The perilous challenge of Chinese storytelling

Cristina D’Agostino

By Cristina D’Agostino22 septembre 2021

While it is true that it is very profitable for luxury brands to collaborate with Chinese influencers - some of whom have more than 100 million fans, like the actress, singer and TV personality Xie Na with 129 million followers on Weibo - it is becoming increasingly difficult to adjust to their language. While in the West a luxury brand has to be inclusive and consider caring for all communities and minorities in its image campaigns, the cultural gap widens when it comes to implementing them in China. Just think of the Chinese authorities' willingness to sanction differences and dominant positions.

A double problem arises. How to satisfy both the culture of one's own country and appeal to the world's largest consumer of luxury goods, without falling into the trap of cancel culture that abounds in both the West and the East? While the list of taboos and faux pas to be avoided in China is getting longer and longer, the rise of a nationalistic feeling towards Chinese brands is accelerating. According to the article "Chinese Fashion First: Consumer Nationalism and 'China Chic'" on the What's on Weibo platform, the hashtag "I support Xinjiang cotton" received a staggering 7.9 billion views on Weibo in just a few weeks after the announced boycotts of brands such as H&M, Burberry or Nike. It is clear today that the Chinese consumer, especially from generation Z, no longer has the same opinion of the Chinese brand, which has often remained downgraded. The survey conducted last April by the national media Global Times Research Center in 107 cities in China shows that "more than 75% of respondents agree that domestic products could totally or partially replace Western products."

An issue that will inevitably affect the luxury industry in the medium term.

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