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Great minds don’t think alike

In this month’s Tan Lun, ahead of the Golden Week holiday period in China we comment on what in fact is the talk of the international press, the fact that Chinese luxury consumers are younger than their international counterparts and now more knowledgable, their choice of purchases is less of buying what their mother would have, to looking for something niche. It’s important to say that this isn’t really news, as it’s a topic we have spoken of many times before, but now it appears the penny has dropped and luxury brands are taking note.

The talk is of less bling, and poor sales figures that are without a doubt due to many of the bigger brands being inflexible and thinking that just because they are who they are, Chinese consumers will flock to them. Unfortunately, Chinese consumers are fickle and hard to read, and influencing them is a little like nailing jelly to a wall; you think you’ve done it and they begin to move again. Those who have spent time with any mainland Chinese people will know that trying to work out what they are thinking or how they will react to a specific situation is extremely hard, often it’s a case of watching and thinking on ones feet.

And to put it simply, this is a big problem for many brands; observing and reacting quickly enough in order to fulfil the needs of the customer. Many brands have attempted to tone down their logos or designs to look a little less predictable, but their DNA still means the product still looks like others but in plain cloths, and the consumer wants good and innovative design, and possibly more importantly high quality materials. So, many brand and product managers have been caught wanting by the younger and more savvy, new breed of Chinese consumers.

The great news for the niche brands reading this is that these consumers are out looking for you, but you need to identify yourselves and get in their face. Don’t assume they can and will find you, their patience and attention span is not that long. Wave your flag in China and elsewhere in the world to attract them, even if you don’t sell there, they will then spot you and actively look out for you in future wherever you are. Get your positioning right and the social habits and instincts of the Chinese consumer with do the rest.

For the big players in the market, they really do need to think like niche brands within the large group, to be entrepreneurial and creative, delivering a unique and very special experience to the consumer. We don’t want to continue to hear the woes of the big players who dictate the success of the global market. In China being smaller is not a disadvantage if you think and act big. China has rewritten the play book for luxury, and will keep doing so while its youthful consumers test brands to the limit and expect more than their counterparts elsewhere in the world.


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