Lin Lei - Chairman, TNS Sinotrust

A TNS Sinotrust online survey recently looked into the habits of the Post-90s, the generation of Chinese youth born after 1990. It found that 72 percent of Post-90s university students have a driver’s certificate, and 7 percent own a car. In addition, they are inclined to impulse buy and have a bigger voice in their families’ decision-making in comparison with previous generations. Though they may not be as financially enabled as their elders, they boast enormous potential to automakers and dealers in the coming years.

Post-90s believe that entertainment comes first. They are playful and are willing to pay for the experience.

In the minds of Generation X who grew up with bicycles, cars are an aspirational possession, and viewed as anything from a vital travel tool to a beloved family member. However, for Post-90s who have been immersed in car culture since birth, cars are playthings and fun accessories. Considering the changing role of cars for the target audience, automakers need to highlight “playfulness” in branding and product marketing to ensure success.

Engaging with Post-90s through playful communication approaches

Our recent survey revealed that whereas Generation X consumers are more concerned with brandquality, Post-90s care more about a brand’s personality and relevance to themselves. With this in mind, laid-back, humorous communication is more appealing to them. In the past, automakers have attempted to connect their brand image with aspirational concepts of achievement and responsibility. Yet Post-90s are more attracted to grass-root, personal campaigns. As a group, they are self-expressive and far more likely to get involved and share their feelings and thoughts on brands and products. Coupled with this, is the fact that they are hungry for recognition, seeking praise and acceptance of their shared thoughts, often on social media. In order to cater for this marked change in personality, brands need to provide fun, emotional, and interactive marketing campaigns to create opportunities for Post-90s to take part and share their experience.

For example, last year Coca Cola created a range of “Share a coke” bottles inspired by buzzwords were popular with Chinese youngsters. These immediately chimed with Post-90s, and resulted in widespread social media activity and sharing. Likewise, the P&G campaign “My Youth Doesn’t Follow the Beaten Path” launched this year adopted language and slang favoured by Post-90s. It secured millions of forwards and comments on social network sites and racked up over 300 million views. Such examples are worthwhile bearing in mind for the auto sector.

Creating playful products

Post-90s are both self-aware and self-conscious, wanting the latest product and brand to ensure they stay ahead of the trends. According our survey, when talking about the products they use, 67.7 percent of Post-90s agreed with the statement: “I like change rather than invariableness”. In addition, 43 percent said they liked to be unique, a proportion much higher than that of Generation X. Post-90s are broad-minded, and many have a good knowledge of cars. Some are even keen to use DIY skills to build unique cars – something automakers should bear in mind – highlighting how one size does not fit all. To cater for these needs, some automakers are starting to offer multiple DIY schemes at the car purchase point, including body and interior colour coordination, and feature packages for the emerging consumers who are demanding distinctive products that will make them stand out amongst their peers.