Chinese consumers are becoming increasingly accustomed to the concept of brand purpose, aligning themselves with their counterparts in the West, but it’s essential brands recognise that consumers in China also expect brand purpose to be localised.

This means brands must look to define their role domestically and to build new levels of trust and respect with Chinese consumers, who require brands to be accountable for their actions and to play a greater role in the advancement of society, especially concerning China’s development.

These are some of the headline findings from a new study by WE Red Bridge, the global communications agency, and seen by PRWeek Asia, which asserts that Chinese consumers have unique needs coupled with high expectations.

Specifically, the WE study found that half (49%) of Chinese survey participants (no sample is provided) expect brands to focus on improving local communities, a full nine points higher than the global average.

In addition, around four in ten (39%) say brands should focus on both local communities and global issues (14 points lower than the global average), suggesting again the priority given to domestic concerns.

Overall, 83% of Chinese consumers expect brands to take a stand on important issues, which is nine points higher than the global average, and 94% say they would criticise or shame a brand perceived to be stepping out of line.

And an accompanying poll of business executives suggested that almost three-quarters (72%) believe current political and social trends are pushing brands to define their purpose.

A full 89% of them say it is an “urgent task” to have a clearly defined purpose, while all (100%) say it is “important” for a company to own a purpose. However, questions remain as to whether these good intentions translate into action on the ground.

For example, while 73% of business executives agree that brand purpose will become as important as financial performance, almost two-thirds (60%) say purpose will not get priority if the bottom line is compromised.

Explaining the last finding, Emmanuel Dean, CEO and co-founder of Boomi, a Shanghai-based sustainable solutions start-up, noted: “I think in China purpose is still commoditised.

“For example, hotels only became interested in purchasing our bamboo brushes, not because they are sustainable, but because the government banned plastic toiletries in Shanghai. The new regulation is the trigger rather than their own initiative, making it not 100% genuine.”

Sourced from PRWeek Asia; additional content by WARC staff