I’ve been in Shanghai for a little while, and I’m always fascinated by seeing which foreign brands have successfully integrated into China. Last year, I took note of the brands I saw over the course of a day. I wanted to recreate a Chinese version of that, so I asked some of my native Chinese Gen Y friends about their own “brand timelines”.
Gathering recognizable brands turned out to be a little more difficult than I thought. The Chinese Generation Y-ers I talked to interact with brands in a different way than North Americans. For example, clothing is usually brandless (or effectively no-name) and you go shopping at markets. For food, you usually eat at your schools’ canteen, a local noodle shop, or cook something for yourself. A big part of their day is interacting with items that can be considered brandless.
With that in mind, what follows is a composite of the different aspects of a Gen Y’s life in China, gathered from a handful of people aged 19-25.
Personal healthcare is dominated by foreign brands.
The reality is that most people get their clothes at no-name shops. If you’ve got foreign-branded stuff, you’ve either got a little bit of cash or it’s a fake.
Usually, people make their own breakfast.
KFC, Pizza Hut and Mcdonald’s are very popular in Shanghai. In contrast to North America, Pizza Hut successfully sells itself as an upscale, classy venue and people go to Mcdonald’s to hang out, study and chat.
Sony Vaios have roughly the same “prestige” that Macs have in the West. Apple is starting to make headway, but Shanghai is very much a Microsoft Windows stronghold (thanks to massive, massive piracy). Apple retains its pricing strategy (read: too expensive), and the benefits don’t connect with consumers. Basically, people don’t have enough money to be pretentious…zing.
The Lakers and the Rockets hold a significant mindshare here, due to fascination with Kobe and Yao Ming. PPS is a P2P app where you can watch tv shows and movies (works similar to KaZaa) and YouKu is the equivalent of the banned YouTube.
Facebook never really took off here (and is currently banned). In its place we have two local giants in the SNS scene, RenRen and Kaixin (top right). The way it was explained to me was that RenRen is for “everyone” while Kaixin is for “white collars”. They were built as Facebook clones and are currently engaged in a membership count race.
QQ (middle, penguin) and MSN dominate the instant messaging scene, while everyone constantly texts with China Mobile, operator of the world’s largest mobile network.
The Land of The Clones
Brands are slowly and surely creeping into China. Local Shanghainese often tell me about how different everything was even just 5 years ago. Westernization is kept on a tight leash and there are cheap local alternatives to almost everything. Tech and Web companies are going to have an especially tough time, because of the nearly nonexistent IP laws in China and the home-court language advantage.
Globally, some things are the same, such as the constant need for connectedness. MSN spaces actually has a bit of a following here and it seems like everyone from the ages of 15-45 has a QQ instant messaging account. Pictures and statuses get thrown on the web on Kaixin and RenRen, just as we love doing on Facebook.