Made in China is gaining admiration among Chinese Millennials

The first part of the Marketing to Chinese National Pride tracks the predictive consumer trend around the Allure of Local products. In China, Millennials are spearheading a renaissance in “Made in China” products. In the rest of the series find out:

  • How heritage has been rebranded
  • The interplay between local and international in luxury
  • New Skater Nationalism
Pride in “Made in China”

It’s not unfair to say that the phrase ‘Made in China’ has been negatively perceived for a long time, perhaps nowhere more acutely than in China itself. While local provenance carries added value and is often aspirational in many other regions, in China it is burdened with associations of poor quality and low value. However, these damning views of nationally-made products are showing signs of cooling, and patriotism surrounding domestic brands is hotting up – particularly among Millennials (those born in the 80s and 90s). Pride in the phrase “Made in China” has risen by five percentage points since 2012 from 39% to 44%, and among Millennials has grown by 14 – making China the only country in which pride has increased among this age group. A renewed focus on how to boost domestic brands is underway in China, and trading on Chinese culture is gaining sway among young consumers.

Heritage rebranded

The 2017 China Cultural Industry Series Index, produced as part of a conference hosted at the Remnin University of China, shows that Chinese consumers born post-1990 are the most willing demographic to spend money on culture, and discovering their heritage has become a popular way to explore their own identity. This also allows young Chinese to go beyond the national pride promoted by the state, and instead align themselves with periods of their country’s complex history. The Tang, Song, Yuan, Ming and Qing Dynasties have even been interpreted through Millennial fashion and style choices. This allows for greater meaning behind what young people choose to wear.

Several cultural initiatives within retail are responding to this surging interest in Chinese heritage, including The Forbidden City’s Palace Museum Shop. After conducting research into youth culture, the shop collaborated with fashion bloggers for limited edition accessories lines. It produced illustrated sticky tape as a response to a trend among young women for journaling and scrapbooking. The shop has also embraced digital technology and social media to better engage with a young audience. It even reinvented its tone of voice to seem less formal. The strategy appears to have been successful, with many items selling out.

The Palace Museum shop is not the only retailer experiencing a boom in heritage sales – individual sellers on commerce platform Taobao are benefitting from young consumers’ popular revival of hanfu dress. Hanfu refers to a period of Chinese couture style from the Han Dynasty in the third century B.C, and now this is being reinterpreted for the modern consumer. One designer, Zheng Qi, claims to receive up to 70 orders a day for her hanfu outfits – and specialises in creating them for plus size women. This in itself is a very modern interpretation of traditional Chinese dressing, which is usually associated with slim women.

Foresight Factory published the Chinese National Pride Series  in full on FFonline in May 2018. This is the first installment of three that will be published on this blog. Sign up to our newsletter for further insight on the allure of local products.