Eastwei MSL Executive Whitepaper“From collective to individual”Marketing to the Chinese70s, 80s and 90sgenerations By Judy Luo and Charlotta Lagerdahl
About the researchThis report is a combination of Eastwei MSL consumer focusgroups in Shanghai 2010 combined with interviews, desktopanalysis and experience from marketing campaigns. Focusgroup participants were selected to represent urban citizens inthe relevant age spans, considering age, education, sex, income,employment and urban/rural background. The participants weregiven 100 RMB each for their participation in the focus group. Theresearch was conducted to increase Eastwei MSL knowledge andinsights about consumers, and was not commissioned by any thirdparty commercial venture.About Eastwei MSLEastwei MSL is China’s leading strategic PR agency, founded in1994 by partners who are still active in the firm. Eastwei MSLis part of MSLGROUP, the PR arm of the world’s third largestcommunications network: Publicis Groupe. Eastwei MSL providecommunications analysis and strategy, marketing communications,corporate communications and event management to a number ofFortune 500 and smaller clients.About MSLGROUPMSLGROUP is a speciality communications and engagement groupthats one of the worlds top 5 PR and events networks. With morethan 2,500 people, its offices span 22 countries and cover virtuallyevery discipline required for clients to engage creatively with theiraudiences 24 hours a day. Adding affiliates and partners into theequation, MSLGROUPs reach increases to 4,000 employees in83 countries. The group offers clients strategic advice, insight-guided thinking and big, compelling ideas - followed by thoroughexecution. MSLGROUP is Publicis Groupes flagship PR and Eventsnetwork. www.mslgroup.com
A changing ChinaOn the back of three decades of spectacular growth and development, China recently becamethe second largest economy in the world behind the United States. The country has alsobecome a major market for the world’s leading international consumer goods companies.In an increasingly competitive marketplace, companies are becoming more sophisticated insegmenting local stakeholders geographically, and have clear strategies in place for approachingurban versus rural consumers. However, we have found that communications strategies oftenfail to consider the enormous differences between the consumer “generations” born in each ofthe last three decades.Due to China’s accelerated changes over the past 30 years, children born in the 1970s, 1980sand 1990s have grown up in societies at vastly different stages of development. As we conductedfocus groups to uncover what drives these consumers and what their needs are, we discoveredthat although they grew up in the same country, their world views and views of themselves arevery different. Of particular interest for marketing and communications professionals are:・Disposable funds and consumption habits・View of world and self・Discussion topics and interests・Media consumptionIn this report, we look at the values, psychology and habits of urban Chinese consumers anddraw some operational conclusions for marketers.
1970s 1980s 1990sFinancial Demands from Ignoring pressure Pampered bypressure children, spouses and live in the now parents and grand and parents parentsInternet and Collecting Coming across Creatinginformation information information information1970s:Family before Self
Eastwei MSL Executive Whitepaper Marketing to the Chinese 70s, 80s and 90s generations 51970s: Family before SelfSpending on family unavoidable, they prefer it to be small and gradual.“Family” is the core word for those born in the On the other hand, they are highly preoccupied1970s. Shaped by a collectivistic society, happiness with physical health and will spend considerableof the family is rated higher than happiness of the time and money to “change” their health for theself. But this commitment to family also means better.responsibilities. This generation grew up whenChina was still considered a poor country. They Interested in things related tonow have aging parents, as well as children of their everyday lifeown. They are either settled down and need to The 70s generation enjoys talking about thingscover the rising costs of apartments and mortgages, that are relevant to everyday life. Examples of suchor are planning to buy housing in the very near social topics are property prices, popular movies,future. They save a lot of money; not only to meet seasonal fashion trends and cars. But they will nottheir own need for financial security in the face “evangelize” or strive to present their own pointof weak social security and healthcare systems, of view to others; nor will they try to be original orbut also to finance expensive schooling and meet creative. Their preferred activities focus on thingsrequests for a fancy wedding. the family can do together, such