Take a peek into the future — 5 lessons from China
Our research in China gave us so much more than we ever could have expected. Local concepts tend to be extremely insightful, and to some extent, the present moment of China even predicts our future. Their technologies and services are way ahead of ours. This spring, Kuudes studied Chinese consumers by observing and interviewing them for a three-week period in Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Beijing. The work was conducted in cooperation with the Fudan University, one of the top academies in the country. Here’s what we’d like to snatch from China in order to build better concepts for the future.
1. Offer an immersive experience that people will talk about
Why did Ryan Zhu live in a cottage inside the Helsinki Airport for a month? Because Key Opinion Leaders, KOLs have a huge impact on Chinese consumers. Zhu, a famous actor, was live-streaming his everyday life in the terminal, thus generating interest about a northern country far away.
Another engrossing example is Heytea, a food concept that people can’t stop talking about. The product is a uniquely indulgent mix of oolong tea, fruit, and cream cheese, looking swanky and gorgeous, and visually linking the product to an aspirational urban lifestyle. In addition, the availability is limited and the flavor range ever-changing, producing half an hour queues (and generating buzz) outside each location.
How can you offer an immersive experience that people are dying to share? It is about the full experience: how is the product served, what atmosphere is it enjoyed in, what kind of personalities are linked to it?
2. Don’t compromise, even for the sake of convenience
Food is heaven, as they say in China. The Chinese expect taste experiences, wellbeing, and aesthetics, even though they lead hectic lives. They don’t compromise even for convenience. Easy-to-use services are enabled by advanced technologies like using face recognition for making payments.
Coffee Box delivers steaming hot coffee straight to your doorstep (and it’s so good our team is still dreaming of it). Wochu’s meal-kits have been developed to another level: the ingredients have been cut and prepared so you can just take the role of the master chef.
In the future, we will also be less willing to sacrifice on what really matters — even if we value things that are quick and effortless. How can you offer uncompromising convenience?
“The Chinese expect taste experiences, wellbeing and aesthetics, even though they lead hectic lives.”
3. Increase social interaction
China is a social culture, and this can be seen everywhere. Meals are designed to be shared and snacks are packaged in a way that easily allows offering them to your friends. Each online store has a social element attached to it because the Chinese enjoy exchanging experiences and reflecting their choices and lifestyles through the eyes of others. Even staple foods, such as milk, are sold in gift packs — because gift giving is such a daily habit.
Western people are also waking up to appreciate the lost social aspect of eating. How can your brand increase social interaction?
4. Build on heritage
The ancient heritage is very much alive in China. Even an average person possesses good knowledge of the traditional Chinese medicine. The question is: how to live by those lessons when life is so busy, and cooking traditional, healing meals takes hours of slow simmering? Luckily, many hospitals offer instant solutions. This is how the traditions of thousands of years still pass on from generation to another.
Starbuck’s is an unexpected company to offer heritage to the Chinese. But this is exactly what they do with their Reserve concept. It’s not just a café, but a roastery and a sanctuary of brewing knowledge. Above all, it is credible in the eyes of the Chinese who appreciate know-how and love to learn more about food.
In our ever-changing world, we love to have something solid to hold on to. What heritage can your company build on? You don’t need to build on a century of existence, it can be technical know-how or ingredients that have been used since ancient history.
5. Use the opportunities of transparency
Food safety can be an issue of life and death in China. Since the major scandals in the dairy industry, companies have worked hard to regain the trust of their customers. Ririxian, a local dairy company, has launched ‘the weekday milk’ that is on the shelf only for one day. Their competitor, Feihe, has made their production traceable and transparent, allowing customers to monitor it all the way from the farms.
Often when I discuss transparency and responsible production with my Nordic clients, I hear about the amazingly uncompromising principles they’ve always had in their production. But why are we so humble about using them in our marketing?
What is your best-kept secret? What future branding opportunities does transparency offer to you?
It’s fascinating to look at different challenges through Chinese lenses. There’s so much to learn from China, even if it’s not a key market for your company right now.
Be inspired by the East!
Images by brands and Dodge Jerome Photography