It has been almost 6 months since I joined Vans. Well… I have to admit…After 6.5 years of preaching Nike and Jordan brand cultures to the Chinese consumers, it does feel different to serve for another brand. There are a lot of similarities between the skateboard and the swoosh brand, since the essence for both are to advocate cultures.
But Vans feels somewhat different. It is raw, unpolished, younger, more free, and much more rebellious.
It feels like underground with a group of misfits.
In a nutshell, unique.
Selling culture isn’t an easy business, especially now we are living in an ever-changing and materials-over-saturated world with too many me-too brands. Every brand claims to be different, yet the majority of them fail to differentiate.
So here comes the question – How does a global brand stays locally relevant? In particular, in China market, basically it has its own systems and rules that is completely different from the rest of the world. In the digital world, China has one of the most sophisticated digital eco-system with two predominant players – Tencent and Ali – and the most advanced e-commerce capabilities that got them to lead the world since 2015. In brick and motar, Chinese consumers are savvy and skeptical about what they buy and the brand spirits and stories behind can play huge role in their decision making process. Pure transaction or simple promotion tactic simply doesn’t work.
I remembered when I first joined Vans, a friend of mine told me finally I am going to be a cool kid. I was like, am I not cool? She said I was acting too much like oppa, and by spending more time with these youngsters or studying them, I will find out what real street culture is all about…
And then the past 161 days I’ve immersed myself into the world of cool kids. Through doing projects, visiting stores, observing trends, and reading virtual and physical documents, I finally came to a better realization about the so called “GenZ Youth Culture.” It is really about comfortably being yourself. It’s ok to be an ordinary kid. This generation of GenZ in China love unscripted and raw materials, they search for authentic and meaningful connections with brands, and they are quite patriotic. Especially post-olympic. Record breaking high.
So how does the Southern Cali brand formed over a half of a century ago can remain true to itself while staying relevant with the above? My short conclusion is – Meaningful consumer engagement.
As for what does “meaningful” mean?
Guess I will continue to deep dive and find out!