Brands are not present in China like they are in the West; the world of western consumption with its diversity and its magnificent brands only started to enter China around 15 years ago. As the providers are unable to draw on a long tradition like they can in Europe or the United States, they are basically understood differently by Chinese consumers and seen in a different context.

This can be demonstrated by the example of how brand names are translated into Chinese. Literally translated, the characters for Chanel mean “A nice smelling girl”, for BMW “A noble horse”, for Volkswagen “general affluence”. Brands are perceived like personalities, with special traits and temperaments. A particular role in the allocation of personalities is played by the signs of the zodiac which are ubiquitous in everyday Chinese life, allocating one particular animal to each year in a 12-year cycle.

Brand Zodiac Marketing: the direct path to Chinese consumers

Whereas psychological market research in the West is frequently based on the Jungian archetypes (the hero, the rebel, etc.), concept m favours concentrating on the zodiac mythology for the Chinese market. The advantages of this model are the much stronger anchoring in everyday Chinese culture and the fact that this symbolism is often used in brand communication already. Consequently, a thoroughbred horse can be seen in the background of an advertisement for a BMW off-road vehicle.

Chanel, one of the most desirable brands in China, has furnished its brand with the dragon symbol, which stands for success. Someone who walks through a Chinese mega-city with a Chanel bag or wearing a Chanel suit surrounds themselves with a winner’s aura.

Companies that want to successfully market their products in China are well advised to have the feasibility of their marketing strategy tested by concept m. Our expertise prevents the making of expensive wrong decisions and supplies the requisite know-how to survive in a market that functions differently from a psychological perspective.

More information on this topic can be obtained on request from Dirk Ziems ( or Sami Wong (

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