China Zoomers …Tomorrow Today
Once upon a time, 20 years back, China was quite the exotic place with astronomical potential and an ancient culture. 10 years ago, China was WeChat, skyscrapers and neon lights. Now, it is nothing short of the incubating place of the future.
China used to talk mainly to itself. Now it speaks to the world.
Just look at your favourite soccer game over the weekend! It does not surprise us anymore to see Chinese advertisements on the electronic boards around the stadium or even on the players sleeves. China is not anymore only tech and manufacturing, it is also trendy fashion! The Chinese e-tailer/brand Shein is neck and neck with the British e-tailer Asos, while the Shanghai Tang brand is a household name in luxury.
China is fully on the world scene, and it’s very cutting edge.
At the same time as China ‘s growing importance, we are at an hinge period. Nothing short of a generational Changing of the Guard is coming up.
Generation Z: Changing of the Guard.
Globally, 1.9 billion people are born between 1997 and 2012. They are about to replace the 1.7 billion Millennials as “The Youth”. It is happening now, as you can see on Reddit and assorted blogs.
Pages and pages of marketing material on Generation Z do’s and don’ts are churned out on daily basis. It is so fundamental to the way we have been led to see the world in age strata, that the new-new one, generation Alpha, is already in the wings. So too late to claim the title “Gen Z whisperer”, but definitely time to give a clear idea of what is coming up!
Over the past 20 years, youth was Millennials. That picture is fading away. Time to move on to Gen Z, or Zoomers as they call themselves.
Since the 1960s, youth is in and by itself pretty much central to our Western view of marketing “laws”. Getting on the youth bus is supposed to be pretty much a failsafe to anticipate tomorrow’s trends. However, Billy Eilish, Kim Kardashian and Rihanna are yesterday’s news – having built hugely successful business in the West.
So who then tomorrow? How, what and who will lead opinions and trends tomorrow?
What will actually happen if this Generation Z is not really interested in getting engaged?
To answer that question, why not look at China? Afterall, there are 254 million Generation Z youth in China alone. They are already living among cutting edge infrastructure and have a practical experience of an advanced digital world. Hence, where else to look than at China to understand what may be tomorrow’s norm?
China has the numbers, the infrastructure and the dynamics. It could be a preview of the future.
Instead of outdated marketing cohorts, why not simply take a look at China today? Why not immediately listen to China Gen Z?
254 million Gen Z. with a disposable income of 600 USD/month.
When talking about numbers, it is all a question of both raw population numbers as well as their available budget. China has both. Picture 254 millions people aged between 9 and 24 years old, with a monthly disposable income of around 600 dollars (between 3500 and 4200 RMB according to the statistics)! No wonder that the Chinese youth as such is already a key target for the beauty industry.
This means that there is an underlying rebalancing of population and youth spending power from the West towards the East.
China today. Tomorrow China and India.
In other words, if cultural shifts used to happen in London, New York or San Francisco, it is moving to the East. Actually, it has already moved East to be led by the youth of Shanghai and Beijing.
Much of our current marketing “wisdom” was written in the 50s and 60s.
It made sense back then. In the 1960s, the US and Europe had both the numbers, the disposable income and the technological tools to create a fully grown youth culture. The West also had a common cultural background, homogeneous enough to allow it to propagate a great cultural uniformity. This led to a cultural dominance.
To simplify, it led to the “rock ‘n roll” culture.
Think jeans (denims for my American friends) or the slogan “If it is too loud, you are too old”. Yeah, that is very 1970s US or Europe. Whether you were MC5 or Motorhead, this was the rallying cry for decades.
China Gen Z is creating the new global youth culture.
Today, China, and China Gen Z in particular, has the numbers, the economic power and the internal coherence to actually play the same role. China has the likes of Bytedance (TikTok), Alibaba and Tencent. In addition, China also has a great cultural, social and economic coherence. And it has the backing of a more than significant GDP. This means, China is able to lead where more numerous groups, such as Latin America or Africa, lack.
