Home > HBR > Behold the Rise of the Chinese Hipsters??

Behold the Rise of the Chinese Hipsters??

Catering to the Self-Expressive Chinese Consumer

There’s a growing sense of the self among the Chinese and an increasing emphasis on self-expression, which is causing at least one major change: The importance of emotional considerations in purchase decisions is shooting up. The need for emotional benefits in categories such as chocolates and mobile handsets rose, according to our survey, from 1% in 2009 to 19% in 2011 — a number that seems likely to keep rising.

Marketers will have to cater to Chinese consumers’ desire to express their individuality by developing brands that “talk” directly to them. That will apply not only to high-involvement products such as cars and mobile phones, but also to commodities such as milk and salt. Even in a low-involvement product category like detergents, 7% of Chinese consumers — up from 2% in 2009 — say that the best products should not only clean clothes, but also make them feel special.

As the Chinese become more knowledgeable about products and more affluent, and safety standards become tighter and better enforced, they’ll feel safer trying out lesser-known brands. That’ll make them more receptive to niche brands that talk to them as “individuals” as a way of setting themselves apart.

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