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Branding for China: The Role of Next Generation Consumers

The first question posed by Professor Peter Golder was “how does innovation relate to brands?” Brands are the way firms capture their innovation. Brand preferences of consumers tend to remain fairly stable over time. However, Professor Golder conducted a study to examine whether brand preferences may change over shorter periods of time in China.

His study’s methodology involved sending out questionnaires testing the recall of different brands. These were sent to approximately 500 university students at a particular university in China. The study examined various brand categories such as shoes, mobile phones, shampoos, etc.


  • Many people did not know whether their mobile phone was an international or domestic brand. However, over time, more people are becoming more aware of whether a brand is international.
  • People equally trust and have knowledge of international and domestic brands.
  • The factors, in order of importance, which affect brand recall are:
    • quality
    • friends
    • family
    • advertising.


  • Quality is the key driver in recalling a brand in China. Advertising is not as important.
  • Brand preferences do seem to change over short time periods.
  • Many people are unaware of whether a brand is international or domestic.

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What are the next big trends in China? Kunal Sinha suggested a few answers to this question, including:

  1. Beauty – there are over one million cosmetic surgeries/year in China. Many Chinese are increasingly interested in beauty products and services.
  2. Internet – there are 300 million internet users in China. This is a great opportunity to communicate with consumers.
  3. Food – there is a huge diversity of food wants across the country.

Ogilvy & Mather segment the Chinese market according to cultural differences and languages spoken. Six market segments were identified by Mr Sinha as the next big generations of consumers in China:

  1. 312 million children under the age of 15
  2. 143 million people above the age of 60
  3. The creatives
  4. The revivalists
  5. The expressionists
  6. The cynics

Mr Sinha gave examples of some striking statistics and trends for each of the above segments.

Peter Golder

Professor of Marketing and George and Edythe Heyman Faculty Fellow, New York University’s Stern School of Business

Peter Golder is Professor of Marketing and George and Edythe Heyman Faculty Fellow at New York University’s Stern School of Business. He has also held faculty appointments at UCLA and Peking University’s Guanghua School of Management. His primary research interests include new products, market entry, branding, and global marketing strategy. He has published many papers in leading academic journals including Marketing Science, Journal of Marketing, Journal of Marketing Research, and Management Science. His research has won five best-paper awards and been featured in The Wall Street Journal several times, as well as in The Financial Times, The Economist, Advertising Age, and other publications. He is the co-author of Will and Vision: How Latecomers Grow to Dominate Markets, which won the Berry Book prize and was also selected as one of the Top Ten Books of the Year by Harvard Business Review. He has appeared on CBS, CNN, and the Nightly Business Report to comment on business news stories.

Professor Golder has six years of professional experience in the aerospace and oil industries and has advised large and small companies on issues related to his research specialties. He received his Bachelor of Science in mechanical engineering from the University of Pennsylvania and his Doctor of Philosophy in business administration (marketing) from the University of Southern California.

Kunal Sinha

Ogilvy & Mather

Kunal Sinha is in charge of consumer insight & knowledge management function across all divisions of the company. He previously held the same responsibility in India.

He graduated in Physics (Hons) from Banaras Hindu University; followed by Post Graduation from Indian Institute of Mass Communication, New Delhi. He has spent almost 20 years in the advertising profession, mostly in the account planning and consumer insight functions, working in JWT & McCann-Erickson, besides Ogilvy. Ten of those years were spent in designing strategies for low-income communities. Kunal set up the consumer insight function at Ogilvy in India, pioneering the use of innovative methodologies such as media ethnography, semiotics and participant observation. His work encompasses trendspotting, cultural analysis and forecasting.

He is a six-time winner of the international WPP Atticus award for original thinking in the marketing services. He won the Grand Prix twice, in 1996 for his paper ‘Communication Effect – A Re-evaluation of Beliefs’, and in 2004 for ‘The Future of Technology and its Impact on our Lives’. In 2008, his book China’s Creative Imperative was a winner in the strategy category. He received Highly Commended certificates in 1997, for ‘Children as Communicators’ and 2003 for ‘Ogyani – Knowledge, Entertainment, Networking’. Kunal won the Best Paper at the Market Research Society of India conference in 2004 for his media ethnography work, and Best Paper for ‘New Trends and their impact on business and society’ at the 8th International Entrepreneurship Forum, organised by the University of Essex and Mudra Institute of Communications, Ahmedabad in 2008. He presented a paper on Marketing to India’s Underserved Consumers at Harvard Business School; the paper appears in the book, Business Solutions for the Global Poor, published by Jossey-Bass in 2007. Kunal wrote the afterword to Syracuse University professor Tej Bhatia’s book, Advertising & Marketing in Rural India. The chapter describes innovations in rural marketing in India.

He has been adjunct faculty at the Indian Institute of Mass Communication, AICAR Business School and National Institute of Advertising; and an invited speaker at London Business School, Kent State University, Johns Hopkins University, Mudra Institute of Communications, Peking University and Syracuse University. He has also conducted workshops on consumer insight at several graduate communication schools; as well as at Ogilvy. He was listed in the millennium edition of the Who’s Who in the World and has authored a large number of papers and articles in academic and business journals, and business newspapers across continents; he is an invited columnist for Advertising Age China. Kunal has spoken extensively at marketing and advertising events organised by WPP, Ogilvy, business schools and the media.

Kunal enjoys leading a double life – in his other one, he has published three books, ‘An Ordinary Traveller’, about travels in south Asia and ‘A Banarasi on Varanasi’, an insider’s perspective on the holy city, and ‘China’s Creative Imperative – How Creativity is Transforming Society and Business in China’. His photographs have appeared in Shots and Holiday Travel India.

Kunal lives in Shanghai with his wife and two children.