Jenny Chan 陳詠欣
Mar 8, 2017

The 'She-conomy': Chinese women under 30 are remaking the market

What does the emancipation of an entire generation of Chinese women in the new economy mean for brands?

Revered Chinese entrepreneur Ling Zihan (photo source: her Twitter acccount)
Revered Chinese entrepreneur Ling Zihan (photo source: her Twitter acccount)

A whitepaper by Mediacom China, with research and writing led by CSO Peter Petermann with two other contributors, found China's women under 30 years old more empowered, adventurous and self-confident than any previous female generation.

The flipside of this development is that they are now more discerning and demanding of brands. As more and more women are making purchase and investment decisions, the Chinese market is "slowly but surely turning into a she-conomy", stated Mediacom. 

In order to win in this new reality, brand owners will need to redefine their engagement strategies based on three key manifestations of China's new 'she-conomy'.

1. Join the sisterhood

Women under 30 grew up under the one-child policy. Therefore, they tend to turn to their girlfriends as well as surrogate siblings to look for physical and emotional support from one another. Consequently, the feeling of 'sisterhood' in China is stronger than in other countries, and increasingly, many women value it above their relationships with their mothers.

As an example of this trend, both Adidas (see below) and Nike launched women’s-only stores in China. Designed by women for women, these stores display softer lighting, boutique-style clothing displays and on-site fitness sessions. This is especially helpful, stated Mediacom, as women in China feel alienated by the masculine image typically presented by sports brands.

2. Define new role models 

China's women under 30 are convinced they can shape new identities for themselves and for their future daughters. Or as Ling Zi Han (凌子涵), female CEO of TechBase (the first tech accelerator for women-led startups in China, pictured above), put it, "We can't say that we'll change the whole world, but at least we can change half." The 29-year-old is one of the typical new role models China's women under 30 look up to, according to Mediacom.

In order to leverage this trend, brands should acknowledge and celebrate women both as consumers and as creators, advised Mediacom. Brands need to redefine what is a "successful woman" both in branded campaigns and in broader branded initiatives. And brands who want to be successful with China's women under 30 need to choose the right ambassadors; they should be champions of the 'she-conomy'.

3. Collaborate with female entrepreneurs

China's women under 30 have become a huge business factor for the market. They are pushing hard to start businesses themselves, representing the future of China's economy. According to Alibaba data, women now make up almost half of all business owners on all its platforms, at 46 percent.

Their choice of businesses have also ventured into daring areas. After graduating from university in 2012, Ma Jiajia (马佳佳), then 22, started her own sex shop with a group of friends, called 'Powerful’. Located in Beijing’s Sanlitun business centre, it entices consumers with provocative slogans like “if you feel shy, do not enter”. She has since been regarded as an industry pioneer of sex education. Ma has said that women like her are increasingly looking to change mindsets, by way of building their own businesses.

Brands can give them a boost along the way, recommeded Mediacom. Obviously, many female consumers are not going to become entrepreneurs themselves. However, they do look up to these female leaders, aspiring to be "a bit like them". Brands can and should collaborate with rising female entrepreneurs. Also, brands need to align their products and campaigns to reflect the demands and desires of normal female consumers, the whitepaper's authors added.

Campaign Asia-Pacific celebrates International Women’s Day and the call to #BeBoldForChange. In an effort to ignite change and drive gender equality within the industry, on 22 March we are delighted to present Campaign360, an invitation-only, one-day event gathering key decision-makers of leading brands and agencies who believe in the importance of equal opportunity and women leadership.

Following the event programme, the Women Leading Change Awards will celebrate the contributions of female talent to the across the industry. Interested in joining? There are still a few VIP places available for senior brand marketers – apply here


Campaign China

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