Importance of Category Differentiation in China


Like a broken record player … playing a cool and progressive record, I am often caught saying “The category is saturated in China, consumers are simply inundated with choices”.

Take cosmetics for example, there are hundreds of brands – Western, Japanese, Korean, and of course increasingly sophisticated locals – all competing for essentially the same prize. This can be understood as a crowded room with a lot of elaborately dressed people speaking at the same time in loud to an extremely loud voices.

Consumers, as visitors to this room, who catch different parts of the conversations and make decisions based on this complete, or often incomplete, information.   The rules are ruthlessly simple – say something that is relevant and interesting, so that guests gravitate to you rather others in the room.

Perhaps an unrealistic expectation from marketers, agencies and researchers is that consumers can describe this room and how it operates.

What is required is an abstracted creation of this room from a cultural perspective, identifying the key types of conversations occurring in the room and the specific points of views of those talking.

From this, we can hypothesize how this world operates, the rules that govern it, and how to operate optimally within it as a brand.

It is like introducing a magic moment akin to when people turnaround in Plato’s cave or when Neo takes the red pill in The Matrix.  Or similar to an out-of-body experience, where you can literally float above your category, seeing exactly how to position your brand in relation to everybody else.

Undertaking this cultural approach as a first step, means we know the right questions to ask when engaging with consumers, and their precious time.  A map to chart a specific strategic journey, rather a random search for answers.

Important anyway, but essential in China!  Here, the “noise” in the room is deafening, a cultural approach to your category provides some silence and contextual respite from which to understand the big picture and your core challenge.

To help brands in China differentiate clearly in their category, Resonance SMART offers our unique Category Decoder © – an intuitive and actionable window on your category in China.
Any questions on the value of category insight – email me at  

About Author

Jerry Clode

Jerry Clode is Head of Digital & Social Insight at Resonance. He leads Resonance SMART, providing leading-edge research, strategy and naming for brands in China using bespoke methodologies. Jerry also produces Resonance's popular China Social Branding Report, a bi-weekly publication covering modern marketing methods of the world's top brands.

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