SHANGHAI: Mothers in China today are not the 'tiger moms' of old but nor have they completely shaken off that stereotype according to leading industry figures.

Jing Daily's Thoughtful China slot talked to a number of marketers and agencies working in this area and found a changing culture around motherhood as the current generation was less focused on academic achievement, although that remained important, and more open to encouraging their children to be happy.

As Vijayanand Sinha, regional vp/laundry, North Asia at Unilever, explained: China's moms are making "more time for relaxation and possibly more all-around development of children".

"China is a beacon of change," he stated, adding that "working with Chinese moms is a mirror to the rest of Asia ten years later".

The generational shift was emphasised by Li Yuhong, associate planning director at JWT Shanghai. "They're much more Westernised, more pragmatic, more hedonistic, and they want their baby really to be happy," she said.

But the competitive world they lived in was never far away. "The tension is still there – which is how to protect the childhood joy and the pressure toward achievement." 

Jacob Johansen, head of international projects at consulting agency Mensch, noted a tendency for western brands to stereotype Chinese mothers. 

"Being a mother is not necessarily a target audience that is unified," he said. "Mothers are as diversified and different as any other target audience" and he advised brands to spend some time refining their particular audience.

He also stressed the need to avoid making unsubstantiated claims, and cited the case of infant formula. Most brands in this market were almost identical, he said, often being made in the same factories. But they claimed different, sometimes irrational, benefits, which he suggested was a dangerous approach given the social media landscape.

"If you can't differentiate your product on rational, functional benefits," he said, "you need to create something else around the brand which people can relate to and which is still true." 

His recent work had involved basing a new infant formula brand solely on emotional values, in this case about education and child care. "Not many brands do this right now," Johansen said, "But it means you have to dig a little bit deeper than we as communicators sometimes do."

Data sourced from Jing Daily; additional content by Warc staff