India is a close runner up. Should the Indian average disposable revenue continue to rise, and if social coherence is spreading, then India will be able to leverage its 270 millions Zoomer youth too.
With a uniform culture, an homogeneous social group, unified and cutting edge infrastructure, China Gen Z could be the opportunity to redefine entirely the base of marketing.
China Gen Z. Redefining the entire marketing base.
Chinese Zoomers live in a world which for many of us is science fiction. Netflix’ Black Mirror. Live. Today.
What still ranks as marvels to most of us, such as robots and holographic projections, are just… normal in China, used in everyday events for nothing more than advertisement or restaurant decorations.
China Gen Z were given the technological infrastructure and tools. They took them to new levels.
To observe and just look around what is happening in China today is a continuous deep dive in the tech network of solutions, integrated retail on/offline (Phygital), robotics and AI. Just have a look at the Future Tech section of the South China Morning Post.
China Gen Z and technology. Is it exaggerated?
Does all this technology actually work as advertised or is it exaggerated?
Obviously, you should always double check anything published proclaiming miracles, and rather observe facts and results.
Let’s take a look at TikTok.
TikTok is wildly successful in addressing Gen Z, as it is fully integrated into the daily China experience of its local audience. The success of TikTok is also a direct result of what Gen Z did with it. The format, the rules, the solutions and visuals are truly global. The business model is global too, but has been field tested in China first.
For Gen Z, as much as for the entire China market, Chinese Key Opinion Leaders (KOLs) are not only about entertainment or lifestyle. They are a 24/7 fully integrated retail landscape with live streaming, especially during sale festivals. Results speak for themselves with millions of items sold in minutes. These guys simply bury what you know on influencers.
Gen Z is living the metaverse today. A benchmark for all of us?
While others are talking about it, China has the know-how on the metaverse and has created virtual multiverses without 3D goggles. China Gen Z has been living it for around 10 years now.
So it is not only big numbers, great infrastructure and cutting edge technology. Chinese Zoomers live the metaverse for some time now. This means that they are past the wow effect and giving us all a preview of what it will all mean.
They set a benchmark for the rest of the world.
Take a figure:
85% of Chinese Gen Z declare that they are not being fooled by brand messaging, KOLs and influencer, direct or indirect marketing. Yet, at the same time, they are the users, viewers and followers of the above!
So what does that mean?
These youth expect consistency and brands to remain within their relevant domains. They are nobodies’ fool without being militant about it.
Backlash: the Lie Down Movement.
True enough, over the past years, the intensity of the China metaverse experience for that generation has created some backlash already. So immersed was Gen Z in this, that you had a backlash movement, a fundamental disengagement called the “Lie Down Movement” or Tang Ping, as I described it my previous article Talking about Meh Generation. Basically, the idea was to take a step back from work, tech, … and, literally, to lie down.
The movement went on to such an extent that the China government took this seriously enough to speak against the memes, articles and reports that were published on the trend.
How to deal with a disengaged generation indeed? How to manage a generation already blasé with the “metaverse”?
Whether an opportunity or a threat, reluctantly or enthusiastically, the China Zoomers are fully plugged in.
Take a rather straightforward example to illustrate this. Gone are the years when Chinese players were essentially known around the gaming world as gold farmers. What are gold farmers, you ask? Imagine rows after rows after rows of “players” sitting down in cybercafes, grinding online quests to collect in-game gold or items to resell later on in real life against real gold, or more usually actual dollars.
China Gen Z today?
At the latest League of Legends eSports game finals, the final victory was for the China team EDG! It does not mean that the Chinese society at large appreciates it though. On the contrary, the government limited the hours online for children to 3 hours per week. A publication closely associated with it used the pointedly laden description “gaming is spiritual opium”. Yes, just a few words shy from opium of the People©.
Numbers. Technology. Propensity.
China Gen Z is the live demonstration and observatory of Zoomers… at scale.