While most people focus their attention and analysis on the political and economic changes taking place in China, very few have taken a look at the generation driving this economic transformation.
Enter Mary Bergstrom, principal of The Bergstrom Group, an insights consultancy that helps companies to leverage trends, develop new products and localize international brands for the Chinese consumer market.
China's youth population is composed of 500 million under the age of 30 and is poised to play an even bigger role in shaping the global economy and impacting youth culture.
The 'new China' is being shaped by a generation that loves exploring new identities online, playing video games and staying connected via social networks. A generation who, at times, also struggles to reconcile the generational values of 'new China' with those held by their parents and grandparents.
In her new book, All Eyes East: Lessons From The Front Lines of Marketing to China's Youth, Mary shares her many years of experience and insight studying Chinese youth culture and helping some of the largest companies in the world connect with Chinese youth consumers.
For me, one of the most interesting aspects of All Eyes East, looked at the way Chinese youth use technology, online communities and social networking.
In many ways Chinese youth use of technology mirrors the experience of youth around the world. But as Mary points out, there are some very interesting and uniquely Chinese uses of technology.
Some of the key insights on Chinese youth, technology & virtual communities:
- BlogCN, launched in 2002, became the first free blog service that allowed Chinese youth with a risk-free platform to explore new identities
- Blogging and social networking has allowed Chinese youth to challenge notions about sex, gender and socially acceptable behaviors
- In China, anonymity has led to safe and highly creative collaboration among youth. One key example of this is a meme sparked by Xiao Pang who had his identity borrowed and then reincarnated online where it sparked millions of clicks
- In the 90s, Chinese youth developed a new cyber Martian language that allowed them to self-select who is 'in' and who is 'out'
- Young Chinese mothers aren't waiting for a product to define or help them manage motherhood. Instead these digitally savvy moms are networking online, protesting brands that abuse their trust and forming parenting groups on social networking site QQ
- It is very popular and common for Chinese youth to create profiles on different social networking sites based on pursing specific interests and testing new identities
- Renren, a popular social networking site, allows couples to create and manage profiles, allowing them to present themselves with others as a team
- Popular poses for profile photos include: two fingers n a "V" gesture, puckering for a kiss and making a heart with their hands. Doing so helps Chinese girls distinguish themselves from the singularity of the masses
Mary has compiled an impressive and unprecedented body of research on doing business in China, its burgeoning youth culture and has provided companies and organizations who want to reach this influential market with a clear roadmap to success.
All Eyes East is a must read for anyone--CEOs, corporate marketing teams and MBA students alike--who wants to do business in China.