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Rural China offers fertile ground

16 December 2011
Rural China offers fertile ground

Rural China presents a huge opportunity to become an ‘authority brand’ and a brand of influence, as its consumers are looking to brands to educate and inform them, according to a study of lower-tier cities by Starcom MediaVest Group (SMG).

The Yangtze Study, which focuses on the habits, motivations and values of lower-tier city consumers in China, reveals that Chinese residents in even the smallest communities are widely going online for entertainment and communication, spending about as much time online as their peers in Shanghai and Beijing.

Small-town citizens don’t necessarily want to move to the big cities – unless it’s to find a job to support their family. And if they do move, their family values fail to change. Content, therefore, has an opportunity to celebrate working people making sacrifices for their family.

The concept of luxury takes on a different meaning in lower tiers. For shoppers here, luxury is still very much tied to price, not brand or quality.

With close-knit relationships, gossip can get mixed up with stories of sales, promotions and new products. Rural consumers look to brands to educate them on the category in which they’re interested, provide them with perspective on first-hand experience, and help them to build their knowledge. The brand that helps consumers without talking down to them will be in a stronger position of authority.

Product placement gives brands a platform to show their essence through entertainment. Evidence suggests it has a positive effect on the perception of brands when they are placed in the right environment.

As far as media habits go, it is not uncommon to enter homes in tier-3 and tier-4 towns and find no television set – but almost always a computer monitor. Younger generations, particularly, are consuming more of their video content through online and mobile means. Brands need to think differently about the content they create across these platforms, as well as about their accessibility and flexibility.

Jeffrey Tan is director of national research and insights, SMG China and Hong Kong


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