Guest post by Courtney Gordner
For American businesses reaching out into the global market, it’s important to understand that what moves consumers in one country does not necessarily draw consumers in another. Many international brands have seen success by marketing to consumers in ways that might puzzle customers in their home countries. After all, ethnocentrism sometimes leads consumers to assume that everyone is interested in, or enjoys, the same products for the same reasons. Ethnocentrism can sometimes affect businesses in negative ways, and for country with a huge population like China, it can be a problem. It’s important to treat Chinese consumers with respect according to their culture and expectations. One of the best ways to begin is by recognizing some key differences between Chinese and American consumers.
Learn the Difference in Social Attitudes
The United States has gone through numerous social changes within the past hundred years, and especially in the past fifty years. China is no different. However, the evolution of social opinion in the countries is quite different.
For example, the concept of “face” is very important in China. This can be understood as a sense of value and confidence based on one’s standing in society. Making someone “lose face” means that they feel a deep sense of shame and embarrassment. Such feelings of humiliation are unforgivable. It could be a matter as simple as recommending contractor software for Maxwell Systems. If recommending or selling a product is done in a way that saves or gives “face”, then this is desirable to potential consumers. If “face” is lost, then so are your Chinese customers.
There are various rules of etiquette that one should learn while attempting to break into the Chinese market. Even if behaviors seem personally strange or to go against familiar trends, remember such feelings are irrelevant. Be aware of your market and respect the difference in attitudes.
Appreciate the Influence of Government in Business
It’s important to be mindful of the role the Chinese government plays in businesses at all levels. From locally owned businesses to international markets, China’s government is very conscious of what’s being marketed to its citizens. One piece of advice is to be aware of the attitude of the Chinese government regarding certain companies, products and advertisements. If they are moving to oppose certain businesses, pay attention to why.
If you are a businessperson, it is your job to know what behaviors are considered illegal or problematic at the government level. You must then avoid repeating behaviors and promotional attitudes that could cause you to get on the wrong side of Chinese government officials. The government’s means of influencing its citizens for or against certain products and businesses is very powerful and not to be underestimated.
In the United States, such attempts to influence the population would be met with cynicism or suspicion. But remember that it’s not your place as a businessperson to interfere with how the Chinese citizens and government respond to each other or to foreign businesses. These attitudes have evolved over time and will continue to evolve for many years.
The key is to accept the influence of the government on consumer interests as inevitable. Then, do what you can to make your own company as attractive in the Chinese business market as possible.