The Year of the Pig has seen many luxury Western brands operating in China suffer a backlash after offending Chinese sensitivities on various matters, but there are ways they can avoid this in the coming year, an industry expert suggests.

“In this year alone, there were more than forty noticeable cultural missteps from brands compared to an average of one or two per year at the beginning of this decade,” says Marc-Olivier Arnold, Chief Strategy Officer and Partner at luxury business consultancy RTG Consulting China.

Writing for WARC, he warns that Western luxury brands can move rapidly from icon to irrelevance if they aren’t careful.

“An ill-judged symbol, a careless comment on social media, a bad crisis communication, or a clumsy and insincere apology, could wipe out years of market penetration in one fell swoop.”

The way to avoid such scenarios, he says, is to “prepare to the nth degree”. (For more, read the full article: How luxury brands can avoid mis-stepping during China’s year of the rat.)

That means developing an “authentic and deep understanding” of Chinese consumers’ relationship “with themselves, their culture, and their collective national identity”: look at their environment and identify movements that are shaping local perspectives, he advises.

There’s a new generation of Chinese consumers who are far more open than their predecessors to new ways of living, thinking and being, Arnold notes, but they are also reconnecting with their own cultural roots.

“They are looking to the past to find meaning and stability, and more importantly to determine their relationship with the now,” he says.

And with the nation having just celebrated the 70th year anniversary of the People’s Republic of China, national sentiment and identity is at a fever-pitch.

“The up-coming Year of the Rat presents itself as a great opportunity for any foreign luxury brands to play a role in heightening the sense of respect to this country,” Arnold states. “Understanding how the old ways worked and mixing it with new ways of being” will be the recipe for success.

He adds that this may also involve brands giving greater autonomy to local teams in order to ensure cultural sensitivities are respected.

Sourced from WARC