China Insights

Ready for the challenge from Buddhist-style consumers?

Emily Chen

Research Consultant

Social 05.01.2018 / 18:02

Buddhist word cloud 2 col

When young consumers claim they are having fewer and fewer demands – just like Buddhists, how can brands reconnect with them?

The demotivation culture (丧文化) has grown in popularity since early 2017, which refers to the trend that more people, especially younger generation, claim all they see in life are negative signs and there are no hope things will get better, so they would give up the fight and go down with it.

As a result, BoJack Horseman and Pepe the Frog (the Sad frog) became surprisingly popular among young Chinese as symbols of the sub-cultural trend.

In early December, a leading WeChat account Xinshixiang (新世相) published an article “The First Post-90 Generations Have Already Become Monks”. This hugely popular and impactful article (more than 100,000 reads and 25,000 likes) made the phrase “Buddhist-style” (佛系) an overnight buzzword. The keen followers of this phrase included the majority of the Post-90s, as well as Post-80s. The rise of “Buddhist-style” at the end of 2017 lifted the demotivation culture trend to another level.

Xinshixiang Article

The “Buddhist-style” consumers generally have an indifferent attitude towards almost everything in life. Very seldom will they show strong emotions. They accept everything coming their way, good or bad. It seems that it is hard to establish emotional bond with them. In fact, this sub-cultural trend indicates that younger generations have started to explore and think about their self-worth and spiritual pursuits. What are the best moves for brands to reconnect with them against the background of "Buddhist-style” mentality? 

Word Cloud of Weibo Discussion of "Buddhist-style" -- Data Source: Kantar Media CIC

0104-Word Cloud

What Kantar Media CIC says:

The “Buddhist-style” mentality is not a barrier but rather a new direction – it mostly derived from the self-mockery spirit of young people. If brands simply build campaigns on consumers’ pain points and hopelessness, the result will be the exact opposite of what they wished, such as the catastrophic campaign from Ant Financial – “the older you are, the fewer people will forgive that you have little money”.

Being cynical is not equal to having no principles. The claim of “let it be” is a silent calling for a new hope.

Therefore, user generated contents should be fully leveraged to explore the true emotional needs of consumers to build empathy between brands and consumers. Brands should aim to transform their brand messages from product driven to establishing communications at spiritual levels, only through that approach can they build solid and deeper connections with young consumers.

Source: Kantar Media CIC

Editor's notes

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