as “hanging out” and travelling.Change means insecurityThe 70s generation has neither fancy desires nor TV is mainly an entertainment toolan expectation that life will change dramatically. The family focus of the 70s generation has anIn fact, this group is the least open to change of overarching effect on their media habits. Becausethe three age groups under consideration. The they spend less time on personal interests than do70s generation interprets “change” as “insecurity” younger consumers, they try to use this free timeand “lots of work”, and when asked about their as efficiently as possible. For example, they chooseimmediate surroundings, such as their own home to collect information mainly from the internet andenvironment, they don’t feel it is possible or print media, while TV is mainly an entertainmentnecessary to “change”, even if they are dissatisfied tool.with the current state of affairs. If change is Singapore attracts Chinese families Over the past three years, Eastwei MSL has supported the Singapore Tourism Board, STB, in its campaigns to attract Chinese tourists to visit the country. In an attempt to target affluent consumers born in the 1970s, we decided to launch a promotional package supported by new brand ambassadors in mainland China. Given the priorities of the target group, the theme of the campaign was intimately tied to “family”. The aim was to encourage Chinese families to travel to Singapore together, and the country was positioned – and priced – as a family destination. The choice of brand ambassadors was aligned with the over all strategy: Singapore chose to launch an entire virtual family to show and share the fun, becoming one of the first countries in the world to use virtual spokespersons.
1980s: “Why don’twe just enjoylife now!” Core values Internet outlook1970s Family Time saver1980s Friends Social arena1990s Self Extension of selfLevi’s targets Chinese white-collar workersIn 2009, Levi’s wanted to target consumers born in the 80s using a new Levi’s sub brand. Bothwhite-collar workers and students are under huge life pressure, so working with Levi’s we knewthat creating a relaxing, enjoyable and happy brand image would increase brand preference amongthe target group. We proposed to position the new brand as reflecting current trends and targetconsumer lives and values instead of pioneering new ones. Also, it put great emphasis on appreciatingfriendship rather than the individual, as well as leveraging celebrities with high credibility in thetarget group. The launch event was designed as a high-level, celebrity-packed fashion show with aparty theme that tied in to the concept of “friends” and “togetherness”. This was followed up withconsumer engagement events and consumer seeding on campus, again acknowledging the hugeimpact of friends on this group of consumers.
Eastwei MSL Executive Whitepaper Marketing to the Chinese 70s, 80s and 90s generations 71980s: “Why don’t we just enjoy life now!”Relaxing from pressure The 80’s group is open to change, always on theIf “family” is the core word of the Chinese 70s lookout for new and fresh things. Preferences andgeneration, the importance of “friends” is at the loyalties tend to change quickly.heart of being born in the 80s. ”Friends” are thekey element of our focus group respondents’ Career advice is of particular interestdefinition of “happiness”. As a result of the one- Most things that are of interest to the post 80schild policy launched in 1980, they are the first have to do with friends and peers. Their best timegeneration to grow up without siblings; this may is spent together with people, trying out new thingsbe one reason that friends and peers have such a that reflect hot trends, “in” restaurants, shoppingsignificant place in their lives. Known in Chinese or playing video games. The importance of friendsas the ba ling hou, “post- eight-zero” generation, and peers also has another result: this generation isthis consumer group grew up after reform policies extremely competitive and pays attention to statusstarted taking hold. During their lifetime, urban symbols, since they perceive themselves as beingtwenty-somethings have therefore experienced in a context where they are constantly ranked inperhaps the greatest collective improvement of comparison with others.living standards the world has ever seen. This hasmade them a unique generation, straddling the “old, Topics concerning careers or career advicepoor” and “new, materially affluent” China. stood out as being of particular interest to this generation.The 80s generation experience financial pressuresimilar to that of the 70s generation(houses, The computer is a social hubmortgages and expectations of fancy weddings) but In stark contrast to their 70s brothers and sisters,they deal with this pressure in a totally different the 80s generation grew up with computers andway. While