Marketing to the Chinese 70s, 80s and 90s generations
MSL China Executive Whitepaper“From collective to individual”Marketing to the Chinese70s, 80s and 90sgenerations By Judy Luo and Charlotta Lagerdahl
A changing China On the back of three decades of spectacular growth and development, China recently became the second largest economy in the world behind the United States. The country has also become a major market for the world’s leading international consumer goods companies. In an increasingly competitive marketplace, companies are becoming more sophisticated in segmenting localAbout MSL China stakeholders geographically, and have clear strategies in place for approaching urban versus rural consumers. However, we have found that communications strategies often fail to consider theFollowing the union with Eastwei MSL, MSL China is now a top enormous differences between the consumer “generations” born in each of the last three decades.5 international strategic communications agency in Mainland China.With 200 colleagues across 4 offices, MSL China brings together Due to China’s accelerated changes over the past 30 years, children born in the 1970s, 1980s andover 20 senior consultants with more than 12 years of strategic 1990s have grown up in societies at vastly different stages of development. As we conducted focuscommunications experience in this key global market. Part of groups to uncover what drives these consumers and what their needs are, we discovered thatMSLGROUP Greater China, the largest PR & social media network in although they grew up in the same country, their world views and views of themselves are verythe region today, MSL China provides knowledge driven, integrated different. Of particular interest for marketing and communications professionals are:campaigns and advisory services spanning nearly every industry andcommunications discipline. MSL China has received recognition fromthe International Business Awards, The Holmes Report’s “PR Agency ・Disposable funds and consumption habitsof the Year,” the China International PR Association and China’s ・View of world and selfNew Media Festival for its creativity and effectiveness in strategic ・Discussion topics and interestscommunications and industry-leading social media offering. ・Media consumption In this report, we look at the values, psychology and habits of urban Chinese consumers and draw some operational conclusions for marketers.About MSLGROUPMSLGROUP is Publicis Groupe’s PR, speciality communicationsand engagement group, advisors in all aspects of communicationstrategy: from consumer PR to employee communications,from public affairs to reputation management and from crisiscommunications to event management. With more than 2,900people, its offices span 22 countries. Adding affiliates andpartners into the equation, MSLGROUP’s reach increases to 4,000employees in 83 countries. Today the largest PR network in GreaterChina and India, the group offers strategic planning and counsel,insight-guided thinking and big, compelling ideas – followed bythorough execution. Learn more about us at: www.mslgroup.com+http://blog.mslgroup.com+ Twitter+ YouTube
MSL China Executive Whitepaper Marketing to the Chinese 70s, 80s and 90s generations 5 1970s 1980s 1990s 1970s: Family before SelfFinancial Demands from Ignoring pressure Pampered by parents Spending on family be small and gradual. On the other hand, they arepressure children, spouses and live in the now and grand parents “Family” is the core word for those born in the highly preoccupied with physical health and will and parents 1970s. Shaped by a collectivistic society, happiness spend considerable time and money to “change” of the family is rated higher than happiness of the their health for the better.Internet and Collecting Coming across Creating information self. But this commitment to family also meansinformation information information responsibilities. This generation grew up when Interested in things related to China was still considered a poor country. They now everyday life have aging parents, as well as children of their own. The 70s generation enjoys talking about things They are either settled down and need to cover the that are relevant to everyday life. Examples of such rising costs of apartments and mortgages, or are social topics are property prices, popular movies, planning to buy housing in the very near future. seasonal fashion trends and cars. But they will not They save a lot of money; not only to meet their own “evangelize” or strive to present their own point need for financial security in the face of weak social of view to others; nor will they try to be original or security and healthcare systems, but also to finance creative. Their preferred activities focus on things expensive schooling and meet requests for a fancy the family can do together, such as “hanging out” wedding. and travelling. Change means insecurity TV is mainly an entertainment tool The 70s generation has neither fancy desires nor an The family focus of the 70s generation has an expectation that life will change dramatically. In fact, overarching effect on their media habits. Because this group is the least open to change of the three they spend less time on personal interests than do age groups under consideration. The 70s generation younger consumers, they try to use this free time interprets “change” as “insecurity” and “lots of as efficiently as possible. For example, they choose work”, and when asked about their immediate to collect information mainly from the internet and surroundings, such as their own home environment, print media, while TV is mainly an entertainment they don’t feel it is possible or necessary to “change”, tool. even if they are dissatisfied with the current state of affairs. If change is unavoidable, they prefer it to Singapore attracts Chinese families Over the past three years, MSL China 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.1970s:Family before Self
