Passive Chinese

Ratan Malli

Chinese consumers are brand-loyal because they are reluctant to try something new, not because they actively love the incumbents.

Walk through the haircare aisle of a typical Chinese retail outlet and you will notice that the three prominent brands on the shelf are Rejoice, Head & Shoulders and Pantène.

This prominence is not so surprising, given that they are the three leading haircare brands in the Chinese market today. What is more remarkable is that these were also the three leading brands in 1995. Such constancy may sit a bit uneasily with the popular perception of China being a country that is in a state of continuous change.

The situation regarding leading brands in haircare is replicated in most other categories, where the historical brand pecking order remains largely unchanged over the last decade.

The reality is that, although Chinese consumers live in a rapidly changing economy and living environment, they are relatively more averse to changing their brands than their counterparts in more developed markets.