the 70s generation act responsibly the internet. The computer is therefore their socialto ensure a good life for their families, the 80s and information hub. When they come home,generation handle the pressure with an increased they will immediately turn on the computer toneed to relax from it. As one person in our chat with friends and look for current trends andresearch, Mindy, 25 years old, puts it: news. They rely on print media for information, however; much like the 70s generation, TV is only“People always say the 80s generation spend for entertainment purposes and they don’t see it asmore than they earn. But a house is so expensive; a major information source.we can not afford one, so why don’t we just enjoylife and spend on other things now!”Follow trends but loyalties Tong’s quotation about Lady Gaga illustrateschange quickly another important topic in understanding theThe 80s are aggressive and goal-driven. They see differences between the three generations:themselves as “individualistic” but in fact, they language. Tong’s slang word雷 , lei, literallyare far from being rebellious; they tend to follow means thunder, but is a common expression fortrends, and create self-expression within accepted “unbelievable” in the 80s generation. You wouldrules. Like the masses in Monty Python’s Life of seldom hear anyone born before 1975 using thisBrian, they are “all individuals – but in the same word. Each generation has a distinctive jargon,way”. The 80s generation choose trends to follow conditioned by media consumption and societalrather than creating trends themselves. change; in order to communicate effectively, marketers need to be sensitive to using the rightTong, 25, talks about Lady Gaga: words as well as finding the right tone of voice. This is particularly important online, where“I like Lady Gaga’s music, not her dress. It’s too the chat room jargon of the 90s generation canshocking (雷 ), regular people won’t wear it” actually be difficult to understand for readers of other age groups.
The 1990s: “My Idol is Myself”No financial pressure Zhao, 19, puts it:The 90s generation does not yet have time for financialworries. They are still supported by their parents, and “My idol is myself. I am my own person”due to the one-child policy they seldom have siblings. The 90s generation is inspired by a spirit for adventureWant to be seen as individuals and the notion that “nothing is impossible.”For the group born in the 90s, the focus is “self”. Asopposed to the “mass individualism” of the 80s crowd, “I want to do bungee-jumping. The most excitingthe 90s generation is truly individualistic, having grown bungee jumps are in New Zealand I heard, and I’mup with internet access in an open and cosmopolitan dying to go there and try it out!” - Zhou, 19China. Despite this, they also admit to being inspired by opinionThe 90s do not want to be identified as belonging to “a leaders in their own close circle of acquaintances.generation”; they prefer to be seen as individuals. Whenasked about idols, they claim not having any – or as The 90s generation strive to be original and unique. Sprite VIS launch campaign In late 2009, Eastwei MSL was tasked with the rebranding launch of Sprite. When targeting the teenage opinion leaders of the 90s generation, we knew that they needed to be personally engaged. For this generation, it is not enough to watch things far away on a stage. They want to create their own style and express their own creativity, not just look on and admire someone else’s. We designed an online Sprite photo campaign, where consumers could upload pictures of themselves while creatively expressing the promises of the Sprite brand. These pictures were shared among their friends, allowing opinion leaders to engage and play with the brand and “make it their own” – while spreading it through peer-to-peer communication. 1970s 1980s 1990s Outlook on Follow trends Choose trends Create trends trends Discussion Topics that relate to Topics that make Exciting topics to topics everyday life: one get ahead: be shared: ・Seasonal fashion ・Career ・Sensations ・Property prices ・Trends ・GossipThe 1990s: “My I
Eastwei MSL Executive Whitepaper Marketing to the Chinese 70s, 80s and 90s generations 9Creativity is best when it’s your own. They try to create and is non-separable from the traditional form oftheir own blend of arts, music, fashion and technology to “interests”. The internet is simply a place where thisarrive at interesting ideas: group hang out with friends, surf and express themselves through blogging or social networks. As mentioned“I think Lady GAGA and her dress designer are super above, the 90s reject the concept of “idols”. This is not tocreative! How can she dress like that?! The clothing and be confused with a lack of interest. Instead of idolizingmake-up are so individual and avant-garde.”- An, 19 celebrities, they tend to see them as people to gossip about. This generation is therefore very up to date whenThey are therefore more bold and provocative in the way it comes to celebrity affairs and the lives of the famous.they talk, think and dress than previous generations. They are also more interested in sensational news compared to world news.Interests and media are one and the sameFor this age group, interests and media merge into When they look for specific, credible information, thisone and the same; interactive media have become fully generation still turns to traditional print media or books.integrated into the daily lives of the post 90s generation,Idol is Myself”
