Understanding the Chinese Consumer - Fall Symposium Highlights

The Center for Asia Pacific Studies closed its fall programming calendar on November 13-14, 2014 with the symposium, Advertising and Marketing in China: Chinese-Western Cultural Encounters (19th c. - Present). Over 125 USF faculty, staff, students, and members of the general public attended the day and a half symposium to hear about the latest research in the field and to share their experiences. The highlight of the symposium was the witty keynote address on the state of advertising in China by Juggi Ramakrishnan, award-winning Creative Director at Ogilvy & Mather Beijing.

During the symposium, participants explored Chinese-Western cultural encounters through the lens of marketing and advertising. Presentations spanned from the 19th c. to the present, tracing the transition from capitalism to socialism under Mao to the radically different economy of the 1990s and today. Examining advertising in its many forms, ranging from print media to television ads to the internet, participants explored issues such as modernity, health, nationalism, gender, and intimacy and touch. The symposium revealed how China has gone from advertisements that taught people how to consume to female consumers who now spend 63% of their income on shopping.

While many things have changed during China's recent history, presentations noted the lasting importance of color, family and language in advertisements. The changing political environment has also led to changes in the consumer. Today, status, luxury and emotional appeals have become more important. Participants also noted the growing awareness of brands, value and brand strategy, and the internet in the marketing of products in China. In sum, valuable lessons for understanding the Chinese consumer and market today can be obtained by examining previous cultural encounters between China and the West via advertising and marketing.

We hope to publish panelists papers in a special issue of the Center’s online journal Asia Pacific Perspectives this spring. To view photos of the symposium, please visit our photo album on Facebook.

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