Brand Rejuvenation: Presenting yourself to the next generation of Chinese customers

Oct 20, 2021 11:24:08 AM

What does a 20 year-old influencer, 100 million+ pre-campaign impressions and 1 million WeiBo reposts have to do with the iconic BMW brand? Yi Yang Qianxi is a Chinese singer-dancer-actor, astonishingly famous amongst the country’s youth and perhaps surprisingly – BMW’s new brand ambassador. But why would a 100-year old car brand be collaborating with such a young celebrity?



Why are brands going to such an effort to address GenZ now?

Currently 16-25, Generation Z will be China’s dominant consumers in the coming decade as their influence and purchasing power continues to upend traditional markets. Many global brands are realising that their target market demographics in China are radically different to that of the West, necessitating a radically different marketing approach. In BMW’s case, Chinese luxury car owners are on average 10 years younger than their US equivalents and as of 2019, account for 30% of the country’s car ownership. BMW’s innovative campaign with Yi Yang Qinxi is a textbook example of brand rejuvenation in China done right, generating enormous engagement across social media platforms and boosting orders for new BMW cars from this generation of consumers.

Unlike millennials, GenZ grew up in a time of economic prosperity, witnessing China’s seemingly unstoppable growth and pampered by family which produced a generation of optimistic and self-confident youngsters. They are impulsive, tend to outspend their budget and show high brand loyalty. Their purchasing power outstrips that of their western peers, accounting for 17% of China’s population but 25% of the total expenditure on new brands (L Catterton’s - consumer insights report). Ensuring branding resonates with Gen Z has become essential for success in contemporary China.


It goes beyond consumer goods

But this trend is not limited to consumer goods and retail brands! Regardless of your business category, welcoming GenZ to engage with your brand now is crucial to building brand loyalty for the future.

In the travel industry, the Marriott’s strategy in China successfully attracted a younger audience by listening to the needs of this generation. The “Moxy Shanghai Hongqiao” hotel in June 2021, is specifically designed for "young guests" – with minimalist but functional bedrooms, "furiously fast and free WiFi", 55-inch flat screen TVs and pitching themselves as offering “room to play”. The launch included creating a Douyin (TikTok) account exhibiting cutting-edge creativity, attracting 193,000 followers and still growing!

In B2B, Merck & Co Inc knew that their 352-year-old Western BioTech Brand wasn’t resonating with China’s Gen Z. As a very niche B2B firm, developing and producing medicines, vaccines and more, they recognised the importance of including Chinese youth in their talent pool, with their future leaders coming from this generation. To make themselves more relevant, they not only launched a Bilibili channel but produced a series of geeky and cute videos, competitions and articles in a way they would never approach their western marketing. The campaign was extremely successful, resulting in thousands of views and powerful engagement on WeChat.


The Growing Influence of Young Chinese

The benefit of appealing to GenZ stretches beyond their own purchases but also to the influence they have on other generations, even if the price point is far beyond that of GenZ’s buying power. According to NRF research, 90% of parents say their children will influence their buying decisions, not just on children’s products but on purchases for the entire family. This is because in general, the digital knowledge of Gen Z far exceeds that of their family members, and their input is welcomed across the buying process from product evaluation and buying methods to post-purchase activities.

Key opinion consumers

GenZ also live and breathe ‘social’ and will share the content they enjoy. Falling into this age bracket are many of China’s Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs) - average consumers who love to share their honest product reviews on social media platforms. Compared to Western celebrity influencers, most KOCs have a very small and engaged fan base but the absolute trust they build gives their opinion hefty weight in their followers’ buying decisions. As they are everyday shoppers themselves – their content is more authentic and makes them much more relatable to the average follower.

Creating content that resonates with KOCs is absolutely vital to attracting the enthusiasm of China’s GenZ, regardless of if their cohort are your final audience. Some of the benefits of working with KOCs for brands include:

  1. Spread existing content by adding to existing discussions with their reviews and opinions.
  2. Engage potential customers with the brand by inviting them to share their own opinions and reviews, with the potential to convert passive followers into active consumers.
  3. A form of earned media and are free to engage with.


Effective campaigns don’t just reach Gen Z – they resonate!

So what works? They key is content that resonates!

China’s GenZ are inundated daily with some of the world’s most innovative and exciting marketing meaning that merely choosing the right channel is not enough. If your messaging does not convey the core values that speak to GenZ, you cannot expect them to convert or to even share your content.

Don’t preach! Encourage Two-way Conversations

Social interaction is a major consumption motive of GenZ ("White Paper on the Consumer Power of Generation Z", QQ Advertising and Kantar). Gen Z are confident, outgoing and love interaction. They are more willing to try out immersive marketing activities than the one-way output of brands through advertisements and once-off communications. Examples include pop-up shops and virtual stories like ‘Script Killing’ but brands have also found success with User Generated Content and Competitions. However you choose to start the conversation, creating a relaxed and fun atmosphere allows for communication between the brand and consumers, helping to build a close connection.


Establish Common Ground: Your brand values and their Daily Interests

Finding a common touchpoint and creating an authentic connection between the interests of GenZ and your brand’s value points has been a fundamental element of many recent brand rejuvenation strategies. An example was Audi’s choice to base a campaign around the popular anime “Ling’s Cage” which has attracted a large, young audience – exactly the prospects Audi is trying to reach. The series has a sci-fi theme, incorporating stunning imagery, cool mechanics and 3D effects which gives Audi the opportunity to demonstrate their scientific and technological prowess, the dystopian setting matches Audi’s spirit of exploration and the discussions of universal emotions and human nature are highly consistent with Audi's image as a pioneer in the era of humanistic technology.

Without reaching younger audiences in China, brands will not achieve the conversion rates they are looking for. High-quality, eye-catching and creative marketing is no longer a differentiator in this saturated market and if companies don’t make an effort to resonate with the younger generation, they’ll be playing catch-up with those that do!

Emerging Communications have the expertise to help you resonate with your new Chinese audiences - for a nuanced understanding of GenZ’s value, click the GenZ guide down below.



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