ADVERTISING METHODS IN CHINA – The American Perspective

We have recently been given access to a US Department of Commerce report on “Advertising Methods in China”. This report, based on an 18 month study by US officials, has been purely aimed at answering the question, “Can advertising be used in the Far East as a means of helping to sell American goods, and if so, how ?”. Here we summarize the details as follows:

The China Attraction

Why is it that, despite its…low per capita imports, China still attracts the foreign trader?” The US report’s author notes the common tendency amongst international businesses, when contemplating the Chinese market, to tempt themselves with “hypothetical and at times amusing surmises”. For example, one American entrant to China business wonders, “if only every Chinese would buy one stick of chewing gum”, or “if only 25% of the Chinese could be persuaded to buy my product I would become successful here”.

Of course, as the author goes on, “the reason why the prospect of selling goods to China provokes such queries is because even the slightest modification in the prevailing mode of life is capable of creating an enormous market, and with the entire social structure in a state of flux and progress, trade possibilities are limitless”. As he says, “China is on the eve of what promises to be an amazing industrial awakening”.

Consumer Characteristics

But what of the Chinese consumer himself ? The American study here cautions: “Let us look at this market a little more closely for a moment and try to visualise their civilisation, so that we may the better appraise it and the market it affords for foreign goods”. The report then identifies five key characteristics of the China market

“there is no such thing as a defined class system in China”

“they are essentially a businesslike people in their practical material outlook”

“they have a keen sense of humour and are even inclined to jest under difficulties”

“they have an inordinate curiosity and love of gossip”

“and, with the poverty of the lives of most of them, believe that they can become rich by their own efforts”

Packaging

The Americans argues that there are hundreds of US products that will appeal to the Chinese consumer, if “presented to him attractively, in small packages, within his means”, and if “their trade-marks have been made known to the consumer through advertising, sales can, be expanded indefinitely within the space of a few years as China’s industrial life grows, simply because people are there to produce or consume in unlimited quantities”.

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