Youth Marketing in China: Fortune favors the brave

How to Get Your Brand to the Heart of China’s Post-95 Generation

Lucy Yu
Business Development Director
Millward Brown

Brands that wish to grow need to know how to adapt to every generation, because each one differs. Studies of China’s post-95 generation reveal several best practices that can inform the marketing of brands determined to make an impact in China. Key among these is to be bold.

Values are changing. The studies we conducted demonstrate the new values the post-95 generation now relates to:

  • Living for the moment and exploring the world. Instead of achievement, the word “explore” is a much better reflection of their values. This generation favors the adventurer over the CEO.
  • Be bold in your attempts. Be silly or be self-deprecating; any attempt at being seen as independent thinkers and true to themselves is highly valued in this generation. They think their choices are not influenced by others’ opinion, so therefore they like to set themselves apart from the crowd.
  • Enjoy the simple things in life. Over 80 percent of this generation shared this view. This means they consider it less important to have the traditional social status symbols of success such as a nice car or house.

Be bold in their language

What they want, more than any other generation, is to enjoy the simple things in life, to love real, sincere people, and to walk through life with a sense of light-heartedness. Here light-hearted doesn’t mean superficial, it is their style, their attitude.

Classmate Xiaoming, “Xiaoming Tongxue” is one of the brands launched by Unipresident Enterprise to the RTD tea market. This market is already oversaturated in China, with almost stagnant category growth. The “Xiaoming Tongxue” brand name itself is a person’s name, a name that appeared hundreds of times in the English textbooks of the post-95 generation. This is a brand that comes with a really strong personality; from name to packaging to communication, it precisely captures the heart of the post-95 generation.

Be bold on their platform

Like many FMCG brands, Harbin beer wants to be younger. Instead of hiring young pop stars and airing million-dollar TVC or pre-roll, they explored a different route to reach their potential customers in the post-95 generation.

Bilibili is an online video site famous among young people for its bullet screen. This screen allows viewers to publish comments on the video content in real time. Harbin beer launched a series of highly entertaining, self-deprecating viral videos on Bilibili. It was ranked among the top viewed videos in the “Entertainment and life” category. Having brand communications on the site is in itself a bold statement, but this unprecedented approach of making fun of the brand itself to entertain the audience delivered the message right to the heart of post-95 generation. 

Key highlights of China post-95 generation media habits

According to Millward Brown’s AdReaction Video study, conducted globally, the post-95 generation spends around 3.5 hours using the Internet on their mobiles every day, compared to an average of 2.5 hours among young people below the age of 34. Similarly, the time spent watching video on mobile/tablet by the post-95 generation is 30 minutes longer than average.

One third of the post-95 generation does not watch TV, and even among those who do watch, over 70 percent watch less than an hour per day. They spend double the time on mobile that they do on their laptop or TV. Mobile is undoubtedly the leading device.

The post-95 generation is growing up with the prevalence of smart phones; their mobile usage is not only much heavier, but also more influential. More post-95s indicated that they’d rather search for their favorite shows/content, than watch something their friends shared online – further proof of their desire to be seen as independent thinkers, not easily swayed by others’ opinion.

Five actions for brand building among the post-95 generation in China:

  • Understand what they see differently: Don’t use your values to create your brand differentiation for them
  • Be real and sincere: Don’t pretend that you understand them and don’t be afraid to be completely honest about it
  • Be bold: Don’t be afraid to adopt an unconventional route to reach them, talk to them and touch them
  • Be bold in their language: Find out what they connect to, what they like, and use that in your message
  • Be bold on their platform: Don’t just copy your media plans en masse to target post -95s. The power of a platform has gone beyond that of just a communication channel.