Western values do not match with Confucian values, but what does Confucian countries like China, Vietnam and Korea tick? Marketing expert Tom Doctoroff lived for two decades in China, and defines on his LinkedIn page what makes the consumers in those countries different.
Whenever I am asked what makes Confucian countries — China, Korea and Vietnam — really different from the West, it’s not just the lack of individualism—it is the level of ambition. In China, for example, everyone is ambitious. Women want their piece of the sky, just as men do. A study by the Center for Work-Life Policy found that just 36 percent of college-educated women in America described themselves as “very ambitious,” compared to 65 percent in China. A further 76 percent of women in China aspire to hold a top corporate job, compared to 52 percent in America.
The “tiger mom,” forcing extracurricular activities upon her child to make sure he gets into Harvard 18 years later, is not a myth. Not all mothers are like this, but ambition remains a palpable force in Confucian societies. They were the first to become socially mobile societies; engrained in the Chinese psyche is people can achieve success by mastering convention and internalizing the rules. The desire to get ahead binds people together. From the bourgeoisie in the bustling metropolises of Seoul, Beijing, and Hong Kong right down to the farmers in the fields, all want to be an emperor of their small corner, no matter how modest their origins.
So the relationship between individual and society in Confucian countries is fundamentally different than in Anglo-individualistic ones. Across the Confucian cultural cluster, brands need to do more so cross-market resources should be pooled accordingly.
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