Today, integrating nation branding into a marketing plan can be very strategic, said Matthieu Rochette-Schneider, General Manager of centdegrés Greater China & Southeast Asia General Manager, a brand intelligence and creative agency.
In China, for instance, millennials are beginning to assert their identity and are not afraid to show they are proud of their nation. These patriotic feelings are fuelling their interest in Chinese traditions, heritage and craftsmanship.
Unlike the previous generation, these young consumers value emerging Chinese brands more than foreign brands and value Chinese multinational groups such as Alibaba and Xiaomi.
“To successfully leverage this growing national pride, local cultural elements integrated in a brand's storytelling and products must be enhanced by a contemporary and innovative approach,” said Rochette-Schneider. “Reinterpreting tradition through a modern eye is key to attract today's consumers always on the look for new discoveries.
Recently, Palace Museum, a Chinese cosmetics brand released a brand new collection by China’s history, namely the romance of the Forbidden City.
“This collection has received extremely popular reviews, generating a real buzz on the Chinese social media platforms. It clearly shows a growing thirst for traditions and cultural heritage, which some international brands have already spotted,” said Rochette-Schneider.
China’s most well-known beauty export today is Herborist, a modern cosmetics brand based on TCM. To take the brand to a global stage, centdegrés helped Herborist transform into a contemporary beauty brand.
“By mixing Chinese Traditional Medicine elements with modern design and through a close collaboration with the brand, centdegrés has completely redesigned its style, its visual identity, redesigned products and packaging. And then created the new concept of stores, and spa architecture,” said Rochette-Schneider.
He added, “Herborist, radically transformed, has grown internationally, and the number of its points of sale in China has tripled. It has become the symbol of the Chinese brands that assume their origin.”
Two other brands that has blended contemporary and traditional appeal are Forest Essentials, an Indian brand that brings consumers Ayurveda-inspired products in a luxurious and modern format, as well as Miss Saigon, Vietnam’s iconic premium perfume brand.
Opportunities and challenges
One of the most challenging aspects, said Rochette-Schneider, is finding the the right balance between local and global inputs, as well as traditional and modern elements, throughout the whole brand strategy. This includes its storytelling, product design and communication.
Additionally, Rochette-Schneider stressed that collaboration is crucial to a successful brand strategy. “centdegrés is convinced that successful concepts come from a collective intelligence creation process, where all parties participate.”
However, brands should not be afraid to embrace their own culture, as it can be their biggest assets.
“Brands should not hesitate to leverage the local rich cultural heritage of the country they are operating, in their branding strategy. For a local brand, being proud of its origins and culture is more and more resonating with the younger generations, who are themselves asserting their own identity and culture,” said Rochette-Schneider.
He elaborates that being local gives brands a more legitimacy in its storytelling. “In Asia, each country possesses a very deep culture and history that can be a real pool of ideas for brands.”
It is not just local brands that can leverage on this new trend, global brands need to integrate elements of local traditions to connect more deeply with their local consumers, which they can do by presenting local traditional and cultural elements in a modern and innovative way.
However, as certain events in the fashion world have foreshadowed, brands must take steps to ensure they do not end up offending the locals. “Brands need to deeply understand the culture to avoid a culturally insensitive result. At centdegrés, we strive to combine both local and international expertise by working closely with the local client and a network of local partners.”