Lesson 2 // Human Centered
Higher-order needs motivate consumers
Insight requires data, cultural context, and analysis
Chinese consumers have changed dramatically over the past 10 years. They are not only more affluent; they are more sophisticated as shoppers and more diverse in their needs and wants. Material well-being remains important, but so does health and wellness, the possibility of new experiences and, especially among young people, self-expression.
Understanding Chinese consumers today, in all their diversity, requires access to multiple data sources, knowledge of cultural context, and complex analysis to yield empathetic, human-centered insights about the priorities in peoples’ lives and their relationship with brands. Across categories, brands are trying to meet these priorities with products and services that address the underlying emotional want or need.
Ping An, the financial services giant is providing insurance products to satisfy the desire for greater financial security. In education, New Oriental, Xueersi, and VIPKID address the aspirations that parents have for their children’s future. The O2O services of lifestyle platform brands, such as Meituan, Ele.me, and Dianping, respond to the need people have for managing their hectic lives with more convenience and efficiency.
Going forward, being human centered will increase in importance for brands in China. More independent minded than earlier generations, according to Kantar research, GenZ individuals will gravitate to brands that understand and respond to both their basic and higher-order needs. They will adopt certain brands as expressions of their identity.
Four characteristics of a human-centered brand
Kantar has identified the following four characteristics of a human-centered brand. First, human-centered brands understand that human decision-making is as emotionally based as it is functional or rational. Fundamental needs of human existence, such as security, dictate many brand choices on purely subjective grounds.
Second, human-centered brands recognize that brands can go beyond being a simple shorthand for making everyday choices. Brand choices also represent and communicate personal identity. Third, human-centered brands identify and become associated with higher order emotional needs of consumers, such as status and self-actualization. Finally, human-centered brands establish a bond of trust based on inclusiveness and integrity.
Key Takeaways // Human Centered
Brand Building for Future Growth
- Tell a human story
Tell a human-centered story that connects with consumers and engages with them on a deep and sustainable level. Help consumers understand that the product or service being offered is more than the sum of its functionality and benefits, that it answers a basic human need and will improve their lives.
- Rely on insight
Discover these enduring human needs by searching for a deeper insight. Brands anchored in these verities are more likely to sustain growth over time, despite market fluctuations and even as particular products or services evolve with changing tastes and technologies.
- Appreciate the cultural context
China’s rapid change over the last several decades created a tension between the need for rapid economic growth to improve people’s material well-being and need to protect and cultivate the natural world to nourish people’s human and spiritual needs. China today is rebalancing, finding the sweet spot where technology helps sustain the natural world and peoples’ place in it. This rebalancing manifests in many ways: People are shifting from appreciating artificiality to appreciating naturalness; from socially hierarchical behavior to more authentic behavior.
- Match art with science
Revealing these insights requires a mix marketing art and science. The art is in discovering the insight hidden in the data. And not just any insight, but an insight that can be commercialized with a product or service that is scalable and can improve-even transform-life. The science includes observation, data collection, and analytics.
- Communicate across touchpoints
Brands anchored in human insights can create more relevant products and services and communicate with greater resonance at every touchpoint, including advertising, packaging, and online and offline retail. For example, the new appreciation of nature and naturalness is expressed with the words and images that connote ideals like purity, authenticity, and simplicity.
- Look beyond borders
Being human centered means exactly that. The enduring wants and needs are not specifically Chinese. They are shared by people across the globe. Universal insights that emerge from global data are especially powerful. They provide a sturdy foundation on which to build brand strategy, innovation, experience, and creative communication that can resonate in China and be adapted for overseas expansion.