Part 1: Theta-Lambda Mentality of the Chinese Consumer

Isaac Mostovicz writes that Doctoroff's 'Confucian Conflict' model parallels with Theta-Lambda dichotomy...

Luxury Shopping CenterI came across a very interesting piece by Tom Doctoroff in the Huffinton Post. Titled ‘The Confucian Consumer and Chinese luxury: FAQs’, it explores the differences of the Chinese mentality on luxury goods and how establishing a luxury brand in China should also be implemented in an approach that is reflective of this. China’s continued economic growth and effect on the global market has become so prominent that it has become a recurring theme in many of my blog posts, with looks at its effect on the diamond market, property market, auto market and even art market. Therefore, Doctoroff’s FAQ comes at an opportune time to explore the mentality behind China’s booming economy alongside my theory of the Theta-Lambda relationship.

According to Doctoroff, China’s luxury population is very young because it is a very ambitious society. The Chinese adhere to an ideology which he calls the ‘Confucian Conflict’, regimentation vs. ambition for innovation. This conflict is very similar to the Theta-Lambda persona. China’s regimentation parallels Thetas’ own importance on comfort, affiliation and belonging, while Lambdas’ search for challenge, achievement and differentiation are synonymous with China’s ambition for moving forward.

Unique to this Chinese mentality is their desire to maintain this conflict, this ying-yang balance.

Individualism in China (in the sense of society encouraging individuals to define themselves outside of that society) doesn’t really exist here. But on the other hand, ego – the demand for acknowledgement – is very powerful.

Doctoroff further says that luxury goods in China are a sign of the consumer’s intention to ‘play in the game’, to become a potential competitor for that spot at the top. What we are seeing here is a very strong Lambda trait of that need for acknowledgement.

Despite having this ‘Confucian Conflict’, Doctoroff describes what can only be a Chinese consumer pyramid. At the top you get your most elite, but to stay on top, he must have reached a high level of mastery and connoisseurship that he can ultimately demonstrate and manipulate however he wants.

An example would be Audi 8, where you’re establishing a parallel between the craftsmanship and attention to detail and ancient Chinese art. So again, it’s for somebody that has truth and ultimate mastery.

This somebody could well be a Theta because of its high emphasis on truth, unity and brilliance. Next down the pyramid are men who are moving forward whilst in the middle of their journeys. Then we have the independent women and at the widest point, we have the youth.

So for the people on top – and this gets back to the resolution of the Confucian Conflict – it’s about a need to tick competitors away who are angling from below to maintain their position at the top. It’s a way of subtly exerting power and control…So then you move into new luxury, and these are people that need to demonstrate they shine through, but always through substance – because they can never be superficial. Their complex is that they need to move up the hierarchy, but their ambitions can’t be too blatant. This is not a space where you crash through gates; rules are sacred. So it’s a way of demonstrating progress, a reassurance that new money doesn’t need to be uncouth.

Again, this model of behaviour takes parts from both Theta and Lambda personalities. You are ambitious and seeking achievement in the highest form possible, yet you are not ostentatious in the respect that you still observe social boundaries and rules for fitting in, if still only in appearance. This is very different to trends in Western culture where society encourages individualism and western marketing reflects this. It is for this reason that a western marketing approach to China’s consumers will just not work. You can’t have a ‘western individualistic messaging’ approach to a culture where individualism is not emphasized or in existence.

Photo: Flickr

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