There’s no shortage of content about marketing to Chinese millennials. As post-90s consumers replace those from the 70s and 80s as the big prize demographic, brands are starting to see how old ways of advertising aren’t just ineffective, but counterproductive.
Because Chinese millennials have a unique way of doing things, brands have spent millions of dollars on market research to analyze and figure them out. Yet when you think about it, the patterns are easy to see. Compared to 70s & 80s children, Chinese millennials care about personal space and love showing their exclusive identities. Meanwhile, they strive for recognition and a sense of belonging with their peers.
Leveraging these characteristics, however, is not as simple as recognizing them. Luckily, we can glean a few actionable lessons from successful marketing campaigns in China that have targeted millennials.
How do Chinese millennials view consumption and money?
Chinese millennials, comparatively, spend a lot of money on themselves. And when they do, there’s one thing that sets them apart from their parents. For the 70s and 80s generations, pricing was an important consideration when launching a product. However, research has found this factor is less relevant when it comes to “personal branding” for the post-90s generation.
The size of a brand has also become less important. Chinese millennials prefer smaller but reliable brands they, and their friends, trust. This fact means you have to create a more personalized product.
There are a few ways to tailor your strategy for the post-90’s personal experience, but it’s all too easy to talk in generalizations. For example, it’s clear you should emphasize your brand’s ability to impact consumers’ lives in the immediate short-term. It’s also easy to see why, in an age when information travels so fast, the devil is in the details. So let’s get a bit more specific, and look at concrete examples.
China is the home of tea. The drink goes back to the Shang Dynasty more than 3000 years ago and has various origin myths featuring emperors, gods, and monks. Today, there are more than 10,000 brands on the market but two corporations, Master Kong and Uni-President, control 40% of the share. The market may seem like an impossible one to break into and succeed.
But O2O did just that with lively branding aimed to attract a younger demographic. Despite costing 2 yuan more per bottle than other cold tea products, the “Classmate Xiao Ming” drink has proved incredibly popular. The packaging design is bright, eye-catching, and playful. Unlike other cold tea brands, who often draw on age-old motifs like scenery and history, O2O focuses on individual, boisterous students in their packaging and commercials.
Children born in the 90s saw enormous societal and technological changes in their youth. This experience may explain their sensitivity to nostalgic products.
Brands can leverage nostalgia by crafting stories that are authentic and have emotional resonance. Millennials don’t like hierarchical relationships between the company and themselves. They prefer a friendly one, which can be cultivated with an engaged social media and marketing team that speaks to their particular history.
One successful case of nostalgic marketing was New Balance’s 2015 Youth Graduation Season campaign to promote their 574 Series. New Balance positioned the shoes as “a gift only sent while you’re young” and depicted scenes in their ads that would gain traction with Chinese millennials.
Many people think millennials are relatively alienated from their parents. This is only partly correct. As only-children who’ve faced tremendous school pressures, then work pressures, Chinese millennials often feel guilty for not spending enough time with their families.
Marketing a product as a gift for family occasions, or something that can improve and increase time together, is a popular 90s-focused strategy. One of the first companies to try was Pepsi in 2012. They directed a 10-minute short film where a family gets together for the Spring Festival. Thanks to Pepsi, the get-together wasn’t routine and bittersweet as expected but became a massive party. The ad may sound over-the-top, but within 12 days it accumulated 23 million unique views. To circumvent extremely high traditional media ad costs around the Spring Festival, and to better target young consumers, Pepsi pushed the microfilm online.
Another example is Carpenter Tan’s successful “Your Mom’s Hairbrush” campaign. The hair comb manufacturer planned massive public sales and giveaways to coincide with Women’s Day and Mother’s Day.
Last Spring Festival, online shopping site Feiniu used family-oriented marketing to boost the number of young users forwarding, sharing, and introducing their friends to the service. One eye-catching feature was a beautiful app to help users plan their family time.
Chinese millennials want personality in their product — something that lets the brand reflect their individuality. Your look should be fresh and unique. But how?
The post-90s generation wants to think independently and values companies that think independently too. Cool, exciting products are crucial, but today the philosophy and message behind a product are at least equally important. The new generation of consumers has an intense Fear of Missing Out (FOMO), which can be leveraged by pushing a loud, unmistakable brand voice on social media. In the last few years, no company has been as aggressive in social and influencer marketing as Adidas, and the results show.
In China, Adidas pushed the NMD by carefully limiting the number in stores and driving excitement with news releases to microblogging sites. Recreating the success it saw in 2014 with the Stan Smith sneaker, it made the NMD cool by making it exclusive.
No one is cooler than Vice when it comes to serving youth pop culture around the world. Their slogan should be taken as a word of advice.
Vice China’s slogan is, “No to boredom.”
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