What Are the Aspirations of China’s Consumers

Wednesday, June 12, 2013 0:14
Posted in category Going to Market
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The recently released paper RE:Thinking Consumption by GlobeScan has provided an interesting chart that I felt was worth a share, particularly as for the last 10 years I have seen and heard so many thoughts on what drives a consumer.

The piece itself was focused more on what will drive consumers to act more “responsibly”, ironic given teh sponsors were BMW, SC Johnson, DuPont, CISCO, L’Oreal, Shell, and Starbucks, and was focused more on understanding some of the catalysts that are driving consumer behavior.  Interesting to me was the fact that they felt consumers in the developing nations were far more likely to “aspire” towards a sustainable model than their “first worlds” peers.  As shown by the chart above, and written in their conclusion:

On one hand, consumers across all six markets are calling for brands to innovate, saying they would purchase more socially and environmentally responsible products if only they performed better, cost less and had more believable claims[…]

consumers are ready to do their part, believing that, as a society, we need to consume a lot less and work to improve the environment and society for future generations. They believe that companies should address social and environmental issues like water, healthcare and fair wages through their products, practices and policies. And, they are interested in lending their ideas, opinions and experiences to help companies create better products and new solutions […]

As the largest consumer segment in Brazil, China and India, Aspirationals represent hundreds of millions of consumers – growing to perhaps billions by 2050. And we believe that any forward-thinking brand should prioritize reaching them to redefine value, earn their trust and inspire them to lead their peers.

Now, I cannot really speak for Brazil.  Know nothing about it. Never been there.

But in China, even as much as I would love to take the bait, I am skeptical.  Skeptical more as a result of the fact that having spent the last 12 years in China, and spending much of hte lsat 8 working with consumers and sustainability strategy, few brands outside of a few categories are seeing much traction.  Sure, in food there is a clear trend towards safe, and for those that can afford it that means organic.

But it is not aspiration catalyzing that decision.. it is fear.  Fear of getting sick after eating chemically enhanced foods.  Fear of lung ailments from breathing in the air.

A fear that I would say has been largely uncaptured by many in the market in a real way.  Plays are still very niche in size, and as subject to a lot of questions themselves as fear has turned into mistrust (in certain areas of the economy).

Which leads me to a question.  what is it that Chinese consumers, citizens, are aspiriing for, and has that asipiratino chnaged at all since the environmental / social blow outs have begun to grow in size and frequency? Are Chinese consumers really going to go the extra mile to learn about and select brands that are aligned with sustainable, responsible, and/ or ethical practices… or are the aspirations going to remain very material in nature with an added hint of self preservation?

for me, I think the jury is still out, but as I told a firm exploring the market recently, the question is not if there is a market for “green” consumers, but where are they, how many are there,  what is the value proposition of your product (to them), and is that value proposition going to be profitable.  Because there are certainly sectors of the economy where solutions are desperately needed, but as of yet the buyers (individual or institutional) have yet to open their wallets for something they view as a premium.

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