com
  • 8. Meet Juliette Hu, 27, First Generation DiscoveristMy parents are generation “Red Guard.” They grew up in a very politically unique era and always hadspecial marks on their behaviors and thoughts. China hadn’t opened its door to the world yet. Theygrew up with the traditional Chinese cultural heritage and recognition. They were more conservative,had common values of right and wrong, had shared memories and a tendency to obey authority. Theyare also more devoted and family oriented. They almost never think about themselves as individual andput family members’- especially their child’s- needs before their own. They lived in a “wealth-evenly-distributed” time and had little money. They earned everything from scratch. They were cautious withmoney and saved it instead of using it all up or using it just for pleasure. They believed in “spendingmoney only when you have to.”Now, look at my generation. “We are a unique generation… The uniqueness is nothing to show off butfrom the special background of age, history and destiny. We’ve walked on the line between povertyand wealth, between restrictions and freedom and between closeness and openness…” This is theopening like of A Hopping Year, a book about love stories among a group people in my generation.It reveals what it was like for us to grow up as “First Generation iscoverists.” We were born at thestarting phase of “opening up” which allowed us to go from being more traditional and relatively poorfamilies, to witnessing and experiencing twenty years of economic change as we grew into adults.We grew up eating McDonalds, drinking coke, wearing Nike, watching Growing pains and playing onour computers. We have a Chinese and Western fusion that is reflected in our lifestyle and values bygrowing up in such openness. We were still conservative and needed peer recognition- but we wereopen and we cared a lot about who we were as individuals.Living at home with my parents, it’s clear to me that now, under one roof, these two very differentvalues and lifestyles collide.My friends and I share a new perspective, a bold attitude and we use money for pleasure. We tellour parents to use money for pleasure too. We tell them to relax, to stop worrying and to enjoy themoment. We take them to dine in new restaurants. We take mom to the spa, dad to fish and both totravel. We teach them to use smartphones, our iPad… We care a lot about them and understand howhard it is for them and we do things like this to show our love, instead of actually saying “I love you.”
  • 9. “The web is not changing or fueling the creative scene in China. The web, in many ways, isthe local creative scene in China. The fine-art world in China is still very much in the galleries…but everything else thrives online, almost exclusively. Every once in a while you’ll see some cooloffline events bringing the scene together ‘physically,’ but for the most part, young creativeshere present themselves and their work, and exchange with each other digitally. They grew uponline and this sort of interaction is just second nature to them.” –Adam Schokora, Founder, NeochaEDGE“Even if you’re the only kid in town who’s an avid punk fan, chances are you share your inter-ests with a couple hundred online buddies between a Douban profile, a Sina Weibo accountand fellow forum subscribers…On Douban, fans of alternative music scenes are starting groups with thousands of members.The conversation leaders scour the internet for relevant videos, albums, cover art, anythingrelated to the scene, then post it on Douban for all to share…As the modern-day campfire, these communities are crucial… It’s where everyone feels com-fortable enough to explore interests, meet others, and share.” –The Push Shove, The Virtual - Actual Network http://www.flickr.com/photos/zuru1024
  • 10. CREATING REAL PLATFORMS FOR THEM TO EXPLORE THEIR “VIRTUAL ME”Mary Meeker, in her 2011 State of the Internet report, proposed an evolution of Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs.Replacing “self-actualization” with mobile & Internet, she reiterated a simple but powerful point that our modern digitalplatforms are, now, so very often our main mode of exploring and realizing our full potential. For First GenerationDiscoverists here in China, digital platforms, particularly hubs for entertainment experiences and content, are very muchat the heart of their exploration of their full potential and true self.As Rebecca Xia described, “The characters fulfill my dreams. My virtual life gives me strength for real life.”In the space of these three short thought pieces- the real words and life experiences of three First GenerationDiscoverists within our Edelman China family- we hope you can begin to feel the power of the role you can and shouldplay as a company operation in China, seeking the collective attention and buying power of a generation getting itsfirst, sweet rush from trying new interests, hobbies and dimensions of themselves.Just as their favorite communities, celebrities and characters offer a conduit to enjoy new passions without thepressure of real-life hurdles, consider your company, your products and services, your marketing platforms andexperiences as a conduit to do the same. Giving them a platform- online or offline- to explore their “virtual self” mayvery well be your most effective way in to garnering their real attention and engagement.INSPIRATION FROM AROUND THE WEBNoisey and Creators ProjectA partnership between Dell, Intel and Vice Magazine to provide platformsfor creative discovery and showcase fresh new creative talent, in China and around the world.Chevrolet: Bright Eleven’s Old BoysA brand partnership with young Chinese filmmakers to create ten online shorts and one feature film that capture thelife, pressures and aspiration of post-80’s youth. Old Boys, a story that centers on the struggle between self-actual-ization and real life pressures, was the most popular film in the series, successfully moving many viewers to tears.NeochaEDEGEYour definitive source to discover this generation’s most promising new creative talent.DoubanThe leading creative and entertainment centric community for Chinese netizens.Youku, Tudou, SohuThree major video portals in China that serve as primary hubsto view entertainment content.XiamiThe go-to source for many to find and stream an endless catalog of music.from their favorite Chinese and Western artists. http://www.flickr.com/photos/TGKW
  • 11. ASIA / nextVolume One:First Generation DiscoveristsFor more information, please contactChristina.smedley@edelman.comhttp://www.flickr.com/photos/hkdollar

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