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Knowing who you sell to…

Successful advertising in China means understanding the China consumer market. A new study by Accenture provides insight, based on a survey of Chinese consumers.

Quality, trustworthiness, and the message of a brand or product are the most important factors for the Chinese consumer. Even though different types of consumers were identified, these qualities always shape buying decisions. Even “patriotic” consumers, who consistently prefer Chinese brands, can be swayed by considerations of quality.

These results are particularly noteworthy for their “Chinese characteristics,” if you will:

Chinese are quite aware of the quality problems (and even scandals) that have enveloped some Chinese products. It is gaining a particular meaning in China, especially during these times in which the country is seen as achieving a new position of power. Domestic brands have, according to the study’s authors, gained a similar standing as foreign brands in Chinese consumer opinion. Thus it is all the more important to see that brand trustworthiness extends to its relationship with the country; that is, whether a company is seen as contributing to China’s development, or simply as trying to extract a quick profit.

Engagement with China also adds to the brand message, which interacts in important ways with the Chinese concept of “face:” Chinese consumers pay close attention to what a choice of brand/product tells about their social status.

China is also the home of “guanxi,” relationships that form important ties of mutual support. And so a friend’s recommendation, extended to the rich world of Chinese social networking sites and the product reviews that are very popular in them, are a particularly strong influence on China’s consumers.

It was not pointed out explicitly by the study’s authors, but women are playing a more dominant role in China’s emerging consumer groups as well. On study by Wei Shang-Jin and Zhang Xiaobo (see the article here) found that China’s high household savings (particularly in families with a son) exist to ensure that the heir could compete on the marriage market (which, thanks to China’s skewed sex ratio, has been becoming extremely competitive). This translates to an area where spending will be seen as necessary – when wanting to gain and keep the affection of a woman.


“Seven lessons for building a winning brand in China.” Paul F. Nunes, Susan A. Piotroski, Lay Lim Teo and R. Michael Matheis. Strategy & Leadership, Vol. 38 No. 1 2010, pp. 42-49 [only available to subscribers or if paid]

The mystery of Chinese savings. Wei Shang-jin

Wei, Shang-Jin and Xiaobo Zhang (2009), “The Competitive Saving Motive: Evidence from Rising Sex Ratios and Savings Rates in China” NBER Working Paper 15093 [only available to subscribers, for free if accessed from a developing country]

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