This lingering influence is not a result of colonisation. It is a result of emulation as cultures sought to duplicate what they saw as the most advanced and sophisticated culture in the region.
More recently this orientation shifted as the American cultural behemoth dominated the globe with its entertainment, products and consumerism. Coffee replaced tea and Coke, along with blue jeans, became a universal symbol of this culture.
With an estimated 1.5 billion middle class in Asia in 220, growing to three billion in 2030 there is an assumption that the needs of this group will be met with more of the same solutions as in the past.
However, there is growing evidence that the cultural dynamics of this middle-class demographic are changing. Working with that change brings new business opportunities for the Northern Territory. It impacts the way tourism experiences are framed, the way niche cosmetics are packaged and the way education services are promoted.
It is suggested by some observers that with higher levels of disposable income and rising quality of life, Asian middle classes will become culturally distinct from the Westernised generation before them. There is a nostalgic patriotism reflected in a desire for films, music, and clothes that portray their lifestyles, values, their heroes and their worldviews that are distinct from the Asian tropes portrayed in Western films.
As the wealth of the middle class grows they develop the industries, financing, and confidence to follow these desires. The Northern Territory has some unique skills experience in some of these areas, including remote service delivery.
In China, we see this preference with international films that provide perspectives beyond the Hong Kong action films. The Battle of Redcliff, the Eight Hundred are all part of a cultural revival that challenges business to change the way they market in China.
It’s too easy to dismiss this as crafted Chinese propaganda because it reflects a cultural shift that restores non-American culture to a competitive footing. India, Nigeria, and China produce the most films annually, followed by the US. Western cinema’s share of viewership has steadily declined while China’s domestic cinema is rising.
China’s “hanfu” movement involves dressing in Tang Dynasty fashions. This extreme is moderated in modern Chinese fashion on the catwalks of Paris that reflects these cultural heritages.
American popular culture is pervasive, but its dominance is being challenged. For the first time in over a century, Western soft power – which has shaped much of “global” culture – may be slowed down. For those doing business in China this means the localisation of product and services adds a competitive advantage. Jeans are not going to disappear, but they may have a more distinctive Chinese look.
What do we mean by localisation? It’s not 1930s localisation, which put a pretty Shanghai lady on cigarette packets. Localisation image branding is difficult and more complex with a greater awareness of cultural sensitivities and the way that backlash is accelerated and amplified by social media. China’s online landscape is well-geared towards consumer outrage.
Some European companies, including luxury brands, have localised by using inappropriate China tropes popular in their home market, but completely out of step with what is happening on the ground in China. Dolce and Gabbana’s PR disaster with a crass ad showing Chinese actors trying to eat spaghetti with chopsticks is a memorable example.
Slapping a dragon on underwear isn’t enough to connect with young Chinese buyers, as Victoria’s Secret discovered. Nor will it work as a logo on Northern Territory mangoes. The use of images in brand localisation requires careful research, preferably conducted by those with extensive China experience. It is an essential approach necessary for repositioning a brand in a significantly different marketplace.
Covid precipitated changes in the interaction between customers, online orders and customer fulfilment. Expectations of how your product or service is delivered may have changed as domestic competitors developed. The Northern Territory bush-health product has to compete with other Australian brands and with Chinese competitors. On-the-shelf delivery may become the deciding purchasing factor. It’s not a localisation of product, but a localisation of product delivery.
Every business researches the market, but it’s too often just research about how their existing product or service can be sold and distributed. They adapt to local supply chains, but not to local demands. Acknowledging this difference is an essential step for Territory business because it impacts on every aspect of branding, packaging and marketing. Our focus is on China, but the same conclusions apply to the South East Asia market.
China’s market dynamics have changed, with a reduction in foreign premium. The appropriate localisation of product and services adds a competitive advantage.