The World Federation of Advertisers has been holding its annual conference in Beijing as part of the organisation's Global Advertising Week. The sessions mixed local and international marketers, and presentations in both English and Mandarin. Not everything made it through the translators - one particular reference to a "sausage scandal” drew puzzled looks from the non-Chinese delegates.

There's plenty to write up, and we'll be running a full report on Warc next week. But as a taster, it's worth highlighting some interesting points made by Julia Goldin, global CMO of Revlon.

Revlon has conducted research into the attitudes of women in China, especially those aged 20-39. The study, she said, highlighted three "tensions”:

  1. Chinese women are more confident than women in any other country Revlon has surveyed when it comes to their personal situation and earning potential. They have not been affected by recession, unlike women in the West, and have equal opportunities to men. There is a large ‘achiever' segment that has a desire to succeed, to gain wealth and power. However, in what remains a conservative country, women also retain a strong focus on family and what they perceive to be their ‘duty'. How to resolve these two situations is the first tension.
  2. On a topic more directly relevant to Revlon, there is a traditional expectation of ‘beauty' in China that involves an understated approach to dress and make-up. But there is a growing desire to stand out from the crowd through choice of dress or personal appearance. Again, this is an emerging tension, and will influence the way Revlon markets products such as colour lipstick.
  3. The Chinese market is not short of beauty brands – the Western players compete with a host of brands from Japan and Korea.

"There is an assumption that the market is sophisticated because of the number of products available,” said Goldin.

But in fact, women in China know relatively little about the difference between beauty products and how they are used. Many purchase decisions are made on price (high price equals prestige), not the function of the product.

Their number one source of information is word-of-mouth, particularly online, with TV as number two. There is a clear role for brands in this situation to explain to consumers what their brands are actually for.