Breaking News on Beverage Technology & Markets

News > Markets

Read more breaking news


Guest article

How to market beverages to a ‘hipster demographic’ in China

Post a commentBy Andrew Kuiler , 29-Aug-2017
Last updated on 29-Aug-2017 at 17:16 GMT2017-08-29T17:16:13Z

Nongfu Spring.  Picture: Horse design agency.
Nongfu Spring. Picture: Horse design agency.

‘"Hipsters" in Chinese has a special meaning. The closest approximation, 文艺青年, literally translates to “young people into literature and art.”

In the United States, the word "hipster" typically refers to young urban professionals, a trendy in-group with conspicuous consumption habits.

Chinese hipsters identify with products and brands that they feel personally connected to. To market to this group, beverage brands must understand what moves them and respond accordingly.

Who are Chinese hipsters?

This subculture has more access to non-Chinese information and entertainment, which has shaped a culture that blends traditional China with elements of Western and other Asian countries.

Most of these hipsters come from single-child families with doting parents and grandparents. They have disposable income and travel experiences that provide perspective on Western brands and marketing.

Consequently, they flock to social media, which reduces their reliance on commercialized sources in favor of more authentic experiences and brand stories.

AB InBev has leveraged its understanding of this group into a 4% increase in market share . After purchasing Goose Island and Shanghai’s Boxing Cat Brewery, the brand turned a Beijing unveiling into a social media event, providing free beer and selfie opportunities to grow its presence in the region.

To capture this market, Western brands must adhere to three simple rules:

1. Speak their language

Young, hip Chinese consumers look for traits other than the functional benefits of beverages, such as taste. They crave an emotional connection to brands, and companies can provide that through unique experiences.

Harbin Beer gained a following  within this group by promoting “happy relationships and happy times.” Using celebrities and social media influencers, other brands can grab the attention of Chinese hipsters and spread their stories organically.

2. Promote authentic purpose

This demographic prizes authentic connections to local culture and old truths. Outside brands can tap into that affinity by infusing their marketing efforts with socio-cultural insights.

Nongfu Spring accomplished this through an excellent water packaging campaign  incorporating traditional Chinese art to add a vintage touch.

Hipsters want to belong to exclusive groups, however, which means brands cannot sell out to local culture entirely. Striking a balance between authentic connection and established identity is key.

3. Build a selfie-worthy physical presence

Create experiences beyond packaging appeal, as hipsters seek unique stories. Pop-up concepts like artisanal cafes, funky-flavored beverage stands, and craft breweries stand out from the crowd.

Brands should promote these experiences on social media to generate interest. Hey Tea, a popular local brand, created a frenzy for the social experience  it provides beyond the beverages themselves.

By emphasizing authenticity and providing unique experiences, beverage brands can capture their share of the Chinese hipster market.’

Andrew Kuiler is CEO of The Silk Initiative (TSI), a food and beverage (packaged goods and retail) brand strategy and insights consultancy in China. Clients include Campbell’s, PepsiCo, Arla, Vita Coco, Mars Wrigley, and Tyson Meats.

Post a comment

Comment title *
Your comment *
Your name *
Your email *

We will not publish your email on the site

I agree to Terms and Conditions

These comments have not been moderated. You are encouraged to participate with comments that are relevant to our news stories. You should not post comments that are abusive, threatening, defamatory, misleading or invasive of privacy. For the full terms and conditions for commenting see clause 7 of our Terms and Conditions ‘Participating in Online Communities’. These terms may be updated from time to time, so please read them before posting a comment. Any comment that violates these terms may be removed in its entirety as we do not edit comments. If you wish to complain about a comment please use the "REPORT ABUSE" button or contact the editors.

Related products

Related suppliers

Key Industry Events