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What cool means to China’s youth

TBWA China has revealed the findings of its “RED COOL” study, which aims to shed light what’s trending among China’s youth.

Kevin Choi, director of creative strategy at TBWAChina and the project’s leader, said China’s youth are today embracing optimism and creativity like at no other period in modern Chinese history.

The meaning of a “cool brand”, has gone beyond products and contemporary retail design to a deeper meaning, the brand’s substance and spirit, he said.

The study found that concepts such as positive energy, the ability to embrace difference, initiative, leadership and persistence had redefined interpretations of cool.

“Youths in China are embracing optimism, creativity and success and they are looking for brands to educate them,” he said.

In this regard, Choi details five key areas brands should look for when targeting a youth audience.

Embrace positivity

Positivity to Chinese youths is an important element. They said people who radiate positive energy are ‘cool’ to them. For a brand to succeed in such an environment, positive energy must be injected into the brand in order to attract young customers.

Be bold

Many Chinese brands are coy about selling themselves to the public and don’t even want to be discussed. But young consumers are actually interested in brands that are willing to speak up and let the public know what your brand is about.

Take action

Don’t wait for customers to come to you but to approach them proactively, be bold and introduce the public what your brand’s standing and position is. Youths prefer brands who lead proactive communications.

Focus on the common ground

Most marketers think different strategies are needed for different regions. But what we found is that there’s actually very little difference in the perception of ‘cool’ between the city tiers, so one standpoint is enough for a brand to expand across China.

Go beyond the stereotype

Under the shadow of the mainland’s one-child policy, people mostly think post-80s and 90s are conceded, shortsighted, lazy and impractical. Youths in China are much more sophisticated and opinionated than before. The negative perception towards them must be changed.

The study, jointly produced by TBWAChina and youth style magazine 1626, interviewed key opinion leaders including conceptual artist Le Hua Zhang; writer Yuan Yuan; rapper Joe Xu; and entrepreneur William Chen, as well as 1,000 more people at aged 16-30 in another 13 cities.

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