Words of a Generation

Above is the first of a series of seven videos we have made about the generation born in the 1970’s in China. They are, in effect, the generation whose work and efforts transformed China into the second largest and consistently one of the fastest growing economies in the world. In the space of one generation, over 300 million people have gone from near poverty to some form of ‘middle class’ prosperity. Millions more have moved from the countryside to the cities. The world has never before seen a transformation of this scale. It’s not likely to again.

Lots has been written on the economics, the industrialization, the urbanization and the environmental impacts of this transformation. The world and marketers have also been fascinated with China’s newly prosperous young, the millions born into this new middle class China with disposable income, cars, careers and the ‘normal’ concerns of their peers the world over. Let’s face it, their spending power could soon be the most important single economic force in the world.

But what is less talked about is that 70’s generation; their parents and uncles and aunties who built the modern China that they have inherited. The generation with one foot in the village and one in the high rise apartment. Right now, these are the ones with the money too.

But for marketers they are incredibly difficult to understand. The parents of the 70s generation suffered the cultural revolution and indeed many of them will remember that tumult in Chinese history themselves; their grandparents could have been on the Long March and many of the 70’s generation were born when Chairman Mao was still alive. That China they were born into was closed, communist and traditional.

The China they inhabit and largely built could not be more different. So how does this affect their attitudes to love, work, ‘consumption’ and technology and what do they dream and aspire to? The 28 people we interviewed in their homes in four Chinese cities are unbelievably candid about these subjects. We decided to commit this to video because we believe the substance of what they say is best seen and heard rather than produced in just another research report of quotes and stats that no one really takes the time to read; and even if they did, those stats and charts fail to communicate the character or the emotion we think these films do.

And we very much wanted to get those qualities over, because for many clients (and indeed colleagues) from the US and Europe, making the leap to understanding the scale of difference we are dealing with with the Chinese consumer generally and with this generation in particular, is hard. This generation is different, not like the same generation in, say, Sweden is different from their peers in France or the UK or the US. All of those 70s generations were born into democratic, ‘western’ and prosperous environments where being middle class was normal. Their cultures and language may differ but their economic and peaceful political circumstances were broadly similar. Their experience is entirely different to Chinese of the same age. And so….if you want to market successfully, you have to take that into account.

We are now publishing these films because as we have shown them to clients and colleagues in China (and indeed in other places like Vietnam and Indonesia) they have sparked comments and reminiscences about childhoods and growing up that have deepened our appreciation of what this generation has been through. We hope that in their publication they continue to do that.

In true Oscars style I would like to thank:

  • Amanda Mooney: our strategic planner in Shanghai and the heart and brains of the operation who has devoted weekends and much love to the project.
  • Jayga Rayn: our filmmaker.
  • Rui Xu: our researcher.
  • Christina Smedley: co-conspirator.
  • Rebecca Xia: for inspiring our focus on the 70s generation.
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1 thought on “Words of a Generation

  1. Mr. Brain I just recently stumbled upon the words of a generation produced by Amanda Mooney. Beautifully done. Hit me right at home. Please continue to make more of these insightful short documentaries.


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