MSL China Executive Whitepaper Marketing to the Chinese 70s, 80s and 90s generations 71980s: “Why don’t 1980s: “Why don’t we just enjoy life now!”we just enjoy Relaxing from pressure The 80’s group is open to change, always on the If “family” is the core word of the Chinese 70s lookout for new and fresh things. Preferences and generation, the importance of “friends” is at the loyalties tend to change quickly. heart of being born in the 80s. ”Friends” are the key element of our focus group respondents’ definition Career advice is of particular interestlife now!” of “happiness”. As a result of the one-child policy Most things that are of interest to the post 80s launched in 1980, they are the first generation to have to do with friends and peers. Their best time grow up without siblings; this may be one reason is spent together with people, trying out new things that friends and peers have such a significant place that reflect hot trends, “in” restaurants, shopping in their lives. Known in Chinese as the ba ling hou, or playing video games. The importance of friends “post- eight-zero” generation, this consumer group and peers also has another result: this generation is grew up after reform policies started taking hold. extremely competitive and pays attention to status During their lifetime, urban twenty-somethings symbols, since they perceive themselves as being have therefore experienced perhaps the greatest in a context where they are constantly ranked in collective improvement of living standards the comparison with others. world has ever seen. This has made them a unique generation, straddling the “old, poor” and “new, Topics concerning careers or career advice stood out materially affluent” China. as being of particular interest to this generation. The 80s generation experience financial pressure The computer is a social hub similar to that of the 70s generation(houses, In stark contrast to their 70s brothers and sisters, mortgages and expectations of fancy weddings) but the 80s generation grew up with computers and Core values Internet outlook they deal with this pressure in a totally different way. the internet. The computer is therefore their social While the 70s generation act responsibly to ensure and information hub. When they come home, they a good life for their families, the 80s generation will immediately turn on the computer to chat with1970s Family Time saver handle the pressure with an increased need to relax friends and look for current trends and news. They from it. As one person in our research, Mindy, 25 rely on print media for information, however; much years old, puts it: like the 70s generation, TV is only for entertainment1980s Friends Social arena purposes and they don’t see it as a major information “People always say the 80s generation spend more source. than they earn. But a house is so expensive; we can not1990s Self Extension of self afford one, so why don’t we just enjoy life and spend on other things now!” Tong’s quotation about Lady Gaga illustrates another Follow trends but loyalties important topic in understanding the differences change quickly between the three generations: language. Tong’s slang The 80s are aggressive and goal-driven. They see word雷 , lei, literally means thunder, but is a common themselves as “individualistic” but in fact, they are expression for “unbelievable” in the 80s generation.Levi’s targets Chinese white-collar workers far from being rebellious; they tend to follow trends, You would seldom hear anyone born before 1975 usingIn 2009, Levi’s wanted to target consumers born in the 80s using a new Levi’s sub brand. Both white- and create self-expression within accepted rules. this word. Each generation has a distinctive jargon,collar workers and students are under huge life pressure, so working with Levi’s we knew that creating a Like the masses in Monty Python’s Life of Brian, conditioned by media consumption and societalrelaxing, enjoyable and happy brand image would increase brand preference among the target group. they are “all individuals – but in the same way”. The change; in order to communicate effectively, marketersWe proposed to position the new brand as reflecting current trends and target consumer lives and 80s generation choose trends to follow rather than need to be sensitive to using the right words as wellvalues instead of pioneering new ones. Also, it put great emphasis on appreciating friendship rather creating trends themselves. as finding the right tone of voice. This is particularlythan the individual, as well as leveraging celebrities with high credibility in the target group. The launch important online, where the chat room jargon of theevent was designed as a high-level, celebrity-packed fashion show with a party theme that tied in to Tong, 25, talks about Lady Gaga: 90s generation can actually be difficult to understandthe concept of “friends” and “togetherness”. This was followed up with consumer engagement events for readers of other age groups.and consumer seeding on campus, again acknowledging the huge impact of friends on this group of “I like Lady Gaga’s music, not her dress. It’s tooconsumers. shocking (雷 ), regular people won’t wear it”
