BEIJING (AdAgeChina.com) -- The small and cramped nature of apartments and houses in China creates big opportunities for marketers. Beyond selling durable objects like television sets and computers, they can help buyers create moods to spruce up living spaces by providing tips on home decor and by giving their own products a broader range of colors, textures and even social skills.
Sony and Samsung, for example, could include decorating advice as a part of the setup guide for big items such as flat-screen TV sets. Seasonal promotions could offer décor options at special prices.
These ideas may sound frivolous but they are a great way for challenger brands to add value beyond discounting and to build brand equity in a fragmented and competitive marketplace.
Leading brands, meanwhile, could take their differentiation one notch higher by adding a service and experience component to their product offering.
Why? Chinese are already actively trying to do this on their own with household articles like microwave ovens, TV sets, water dispensers, home audio systems, DVD players and desktop computers. How these items are displayed in Chinese homes can say a lot about the relationship these products have with their owners, particularly when they are placed in the living room, the most important room in a Chinese home.
Across many of China's second-tier cities, for example, water dispensers are adorned with lace netting. Besides protecting it from dust, the lace helps muffle the water dispenser's otherwise boring shape and dull presence. Large TV sets are also shrouded in lace, while box-like microwave ovens often are topped with an embroidered sheath.
The use of these covers speaks volumes about the unstated needs of consumers, many of who are first time buyers of home electronics, appliances and computers:
--There is a clear need for making things look good -- the need to beautify.
--There is a desire to make the thing look more personal -- the need to personalize.
--There is a need to keep things in good shape for longer -- the need to protect.
--There is subconscious need to domesticate the home PC -- a desire to make the computer space at home not look like an office space.
Relative misfits among home articles like the water dispenser are begging to be hidden away from sight but the users do not yet have a solution they can feel proud of.
This is especially true for small-sized residential units that do not offer the luxury of extra space to hide away unattractive household items.
As a result, every year 39.8 million television sets, over 13 million audio and home theater systems, more than 7.45 million new microwaves and as many as 8.86 million water dispensers are picked from the market and packed into an average area of not more than 60 square-meters.
Chinese consumers' dilemma offers an opportunity for marketers of products which are increasingly difficult to differentiate. They should transform themselves into marketers of unique living experiences that are difficult to copy.
Now is the right time to act. As the Chinese market grows and consumers evolve, the next stage of differentiation will need to be earned by creating value for consumer in ways beyond the product or price.
Saurabh Sharma is strategic planning director at Ogilvy & Mather, Beijing.
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