Exclusive interview

Being me: Individualism and diversity booms in China

By Natasha Spencer

- Last updated on GMT

Being me: Individualism and diversity booms in China
Commenting on whether the 'Being Me' trend hails from the personalisation and customisation trend, Joyce Lam, Trends Analyst, APAC, at Mintel said: “Product personalisation and customisation do make part of ‘Being Me’, but the trend itself is much bigger than that.”

Breaking away from the norm

“It touches on how Chinese consumers are trying to live a life that they are most comfortable with, finding their own way while being in between traditional cultural values—including expectations from society—and modern alternative lifestyles, and choose brands that support them in this,”​ stated Lam.

“So, indeed, finding products that fit their individual needs—which is where personalisation and customisation comes in—is important. However, brands should also offer the platforms for consumers to experiment and express themselves, giving them a chance to enhance who they really are,”​ relayed Lam.

This is particularly attractive to Chinese consumers, as while “individualism is a global trend, it is particularly interesting when in the context of China”​. Historically, Chinese consumers have grown up in a collectivistic culture, “where ‘face’ and how society perceives them are important”.

Emerging cultures

With rising disposable incomes and better education, consumers “have access to more possibilities and choices in life”​. As a result, “slowly, collectivism is being more and more replaced by individualistic views,”​ held Lam.

“This has been particularly obvious in the past year,” Lam emphasised. There has been a rise in ‘sang’ and ‘ga’ cultures in China, which are both using “fun and sarcasm to describe certain traditional values and social issues”.

This indicates that in China, consumers are wanting to “break from society’s expectations”​. As such, they are “increasingly comfortable expressing themselves and expect brands to meet and respect their unique demands”​, said Lam.

Avoiding societal pressures

There have been several campaigns from brands, including SK-II and JD Finance, that indicate consumers’ wish to live a life without “continuously feeling the need to fulfil societal expectations”.

SK-II: SK-11’s recent ‘The Expiry Date’ campaign, for example, helped to shed light on the pressures Asian women face as they age, showcasing the unspoken timelines society places on them.

JD Finance also recently launched their《你不必》(You don’t have to) advertising campaign, which emphasised the value attached to consumers living their own lives away from societal pressures.

A new way of thinking

As Chinese consumers embrace this individualism, they are exploring alternative lifestyle influences from a more connected worksite community.

As a result, brands are tapping into this new way of thinking and living to being new technologically-advanced products to the enable expression, communication and personalisation.

Brands now need to respond to these individual needs, and in turn, will succeed in engaging with a wider audience and avoid being boxed in to a single identity or product category. This then creates powerful trust, loyalty and credibility.

Pitu, for example, is a Chinese airbrushing beauty app that transforms its users into fantasy characters. Brands throughout China are targeting both younger and older generations as they indicate their support for diversity and individualism across generations.

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