For both businesses and consumers, Covid-19 has altered landscapes and shifted paradigms. Next-level health consciousness is now apparent everywhere, and especially in China, where fitness app KEEP boosted its followers by 18% in the first five days of the virus outbreak.
New products have also been rushed to market that serve to soothe consumers’ desire to improve not just themselves but what’s around them. Designer Meng Yueming produced a jacket with enhanced ‘protective anti-viral features’ in February 2020, while local designers developed protective products such as Frank Chou’s sterilising lamp.
The link between this global pandemic and increased desire for anything considered sustainable and well is evident. Jiaqi Luo, China essayist, states that ‘the pandemic is a wake-up call for Chinese consumers. There has been a self-reflection moment on social media, as people thought the crisis today is the nature's punishment for human greed.’
One immediate yet simple consumer response has been the growth of negative reactions to livestream sellers promoting over-packaged products. Another is the desire for everyday people to ‘do their bit’. From Weibo (China’s Twitter) to local podcasts, many mainstream apps in China have created sections dedicated to Covid-19. The features range from accepting donations to supporting farmers by buying produce directly.
Forming a long term – and sustainable – business plan that combines sustainability with a quest for ‘well’ products must now come into focus for brands operating in China. Businesses must go beyond efforts such as charity donations and carbon offsetting, many of which are already expected tokenisms that consumers may not even notice. Research projects must be undertaken to map out where consumers are in a massive country and a vast demographic scale. And for new business initiatives planned, how can each customer easily share this on the key Chinese social platforms – and what will prompt them and others to do so?
While China is often painted as an intense battleground for getting the fleeting attention of Generation Z digital natives amid a mysterious world of whizz-bang apps, Covid-19 means brands have been afforded a little breathing space to get their future-facing, sustainably-minded strategies right.
Lee Folland is director of research at Reuter Communications, an integrated agency helping luxury brands succeed in China and Asia.
Amid the rise of Post-Pupose Brands and the outbreak of the coronavirus, we are being encouraged to consider the sustainability of the future. For more on how Covid-19 is impacting your sector, watch our webinar now.