Keeping up with China’s young female consumers

The aspirations of China’s most active class of consumers - young, cosmopolitan women – have undergone a dramatic shift. Have the brands targeting them adapted? Joyce Ling, vice president of Strategy at Razorfish China, shares what your messaging needs to reflect to stay relevant.

There’s a tendency when marketing to young women in China to go the lazy, well-worn route: make sure your international celebrity spokesperson is well known enough, give off the feeling of “luxury,” “glamour” and “fashion.” Young women will buy your product in droves. But brands that stagnate their messaging in this manner are missing out on something vital: an amazingly quick evolution in the mindset of China’s young female consumers that could soon leave them in the dust.

The modern woman is no longer eager to snatch up whatever’s “Fashion,” they are fine-tuning themselves as individuals in attitude, in beauty ambitions and even aspirations.

1. Attitude: Fearless self expression

Unlike former generations of cautiously coy ladies, today’s young women are proving increasingly bold about expressing and indulging in their desires. This is seen across many parts of their lives, but what might shock traditionalists the most is the rising popularity of declaring ones lust for “Little Fresh Meat.”

The buzzword, which refers to male stars with youthful faces, chiseled bodies and legions of gushing female fans on social media, is so hot that it now has its own dedicated Forbes list. Smart brands are advertising traditionally stoic or female-oriented products with an infusion of young male eye-candy – Tag Heuer’s brand ambassador is now baby-faced actor Yifeng Li, while Anessa chose cute singer Han Lu to advertise its women’s sunscreen.

2. Ambitions: Embracing natural Chinese beauty

In yesteryear, the influx of western cosmetic brands greatly influenced Chinese beauty standards. Young women pursued make up and serums that could lend them a westernized structure of angular, skinny “V-shaped” faces and high cheekbones. 2015’s consumers have embraced the rounder, heart-shaped Asian faces of starlets such as actress Wei Tang and supermodel Wen Liu, which are closer to their own natural beauty and signify pride in their own uniqueness.

Korean cosmetics have long catered to Asian facial needs, but some Western brands are getting the message as well. One of Estee Lauder’s most popular new products has been its New Dimension Shape + Fill Expert Serum. It’s messaging in China focused on the appeal of “boosting” a “natural, heart-shaped” and “healthy” look.

3. Aspirations: Holistic health instead of “anti-aging”

The bullseye age of brand engagement for anti-aging brands has dropped to just 25 years old in China, a shift down from the 30-year-old marketers were targeting 5 years ago. The younger interest in anti-aging is actually because it is now part of s young woman’s holistic approach to beauty management, one that includes being healthy as well as being beautiful.

A recent study by Mintel found that Healthy Living has become a leading consumer aspiration for China’s young women. Finding brands that have embraced this more holistic vision is still hard. One rare example is Shiseido. In late 2014, it partnered with leading wellness cafe brand Wagas to launch Ultimune, a fresh “antioxidant-rich” juice inspired by Shiseido’s successful Ultimune Power Infusing Concentrate.

So what can we learn from all of this?

Follow the Example of KOLs and Fashion Magazines

Just five years ago, the first generation of KOLs had streams built almost exclusively around aggregating content ad images from the websites of the West. But now, key fashion bloggers have pivoted into lifestyle bloggers, posting healthy recipes and self-help missives alongside designer products.

Major fashion publications were just a step behind – mid-2015 saw many of the leading ones hiring in-house food and physical training editors to supplement their coverage. Consumer media is now flooded with information on yoga, HIIT, Omega-3s and so on.

Brands that want to continue the conversation with China’s young women need to shift their messaging to keep this in mind, rethink the format they are sharing that information and reimagine how they innovate products and communications.