Brands need to help consumers navigate choices, to reassure and resonate, and to get them to feel a sense of closeness and social superiority
Convey social status
When iPhone was first released in China in 2009, it quickly became a status symbol in Chinese social circles. More recently, the best-selling gold-plated iPhone 5S in China indicates the appeal of this status symbol is not dead, despite the growing connoisseurship among Chinese consumers
Chinese consumers’ craving for social superiority has been a strong driver of the wine category until quite recently. A group of imported wine drinkers (Prestige-seeking Traditionalists identified by Wine Intelligence in the China Portraits report) choose wine because of the prestige and social status associated with the product.
However, our continuing research in China has shown that the wine consumers are more demanding and pragmatic than ever, as their horizons have expanded beyond the appeal of the status symbol.
Be recognizable beyond words
In wine aisles of hypermarkets, which typically sell up to 500 different wines, a recognisable brand seems to be an important choice cue given the huge number of brands and offerings now tempting Chinese consumers – who are not accustomed to such diversity – as well as the relatively low level of their wine knowledge. It is an even more difficult decision to make online, with major online wine retailers listing as many as 5,000 wines. When online comparisons and reviews have become increasingly important research tools, a brand referred to on the Internet or social media is more likely to come to consumers’ minds when they are faced with overwhelming variety of choices.
(Auchan hypermarket in Chengdu, China)
The patchy quality of the wines available on the market is a major concern for many consumers. Counterfeit wine permeating every level of the supply chain makes them even more cautious about buying wine. However, Chinese consumers want the confidence to make decisions themselves, but as a consequence of the high risk they have a need for security in this brave new world . Brands need to provide consumers with reassurance that they are making the right choice by communicating the quality of the product and carrying visible and tangible marks of authenticity. Taking trust out of the buying process is key to a successful brand building process.
Making consumers recognise and even reassured by a brand does not necessarily lead to positive engagement with the brand – the point where consumers feel a closeness to the brand, that it feels right for people like them. In the wine category, engagement is about enhancing the consumer’s experience of the product on all touch points in their journey from consideration to purchase to consumption: wine aisles and shelves, shop staff, brand name, front label, back label, packaging, taste, etc. In China, this can be very difficult, particularly if you do not have much control over where, how, and to whom your brand is sold.
Positioning and adapting a brand correctly for Chinese consumers is a complex formula, but a necessary one to apply if success was part of your brand strategy brief. If you would like more insight into this crucial approach, get in touch with me today or obtain the information directly through our new How to Build a Wine Brand for China report 2014 .
Author: Chuan Zhou