Last night, Mary Bergstrom and Nick Barham had a conversation about China’s youth cultures before a NW China Council and World Affairs Council audience at the White Stag Building in Portland . Barham is Global Director of Wieden + Kennedy Tomorrow and Bergstrom has marketing business based in Shanghai (here). Barham largely interviewed Bergstrom about her recent book All Eyes East: Lessons from the Front Lines of Marketing to China's Youth.
I was surprised by the emphasis the Chinese put on identification and self-identification by decades.
From a YPulse article (here):
We checked in with Mary Bergstrom, author of the new book “All Eyes East: Lessons from the Front Lines of Marketing to China’s Youth” which is the first to focus on this powerful demographic. As she puts it, “born under the one-child policy into a newly opened economy, Chinese youth are consumer pioneers almost by birthright.” We asked her to explain Chinese generational theory, the different segments of Chinese youth, and the challenges of marketing to them.
Mary Bergstrom: Countries all over the world categorize generations in their own way. China takes a pragmatic approach by assigning generations every ten years. This complements the pace of progress in China. Since opening up, rapid changes in what is available and what is expected are continuously leading to new attitudes and behaviors. These are the hallmarks that separate generations and, while they have been defined in ten year chunks, a case could also be made for even shorter time frames.
YP: Your book points to an intense inter-generational feud. What’s driving the rivalry between generations?
MB: The feud between the post-80s and post-90s generations has been so interesting to watch. The rivalry emerged because each group was eager to align with something larger than themselves, and at the same time, be for or against something. These urges found their voice in public (yet anonymous) video criticisms of each other. The feud attracted a larger audience when the earthquake tragedy dramatized the difference between the two groups.
While illustrating differences between the generations is common, it can become dangerous ground for brands to tread. Chinese youth move quickly, using generational labels as short-hand to make sense of their audience. When Li Ning (a domestic sports brand) targeted the post-90s blatantly, the brand suffered a backlash from post-80s fans. When McDonald’s and GM spoke empathetically (but not overtly) to the post-80s, they demonstrated how a brand could create a dialogue and demonstrate its inspirational understanding of consumers’ aspirations and stressors. Their success was in giving back.....