Implications for the communications professional 1970s 1980s 1990s Communication ・Simple happiness ・Accessible and trendy ・High level of strategy ・Nothing overwhelming, ・Respect need for interaction gradual change preferred relaxation ・Provide opportunity ・Peer involvement for self-expressionTo treat Chinese consumers as one, homogenous audience is a waste of money. Every campaign mustcarefully consider the gulf of differences between the different age groups. Eastwei MSL’s marketingcommunications team provides five operational pieces of advice for marketing and communicationsprofessionals.1. Don’t try too hard to be trendy just because you are communicating withyoung people.- The post 90s are less interested in trends created by others. They want to create the trends themselves.Many companies put too much effort into picking up trends rather than creating arenas for youngpeople to express themselves. Also, tightly intertwined with the aim to be unique is the aim to showcasethis uniqueness. This is a golden opportunity for marketing and communications specialists. With aprofessionally executed campaign, they can enjoy the benefits of true “peer-to-peer” marketing. Thismeans that the target group voluntarily spreads the company’s messages to their friends. Not only is itefficient, it is also considered as having high credibility.2. Never underestimate the subtle nuances in people’s aim to be different.- “Being different” doesn’t mean the same thing for people born in the 70s, 80s and 90s. This is somethingmarketers need to consider when tailoring a campaign based around the uniqueness of their offerings.While the post-70s generation doesn’t want anything to create too much change, the post-80s are willingto be different as long as they are the same as their peers, whilst the post 90s strive to be truly unique andbreak the rules. For the marketer, this provides a good framework on how to better position companiesand services.
Eastwei MSL Executive Whitepaper Marketing to the Chinese 70s, 80s and 90s generations 113. Make family fun!- The responsible and stressed out post 70s don’t have as much free time as the younger age groups. Giventhat their first priority will always be their family, this presents marketers with the opportunity to createfun and exciting campaigns where everyone in the household can be involved. For the post 70s, this willprovide much needed relaxation while at the same time tapping in to the core values for this group. IKEAhas been extremely successful in this approach.4. Make use of the inborn competitiveness of the post 80s.- The concept of “getting ahead” is big among the post 80s. They still have not defined themselves interms of career and other signs of social standing. They live their lives among their peers and comparethemselves with them. For the marketer, this is the perfect basis for all sorts of consumer competitionssuch as online campaigns and contests, marketing through games or features as well as collecting “points”on social network sites’ applications. Everything where the results will be visible and comparable to peerswill make this group engage in the game – and therefore also with your brand.5. Less respect for traditional authorities creates new opinion leaders. Targetthem and make them your ambassadors.- The younger the target audience, the less influenced they will be by so called “celebrity endorsers”.Instead, they will turn to the opinion leaders amongst their peers. This creates some challenges formarketers, since the new leaders of opinion may be harder to identify than the traditional celebrities. Onthe other hand, it creates opportunities in terms of credibility, closeness to the brand and creativity. It ispossible to target the new opinion leaders by studying their communication patterns online or throughfocus group interviews. Our recommendation is to identify them and to build long term relationships withthem. A good example is the well-known sports company which, in addition to sponsoring professionalathletes, also supports the best aerobic instructors at local gyms in every strategic city. 1970s 1980s 1990s Key words Responsibility Fun Excitement
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