The Modern Chinese Consumer
Chinese consumers grow more sophisticated each year (thanks to the progression of Chinese social media). Consumers are more specific and nuanced in their choices, and brands are more obligated than ever not do disappoint. Unfortunately, brands have failed their Chinese Zodiac campaigns not once, but two years in a row.
Dissatisfaction arises when the consumer feels as the designer is misinterpreting or misunderstanding Chinese culture. Over the past two years, many luxury brands have gone under heavy criticism from Chinese media. From lack of due diligence, to outright poor design choices in these Chinese Zodiac campaigns.
Year of the Monkey Flop
During 2016, luxury brands launched a slew of ‘Year of the Monkey’ products to appeal to Chinese culture. These efforts to please the world’s top buyers of luxury goods collected more laughs than ‘likes’ on social media platforms.
One Weibo post in particular gained over 30,000 views; with thousands of comments that ranged from amused, to personally offended:
- “These foreigners are trying extra hard to earn our money.”
- “These designers didn’t understand the true value of Chinese culture. They’re defrauding Chinese customers by selling their so-called ‘Chinese style’.”
- “All of them look like knock-offs.”
2017 Chinese Zodiac Products Fail Again
With the backlash in 2016, brands would have benefited from at least performing their due diligence. Unfortunately, many products have once again become the subject of online criticism and sarcasm during the 2017 Year of the Rooster festive period.
Lingerie brand Victoria’s Secret sent dragon-decorated supermodels to the runway during its annual 2017 show. Online users raised concern about if the brand even understood the Chinese Zodiac.
ETRO’s Chinese New Year themed scarf was a phoenix, despite it being the Year of the Rooster. Mr. Bags (Famous Chinese handbag guru and blogger) commented he was unsure if they (designers) chose the design because they could not tell the difference between a phoenix and a rooster.
One user responded to MCM’s rooster-embroidered handbag saying, “red, gold, and zodiac signs are symbols of Chinese New Year, but why do they [luxury brands] believe we want to carry a bag with a zodiac animal all year round?”
Brands are missing the entire point of the Chinese Zodiac, and some are even falling short design-wise. Longchamp’s red and gold Rooster bag attracted harsh criticism from Chinese users on Weibo. An online commentator said, “Simply adding an image of the rooster on a red-and-golden bag just has no sense of aesthetics.”
Chinese Zodiac Items Mistaken for Counterfeit
The poor design choices extend to the perceived quality of the product as well. Brands should be aware of the esteem that buyers (especially young consumers) hold them in. Poorly designed products may be mistaken for counterfeits that can be purchased for a fraction of the price on online marketplaces such as Taobao.
An example of this is Calvin Klein’s New Year themed products. One commentator declares on Weibo, “If I spent that much amount of money on it, why would I want to buy something that looks like a fake?”.
Another user said, “The design is so tacky. CK might still think Chinese consumers are as tasteless as they were like 20 years ago, but the young generation is truly the opposite!”
Chinese consumers are no longer the naive purchasers they were a decade ago. Newer generations of Chinese consumers will see through mediocre attempts at expressing culture through ‘festive products’. Brands will need to show more creativity and put in the necessary effort, to appeal to this enormous demographic.
Five things to take away from ‘Chinese Zodiac Campaigns Criticised by China‘
- Dissatisfaction arises when the consumer feels the designer is misinterpreting or misunderstanding Chinese culture.
- One Weibo post in particular collected over 30,000 views; with thousands of comments ranging from amused, to personally offended.
- “These designers didn’t understand… Chinese culture. They’re defrauding Chinese customers by selling their so-called ‘Chinese style’.”
- Poor designs may be mistaken for counterfeits that can be purchased for a fraction of the price on Taobao.
- Newer generations of Chinese consumers will see through mediocre attempts at expressing culture.