I have a great product. So translating and localizing my marketing content for the Chinese market should be enough to succeed, right?
No. Not when you have to keep up with changing trends and preferences among Chinese consumers. And among them, Guochao (国潮) is a hot topic in China right now. The term describes an interest in Chinese culture, traditions and brands, especially among Gen Z.
The Guochao trend started in the fashion industry and has developed into a key marketing aspect across product segments in the last two years. Guochao doesn’t mean that Chinese consumers will shun foreign brands, but it does mean that they will actively look for products that appeal to their cultural and personal preferences. Numerous brands, especially from the luxury segment, have already taken advantage of Guochao by integrating Chinese elements into their product and marketing campaigns. But beware: Integrating Chinese elements into your product or campaign without thoroughly researching their cultural meaning or perception can get you into hot water. The luxury brand Dolce & Gabbana is an example of this—a 2018 marketing campaign with Chinese models that Chinese netizens perceived as culturally inappropriate is still causing D&G trouble today. D&G’s products are still not available on any of the major Chinese e-commerce sites as a result.
So how to get it right? In order to capture the attention of your Chinese audience and be excited about your brand, you’ll need the right strategic consulting. By working with local Chinese partners, you can intelligently use Guochao elements in your campaigns. Chinese designers can help in correctly using colors and symbols and Chinese marketing experts can develop a strategy by not only defining the right message, but also hitting the right cultural notes. There are some brands that have done this remarkably well: Tiffany & Co. designed a Mahjong-set, Adidas and Nike annually launch Chinese New Year collections based on the Chinese Zodiac and other related symbols, and Balenciaga integrated Chinese characters as design elements into a special bag collection for Valentine’s Day.
Like these brands, you can expand your product portfolio, make small design changes, or create targeted marketing campaigns. There are a variety of topics to choose from: What kind of fabrics, textures, calligraphy, art, literature or history is a good match for your brand in China? For FMCG brands, factors such as flavors, fragrances and ingredients can be important too.
To summarize: A greater interest in Chinese brands is indeed an element of Guochao. But this doesn’t mean that Chinese consumers will avoid foreign brands. International brands should see Guochao as a chance to get out of their comfort zone, understand the wants and needs of Chinese consumers and be creative with their China presence—from marketing campaigns all the way down to product design.