By  on November 15, 2006

There is an innate conflict inside every Chinese woman, and Western brands have to recognize it if they are to succeed.

Tom Doctoroff, Northeast Asia area director and greater China chief executive officer of JWT, warned that companies should not attempt to market Western ideals to Chinese women because it won't work. They want to become modern and international, but they don't care to adopt the conventional standards of the West.

Doctoroff traced the conflict within Chinese women to the Confucian system that still dominates the country, despite its Communist structure. Women in China have traditionally been told they are to be soft, loving and mother figures. But the idea developed under the Communist system is that they are to be warriors, protectors of the family and strong. Their constant struggle is how to marry the two sides of their femininity. Marketers, in many cases, have to decide which side they are appealing to.

For example, while American women visit spas for relaxation, Chinese women go to spas (which are located on virtually every street corner) to "recharge their batteries" so they can go out and be more productive.

"Everything has to help women move forward, but never sacrifice feminine gentility," said Doctoroff.

Another example is plastic surgery, which is all the rage among Chinese women. Western females use plastic surgery to make themselves look and feel better, while Chinese women use it as a tool. "It's not for self-esteem," Doctoroff said. "They do it to land a better husband or get a better job."

China is a largely Confucian society (which began in 500 B.C.), consisting of regimentation and ambition. At its core, this type of society presents conflict, he said, and the two female archetypes are the "wife/mother" and the "warrior/achiever." He pointed to a commercial from one of the most successful brands in China, a Procter & Gamble soap called Safeguard that has been positively received by the wife/mother set because it targets germs, a major concern among this group.

"It's one of the only markets in the world where germs are a danger that a mother has to [fight] because she is the protector of the home," he said.

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