Every year, CPB launches an internal competition to broaden our minds and fill our personal ‘experience banks’. The competition asks; what would you do and where would you go with £2,500 and two weeks extra holiday. Last year’s winner Alex Ririe (CPB Business Director), was interested in how a cultural flow has started to shift from East to West. She wanted to visit China and surrounding cities to understand this shift and find out just what’s so appealing.
To help understand how Asia is impacting on western design in the future, Alex focused on four themes – Fashion, Food, Drinks and Architecture.
Places she went to include The Red Dot Museum in Singapore which is Asia’s first contemporary design museum, The Hong Kong Design Centre founded to promote Asian design and numerous flagship stores of luxury western brands in Shanghai.
After two weeks of travelling, exploring and documenting Alex left Asia with a backpack full of new insights, more experience and stories to tell.
The result of her research was an inspiring, lively and colorful exhibition at the CPB studio where Alex presented her findings. She not only showed photography from her travels and presented key findings, but also made comparisons of American influences on Western culture versus those coming from Asia like Bubble Tea and Dim Sum. She also presented key cultural motifs in Asian visual language, in Chinese clothing, decorative designs and traditional colors – emphasizing the importance of symbolic meanings in China.
“My BlueSky trip was a brilliant experience. I have always been fascinated by Asian culture so to spend 2 weeks immersed in it was really inspiring. The interesting thing for me, was that at the moment the transfer of culture seems very one way – America and the West influences much of Asian contemporary lifestyle. However, the seas are changing and we are starting to see more and more brands emerging that are not only flying the flag for Brand China, but doing it proudly and in a way that has huge appeal to Western tastes. America has had over a century of influence and it is still early days for China, but I’m sure we will embrace more and more of Asian lifestyle, craft and culture in the future.” Alex
I’m Alex from Germany and have just started a work experience placement at Coley Porter Bell. Before coming to London I spent six months in China at Xiamen University to study Economics and Chinese, as well as travelling in my spare time. I gained intriguing insights into the Chinese culture, attitudes and especially their spending behaviour. What I found was the Chinese way of spending money on products differs greatly from the European way.
According to Reuters, the Chinese are the top consumers of luxury goods globally. They significantly buy more luxury goods overseas than domestically because the brands are often much more expensive within China due to tax reasons. Chinese people like to travel, since China opened up to the West, exit regulations are loosened up and the income in the county is rising. They come for shopping trips to London, Milan, Zurich and Paris and arrive with only one goal: to buy luxury goods and high-end brands.
Large amounts of money are spent on expensive bags, watches and jewellery for themselves or gifts for their relatives and friends back home. In the Chinese society it is a big issue to “not loose face” and their gifts should reflect the importance and respect for the recipient, so the amount on the price tag is a big issue.
The problem I see is that most marketers in Europe are not approaching Chinese customers effectively. They often fail to market and communicate their brand messages in a relevant way – perhaps due to the lack of Chinese language skills.
Last week I read in Marketing Magazine that most Chinese do not even know the important shopping districts in London because travel agencies carry Chinese tourists by coach to out of town fashion outlets, Bicester Village being the most popular. New and Old Bond Street as well as Sloane Square, are unknown places for most of the shoppers.
It feels that the Chinese consumers are underestimated by the UK in terms of buying power because I think they are increasingly aspirational consumers. Retailers and other marketers largely fail to tailor their messages to Chinese consumers – opportunities are unseen and very often completely missed.
I come from a small town in the Black Forest in Germany, where there are many souvenir and tourist shops. Even these small shops have Chinese speaking sales people or even Chinese sales assistants who are able to help Chinese shoppers.
When are European businesses finally going to see the importance of this profitable target group and start hiring consultants who have Chinese marketing and spending insights? Where are the company websites and online shops translated into Mandarin? We’ll see which businesses are faster to adopt and adapt then others…
Alexandra Rombach, Marketing Intern at Coley Porter Bell