Sami Wong & Rochus Winkler, concept m Every Chinese Goddess Needs Her Break
We came across a quote from a famous Indian actor-producer, Amitabh Bachchan, who stated that: "Because you are women, people will force their thinking on you, their boundaries on you. They will tell you how to dress, how to behave, who you can meet and where you can go. Don't live in the shadows of people's judgement. Make your choices in the light of your own wisdom". Our team in China found this quote quite interesting, especially when we observed how Chinese women react to International Women's Day, which is celebrated on 8th March every year. Rather than simply calling it 'Women's Day' (妇女节), various Chinese terms have been created and used instead. The two most popular terms are Goddess' Day (女神节) and Queens' Day (女王节).
It’s amazing how using a simple term can reflect so much about a person’s mentality. It is important to understand the specific words used and its implicit meaning to the culture so that we can gain a better understanding of the psychological aspects of Chinese female consumers. In this case, the Chinese translation for women is 妇女 [fù nû] and the word 妇 [fù] was used to specify 'the married women'. Nowadays, 妇 [fù] applies to all female individuals over the age of 14 but, interestingly, most Chinese women tend to associate this word with "ageing" or "old age" and are quite reluctant to describe themselves using this word. This mentality was also reflected in our years of research with Chinese women in different age brackets. Some of them even revealed that staying young was absolutely paramount.
It seems that being young at heart is not enough; the ultimate goal is to maintain a youthful appearance forever. As we may all agree, most Chinese women already look much younger than their age, yet their fear of ageing continues to grow and does not subside. 'Goddess Day' has become a very popular term because it speaks directly to their aspirations. Not only does it nicely fulfil their needs of eternal youth, it also addresses their desire to be physically beautiful, elegant, mentally mature and wise, and most importantly, to be perfect and omnipotent. These desires are also highlighted in the term 'Queens' Day", where the sense of omnipotence is appealing and the need to be admired is particularly strong.
It is important to note that many expectations are placed on Chinese women and they are expected to be all-round champions. For example, in one of our depth interviews about womanhood, a 28-year-old female respondent expressed her exhaustion openly: "We are expected to be the perfect mom, wife and daughter-in-law at home, while being professional, strong and capable at work. Not only do we need to look after our parents, we also need to look after our husband’s parents, which can create many stressful conflicts with the in-laws. It takes more than strength to do so because it requires wisdom and skills".
This is a simple statement and yet, it bears a great sense of heaviness. It paints a picture of the common challenges and struggles that Chinese women face every day. At a young age, they are taught to become the all-rounder who handles every aspect of their lives with perfect grace. In a way, the world is weighing heavily on their shoulders. Now, let's imagine a brand using its products and services to further reinforce these expectations, it may tap into their current life situations and receive a few claps, but at the end of the day, it does not speak to their needs of being truly nurtured and understood. Perhaps, when we look at our Chinese marketing strategy again, we may want to dig deeper into the implicit needs of Chinese women rather than being fooled by their surface needs.
Without a doubt, it is important to emphasise the empowerment of womanhood, but it is equally important to make them feel understood, supported and guilt free, especially when sometimes they just simply want to regress into a child-like care free state of mind. At the end of the day, we all need a break.
The Authors: Sami Wong, Research Director at concept m and Rochus Winkler, managing partner of concept m research + consulting GmbH.