What is Big Think?  

We are Big Idea Hunters…

We live in a time of information abundance, which far too many of us see as information overload. With the sum total of human knowledge, past and present, at our fingertips, we’re faced with a crisis of attention: which ideas should we engage with, and why? Big Think is an evolving roadmap to the best thinking on the planet — the ideas that can help you think flexibly and act decisively in a multivariate world.

A word about Big Ideas and Themes — The architecture of Big Think

Big ideas are lenses for envisioning the future. Every article and video on bigthink.com and on our learning platforms is based on an emerging “big idea” that is significant, widely relevant, and actionable. We’re sifting the noise for the questions and insights that have the power to change all of our lives, for decades to come. For example, reverse-engineering is a big idea in that the concept is increasingly useful across multiple disciplines, from education to nanotechnology.

Themes are the seven broad umbrellas under which we organize the hundreds of big ideas that populate Big Think. They include New World Order, Earth and Beyond, 21st Century Living, Going Mental, Extreme Biology, Power and Influence, and Inventing the Future.

Big Think Features:

12,000+ Expert Videos

1

Browse videos featuring experts across a wide range of disciplines, from personal health to business leadership to neuroscience.

Watch videos

World Renowned Bloggers

2

Big Think’s contributors offer expert analysis of the big ideas behind the news.

Go to blogs

Big Think Edge

3

Big Think’s Edge learning platform for career mentorship and professional development provides engaging and actionable courses delivered by the people who are shaping our future.

Find out more
Close

How to Get Ahead in Chinese Advertising

July 31, 2012, 12:00 AM
Rejoice

What's the Big Idea? 

Okay. Right off the bat I’m going to have to acknowledge that this is a minefield: an article on a Western website featuring a (China-based) Westerner’s expert opinion on Chinese psychology. 

But here’s the thing: Tom Doctoroff is really, really good at selling products to Chinese consumers. In a long and successful advertising career, much of it spent in Hong Kong, he has managed to avoid many of the marketing pitfalls that Western brands often fall prey to in China, due to their cluelessness about their own (Western) cultural assumptions, and how these differ from those of the Chinese. 

Because no matter how badly we may want to believe that each of us is a unique individual, free from any culturally stereotypical thinking, that idea is itself a Western construct, and proof that exactly the opposite is the case. 

Tom Doctoroff on how Chinese collectivism shapes consumer habits

So deeply rooted, says Doctoroff, is the Western belief in individual freedom, that it is nearly impossible for us to accept the fact that in Chinese culture, the individual does not exist outside of her network of familial and communal obligations. Apple’s “Think Different” campaign, for example, wouldn’t appeal to Chinese consumers, who prefer to “stand out by fitting in.” In China, conspicuous consumption – of 100 year old Corvoisier or a flashy car – is a sign of upstanding citizenship rather than a mark of personal distinction. 

Take shampoo, for example. American shampoo commercials typically show a woman luxuriating first in the sensory pleasures of a hot shower, then in the attention she gets by tossing her luxuriant locks from side to side in public. Chinese women, say Doctoroff, do not want to attract the overt attention of random passers-by. Nor do they want to see themselves as focused on private sensory pleasures. 

Realizing this, Proctor and Gamble markets its Rejoice shampoo in China as giving women the confidence to move through their professional lives, knowing that their hair is soft. In other words, outward-focused social success without any awkward, attention-getting edges. 

Haagen Dazs, too, has adapted its brand to the Chinese market, focusing on public parlors where consumers can demonstrate their sophistication publicly by paying premium prices for ice cream, something they would never do simply to scarf down a pint in the privacy of their own homes. 

And right now, most likely, a blogger somewhere in China  is writing a post entitled "How to Win Over the American Consumer" with a shampoo brand called "You!" 

The point here goes way beyond marketing, though. 

What's the Significance? 

As globalization proceeds apace and the world’s markets become increasingly, inextricably interconnected, Westerners will confront the notion that individualism is not a god-given right but rather a lifestyle choice. And we may benefit from a bit of reflection upon the selfishness and narcissism that are sometimes the flipside of the entrepreneurial spirit. 

Likewise, in spite of the best attempts of the Chinese government to fortify the Great Firewall, Western ideas will exert ever-greater influence in the East, resulting in new cultural hybrids that will keep advertising professionals busy for decades to come.

 

Follow Jason Gots (@jgots) on Twitter


 

More from the Big Idea for Monday, September 10 2012

Today's Big Idea: Manufactured Demand

America's consumer economy is based on a lot of people buying a lot of things they don't need very often. In order to grow revenues, companies turn to advertising to create the desire for products... Read More…

 

How to Get Ahead in Chinese...

Newsletter: Share: