To find the hottest trend in China's personal care and grooming
industries, head to the men's department.
Driven by a shift away from tradition toward metrosexual style
and individual expression, China's male skin-care market is worth
almost $1 billion in retail sales. That has prompted manufacturers
to launch male-specific brands, including Procter &
Gamble's Olay Men Solutions, L'Oreal Men Expert, Nivea for Men and
Mentholatum, at premium price points.
China's market for men's skin-care products has "exploded" in
the past five years, with men adopting a grooming regimen, said
Alexander Dony, Procter &
Gamble's managing director for male-grooming brands-Greater
China. He was speaking on the latest episode of "Thoughtful China,"
an online marketing-affairs talk show produced in Shanghai.
That's good news for prestige and luxury brands. "Chinese
consumers tend to enter the beauty-care category from the high end,
and then move lower,"Mr. Dony said. "Common brands of entry include
Chanel and Dior, which is obviously very different from Western
markets, where consumers start with a lower entry brand and work
A key target is young, affluent urbanites focused on career,
social success and settling down. Chinese men are more engaged than
European men in their personal-care regime, using one additional
category per week, according to Kantar Worldpanel. With the
exception of oral-care products, frequency of use in all categories
is higher in China than in Europe.
Segmentation tends to be strongest by generation, said William
Marks, senior account manager at Kantar Worldpanel's Shanghai
office, which researches China's grooming and skin-care
One brand that stands out in Kantar's recent study is Unilever's Lynx, known as Axe in some
markets. Lynx targets 16- to 25-year-olds with a sexy brand image
and racy ads by BBH China
featuring Edison Chen, an actor and pop star (with a sex scandal
behind him) who is one of Asia's most popular celebrities.
China's uneven gender ratio (106 men to 100 women) is also
encouraging skin-care marketers to focus on men. And its 700
million male consumers aren't interested only in personal grooming.
Sales in other traditionally masculine categories such as spirits,
cars and sports gear are climbing fast.
Most consumers buying luxury goods in China are men. Chinese men spent $1.1
billion on their wardrobes in 2010, dwarfing the $444 million that
women spent, according to a recent Bain report. The market for
luxury menswear was expected to rise 9% last year, vs. 7% for
women's wear (final figures are not yet in).
Marketers should beware that "aspirational" and "premium" are
overused words and that their meaning varies dramatically
throughout China, said Rob Campbell, regional head of strategy at
Wieden & Kennedy, Shanghai, Nike 's agency in China. "Marketers
need to understand the conflicted optimism that 's going on."
In another misconception, Western marketers often view Chinese
men as passive, said Lawrence Law, brand director-engagement
marketing for Moet Hennessy Diageo's Johnnie Walker brand in
China. "There is this hunger and motivation to learn about new
things. If you do [branding] right and consistently, consumers will
share the story with others."
Normandy Madden is senior VP-content development, Asia/Pacific
at Thoughtful China, and Ad Age 's former Asia Editor. See earlier
episodes of Thoughtful China.