MSL China Executive Whitepaper Marketing to the Chinese 70s, 80s and 90s generations 9The 1990s: “My Idol is Myself”No financial pressure their own blend of arts, music, fashion and technology to “interests”. The internet is simply a place where thisThe 90s generation does not yet have time for financial “My idol is myself. I am my own person” arrive at interesting ideas: group hang out with friends, surf and express themselvesworries. They are still supported by their parents, and due through blogging or social networks. As mentionedto the one-child policy they seldom have siblings. The 90s generation is inspired by a spirit for adventure “I think Lady GAGA and her dress designer are super above, the 90s reject the concept of “idols”. This is not to and the notion that “nothing is impossible.” creative! How can she dress like that?! The clothing and be confused with a lack of interest. Instead of idolizingWant to be seen as individuals make-up are so individual and avant-garde.”- An, 19 celebrities, they tend to see them as people to gossipFor the group born in the 90s, the focus is “self”. As “I want to do bungee-jumping. The most exciting bungee about. This generation is therefore very up to date whenopposed to the “mass individualism” of the 80s crowd, jumps are in New Zealand I heard, and I’m dying to go there They are therefore more bold and provocative in the way it comes to celebrity affairs and the lives of the famous.the 90s generation is truly individualistic, having grown up and try it out!” - Zhou, 19 they talk, think and dress than previous generations. They are also more interested in sensational newswith internet access in an open and cosmopolitan China. compared to world news. Despite this, they also admit to being inspired by opinion Interests and media are one and the sameThe 90s do not want to be identified as belonging to “a leaders in their own close circle of acquaintances. For this age group, interests and media merge into one When they look for specific, credible information, thisgeneration”; they prefer to be seen as individuals. When and the same; interactive media have become fully generation still turns to traditional print media or books.asked about idols, they claim not having any – or as Zhao, The 90s generation strive to be original and unique. integrated into the daily lives of the post 90s generation,19, puts it: Creativity is best when it’s your own. They try to create and is non-separable from the traditional form of Sprite VIS launch campaign In late 2009, MSL China 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 Idol is Myself”
MSL China Executive Whitepaper Marketing to the Chinese 70s, 80s and 90s generations 11Implications for the communications professional 3. Make family fun! - The responsible and stressed out post 70s don’t have as much free time as the younger age groups. Given that their first priority will always be their family, this presents marketers with the opportunity to create fun 1970s 1980s 1990s and exciting campaigns where everyone in the household can be involved. For the post 70s, this will provide much needed relaxation while at the same time tapping in to the core values for this group. IKEA has been Communication ・Simple happiness ・Accessible and trendy ・High level of extremely successful in this approach. strategy ・Nothing overwhelming, ・Respect need for interaction gradual change preferred relaxation ・Provide opportunity 4. Make use of the inborn competitiveness of the post 80s. ・Peer involvement for self-expression - The concept of “getting ahead” is big among the post 80s. They still have not defined themselves in terms of career and other signs of social standing. They live their lives among their peers and compare themselves with them. For the marketer, this is the perfect basis for all sorts of consumer competitions such as onlineTo treat Chinese consumers as one, homogenous audience is a waste of money. Every campaign must campaigns and contests, marketing through games or features as well as collecting “points” on socialcarefully consider the gulf of differences between the different age groups. MSL China’s marketing network sites’ applications. Everything where the results will be visible and comparable to peers will makecommunications team provides five operational pieces of advice for marketing and communications this group engage in the game – and therefore also with your brand.professionals. 5. Less respect for traditional authorities creates new opinion leaders. Target them and make them1. Don’t try too hard to be trendy just because you are communicating with young people.- The post 90s are less interested in trends created by others. They want to create the trends themselves. your ambassadors. - The younger the target audience, the less influenced they will be by so called “celebrity endorsers”.Many companies put too much effort into picking up trends rather than creating arenas for young Instead, they will turn to the opinion leaders amongst their peers. This creates some challenges forpeople to express themselves. Also, tightly intertwined with the aim to be unique is the aim to showcase marketers, since the new leaders of opinion may be harder to identify than the traditional celebrities. On thethis uniqueness. This is a golden opportunity for marketing and communications specialists. With a other hand, it creates opportunities in terms of credibility, closeness to the brand and creativity. It is possibleprofessionally executed campaign, they can enjoy the benefits of true “peer-to-peer” marketing. This means to target the new opinion leaders by studying their communication patterns online or through focus groupthat the target group voluntarily spreads the company’s messages to their friends. Not only is it efficient, it is interviews. Our recommendation is to identify them and to build long term relationships with them. A goodalso considered as having high credibility. example is the well-known sports company which, in addition to sponsoring professional athletes, also supports the best aerobic instructors at local gyms in every strategic city.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 something 1970s 1980s 1990smarketers 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 and Key words Responsibility Fun Excitementbreak the rules. For the marketer, this provides a good framework on how to better position companies andservices.
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