Be relevant when you market to China

2008-01-03 — Good Characters (Leave a message)

AdAge reports that a new study from OMD Worldwide found that ethnic groups are turned off by ads that rely on stereotypes and caricatures rather than meaningful cultural cues.

Key points that are relevant when doing business in China or with the Chinese:

“The respondents were saying, ‘We want to see ourselves represented in ads, but not in a stereotypical manner,’” said Pamela Marsh, group director-primary research and insights at the Omnicom media agency.

Comment: This seems to be common sense although there is a fine line between typical and stereotypical.

The ethnic groups agreed that messages should be culturally relevant, but they responded more positively to ads with multicultural cues, such as ethnic characters, phrases, expressions and values, than ads that were simply translations of general-market ads.

Comment: Very often companies simply have their ads and marketing material translated from English to Chinese believing that simple translation will get their point across. Typically it doesn’t work this way. A more reliable method is to use culturally relevant ways to express the same idea instead of merely translating marketing ads.

“Ad relevancy is more about communicating in kind than speaking in a language,” Ms. Marsh said.

Asians used the internet at significantly higher rates.

Comment: Since the population in China is much greater than in the U.S., it is likely that in a few years there will be more people in China using the Internet than the entire U.S. population.

According to the study, Asian-Americans also rely heavily on word-of-mouth because they are less receptive to ads than other segments of the population.

Comment: Perhaps this is because several generations of Chinese and Taiwanese have endured several wars and various political propaganda. Hence they have learned to place less trust on the media and rely more on word-of-mouth. The good thing is that people are more ready to accept that an undesirable purchase was simply “bad luck” and they do not blame others or start lawsuits. On the other hand, the lower level of trust among Chinese makes life more difficult and less enjoyable. Until recently, you could not make a purchase in China or Taiwan and expect to receive a refund even if the product was defective or didn’t work as claimed. Thus people have to be very cautious before making a purchase.

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