Here is a classic example of how global brands, business, advertising, marketing and the newsmedia can create and perpetuate the ’emerging market’ strategies that lead to the fiascos mentioned in my earlier post Design Thinking: The process of entering a new market.
Last week, Brand Noise had a post titled " 12 things to know about the Chinese consumer" where I first read about JWT‘s white paper on the Chinese market and characteristics. Skimming through it quickly, I filed it away for future reference. Two days later, I saw reference to the same study pop up in Fast Company, now titled "The Confucian Consumer". Noting the difference, I went back to take a look, and sure enough, JWT’s press release refers to Tom Doctoroff’s book, which is titled, Billions: Selling to the New Chinese Consumer YET their handy 12 step guide refers to the Chinese as "Confucian Consumer". What’s the big deal, you may ask, and why am I picking on such a minor difference in choice of words?
FC linked to Adrants, where I found this powerful argument ,
The main complaint is the trotting out of Confucius to "frame the market for American business people" writes
the China Herald weblog that doing so "creates the illusion that there
is one driving force in the Chinese market you can use as a beacon in
an often chaotic situation."
But wait! There’s more. Let’s take this thought one step further [or deeper]. I’ve been reading Amartya Sen’s The Argumentative Indian (and obviously getting inspired by it:P) and from his chapter titled "China and India" [originally a shorter article published in The New York Review of Books] I’ve copied here a pertinent paragraph,
Indeed, religious reductionism has been reinforced in recent years by the contemporary obsession with classifying the world population into distinct ‘civilizations’ defined principally by religion (well illustrated, for example, by Samuel Huntington‘s partitioning of the world into such categories as ‘Western civilizaton’, ‘Islamic civilization’, ‘Buddhist civiliation’, ‘Hindu civilization’). There is, as a result, a tendency to see people mainly – or even entirely – in terms of their religion, even though that attribution of a singular identity can miss out on much that is important. This segregation has already done significant harm to the understanding of other parts of the global histroy of ideas and commitments…
There is an odd dichotomy in the way in which Western and non Western ideas and scholarship are currently comprehended, with a tendency to attribute a predominant role to religiosity in interpreting the works of non Western intellectuals who had secular interests along with strong religious beliefs. It is, for example, not assumed that, say, Isaac Newton’s scientific work must be understood in primarily Christian terms (even though he had Christian beliefs), nor presumed that his contributions to worldly knowledge must somehow be interpreted in the light of his deep interest in mysticism […]
In contrast, when it comes to non Western cultures, religious reductionism tends to exert a gripping influence.
And finally to underscore these words from Sen, I close this post with a quote from the China Herald mentioned by Adrants above, from the post aptly titled "Do we need Confucious to sell aftershave in China?",
Confucius has become for me a kind of symbol: when somebody needs
the Chinese sage to explain the Chinese market, you know this person
had no clue.
While easy twelve step answers are tempting to make sense of large and complex markets, their very ‘simplicity’ only serves to demonstrate the need for truly making an effort to understand and observe the market you wish to serve. Who was it who said that simplistic and simple are two entirely different words? I found it,
Very often, people confuse simple with simplistic. The nuance is lost on most. (Clement Mok)