About Face

What is the Chinese concept of face? How does it affect consumer behavior? How is it relevant to my marketing strategy and brand development? These questions should concern any organization looking to succeed in the Chinese market.

Face is an umbrella term used to explain a broad range of human interactions IN China and is best described as an image of the desired self that is grounded in the way one is perceived by others in a social context. Cultivating and maintaining a positive socialized image is integral to the concept of face and being seen to “not” confirm or meet standards of expected behaviour can cause a “loss of face”.

There is sometimes a cynicism expressed surrounding the term with some observers feeling it can be used as an excuse for unchanging stubbornness, resistance to change and even claims of cultural incompatibility. However, these critiques do little to diminish the reality that face is a major influence in any relationship in China, including the relationship between a brand and its consumers.

Although the role of face in the relationship between the consumer and the brand provider is obviously reduced by the reality of distance, it is still a fundamental part of brand management and positioning. If a brand is able to successfully communicate self-confidence or a sense of self-esteem to its customer through brand purchase, this could offer a unique position from which to establish itself in the China market.  Clearly in such markets the corporate image portrayed by a brand becomes very important in providing “reasons why” for brand loyalty.

China is a very collective society and therefore one where it is the group or socialized opinion that is often very dominant over individual expression.  Chinese consumers constantly seek affirmation of their brand buying decisions based on this collective consciousness. 

In the past these rules of behaviour amongst, family, friends, colleagues and even one’s village and workplace were well established.  Things can now change very rapidly in China’s consumer markets.  This is because social media is a major catalyst for shaping socialized and therefore accepted behaviors, especially to relevant market segments, in particular millennials.  Bloggers, apps and friends now can quickly start to shape all sorts of “accepted” buying behavior from restaurant choices to soft drinks to clothing to personal care product use, etc.  Additionally, in a business to business sense, face is perhaps the most salient component of these types of relationships and should be given absolute priority by any organization with aspirations of success in China.

Anovax understands the unique role that face can play in Chinese consumer markets and through our extensive exploration of this concept we are able to elicit comprehensive information about the major drivers of face from target demographics - and this effectively guide our clients in their brand development strategies in China.