'Swarmonomics' and the Chinese shopper – seven things to learn

Saurabh Sharma
Ogilvy & Mather Beijing

In the past three weeks we have seen two examples of swarm-style purchase frenzies by Chinese shoppers.

The first occasion was the panic-buying of common salt. Shoppers were under the impression that the iodine in salt could help in protecting them from the negative effects of nuclear radiation coming out of Japan following the earthquake-related nuclear emergency.

Stocking up on salt was also viewed as a good idea because some shoppers were convinced that the sea salt due to hit shelves in the coming months would have been polluted by the nuclear radiation, making it wiser to buy up stocks now. On a single day, around 4,000 tonnes of salt was sold in Zhejiang alone! Shops ran out of stocks, and when all the salt was gone, many zeroed in on soy sauce, due to its high salt content.