In recent years, young Chinese consumers are increasingly interested in the integration of traditional Chinese culture and style with domestic brands and products. This trend is known as ‘Guochao’ (国潮), which means ‘National Trend’. This group of young adults, aged between 19 to 25 years old, have witnessed the rise of China as a global economic powerhouse, which has greatly improved their quality of life and wealth. With growing levels of national pride, Chinese youth are now looking for unique ways to identify with their Chinese roots in a world greatly influenced by Western aesthetics. They have become one of the largest spending groups in China and have become the target group for many local brands, such as Li-Ning and Feiyue (both are long-standing Chinese sports brands). Also, famous domestic FMCG brands, such as White Rabbit Candies (大白兔), Wanglaoji (王老吉) and Coconut Palm (椰树牌椰汁), have placed greater focus on nostalgia and this strategy is very appealing to younger consumers. At the same time, the Forbidden City has also become extremely popular among Chinese youths due to its rebranding strategy – collaborating with both domestic and international brands to develop new products. They’re also working with KOLs and adapting quickly to the current LIVE streaming trend.
When we interviewed Ms Zhang, a respondent born in the 1980s, about her feelings towards this ‘Guochao’ phenomenon, she shared that, ‘It’s not the same as when we were young. When we were young, most of the fashion trends in China came from foreign countries, such as jeans and patterned shirts, but over the years, young people have begun to identify more with their Chinese roots. It seems that they have discovered the beauty of our tradition. We no longer think that only T-shirts with English logos are attractive, we now consider Chinese characters on a shirt as ‘cool’. It is interesting to see how Chinese consumers have started appreciating Chinese brands and it is a strong reflection of their growing national pride.
A China Youth News report in 2019 that focused on the development of Chinese consumer brands indicated that the cumulative search volume of keywords related to new domestic products exceeded 12.6 billion times on an e-commerce platform. A Baidu Guochao Big Data report also indicated that the proportion of Chinese brands have increased from 38% to 70% from 2009 to 2019. Meanwhile, another report that focused on trends in China also highlighted that almost 78.2% of consumers have often talked about purchasing products from domestic brands. Based on these figures, it is no surprise that this ‘National Trend’ has taken off dramatically. This trend not only reflects the sudden rise of domestic brands, but also the resurgence of Chinese cultural elements and traditional style. On top of this, these traditional cultural elements can be integrated with current trends to make more fashionable styles, without increasing product development costs.
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It is important to note that Chinese e-commerce platforms, such as Tmall, JD.com, etc, have also begun to explore and expand the ‘Guochao’ market in recent years. In 2017, Tmall began paying close attention to ‘Guochao’ due to the changes in the overall market and policy environment, as well as the high potential of some cutting-edge domestic brands on the platform. In 2018, Tmall attempted to cross different product categories and apply a marketing strategy that focused on cultural aspects. During 618, a special sales event held on 18th June, Tmall officially launched the ‘New Domestic Products’ channel and it has become a key feature on the mobile Taobao app. Consumers can access the exclusive page by opening the mobile Taobao app with one click or entering the keywords ‘Tmall New Products’ or ‘Guochao is coming’ in the search box. According to the head of the Tmall market strategy team, the promotion of ‘Guochao’ will continue to grow considerably.
The rise of ‘Guochao’ is inevitable as it only seems to be getting better and stronger. Although many consumers still favour foreign fashion brands, it is difficult to avoid the fact that Chinese youths have started showing stronger national pride and forming their unique sense of culturally aesthetic style. They are looking for a new meaningful connection with brands, so it is important for new international brands entering China to embrace these values of Chinese pride. It is no longer enough to simply emphasise an international brand’s heritage and culture, it is increasingly crucial to know where brands can integrate with these new Chinese cultural elements.