Aiming at Chinas Armpits: When Foreign Brands Misfire by Owen Guo
The article by Guo narrates how products especially deodorants from western companies face minimal to lack of sales in China. The author argues that biology and cultural differences in China are causing the sale of deodorants to fail significantly in the nation. The article begins by narrating the story of how Beijing-Unilever bought Rexona deodorant to China with the hopes of making significant profits. Unilevers former China head believed that the product would sell in the country because the company has had successful encounters with other nations. However, to their shock, the sale of Rexona only amounted to a fraction of the Chinese marketing budget (Guo par. 4). Although companies such as Starbucks, KFC, and other western fast food chains have had successful business encounters with China, other consumables such as Weetabix and tampons have faced significant failures. Cultural differences and simple biology have fueled the fall of many consumables in China. Scientists argue that East Asian people lack body odor issues as when compared with Westerners who have such problems (Guo par. 4). Ye Tan, an economist in Shanghai, argues that deodorants fail in China because Chinese people love something they can see or smell, and deodorants are regarded as invisible (Guo par. 10).
Products such as tampons have failed significantly merely because Chinese women use sanitary pads and believe tampons are invasive. Besides, a Shanghai company bought the controlling stake in the company that manufactures Weetabix in the hopes of making massive sales in China. However, after five years, it sold the stake to an American firm. The article narrates how various companies have tried to create eye-catching advertisements to attract sales; however, despite their efforts, they have not succeeded. The article argues that Chinese people did not understand the ads because the humor in them was designed using an American perspective. Traditional believes such as sweat is good because it helps to detox is popular among the Chinese community; therefore, making the sales of deodorants impossible in the region.
From Guos article, it is critical to note that the sale of deodorants and other consumables such as tampons and Weetabix is a tough journey to undertake in China. The author depicts the reasons why such products are failing in the Chinese economy by highlighting examples from various well-known businesses. For instance, Beijing-Unilever bought the Rexona product thinking it will succeed in China because they have had success stories in other countries, but to their demise, Rexona did not sell as much as the company expected. Other companies such as Bright Food had hopes of selling Weetabix in China, but after some years, they sold their shares to an American Firm (Guo par. 8). The failure to succeed in the Chinese markets by the two companies is an indication that there is a problem in the economy, and the issue that led to lack of sales is cultural differences and biology.
Guo also depicts both sides of the issue by claiming that there are a few Chinese adherents to various products such as deodorants. To support this claim, Guo provides the example of Cai Qianyi, a media professional in Beijing who began using deodorants back in 2006. Qianyi claims that he uses deodorants because he dislikes sweat stains on his t-shirt especially in the summer (Guo par. 12). Guo depicts the other side of the issue of deodorant amongst Chinese people when Qianyi visits his home. Qianyi claims that his family and friends did not recognize deodorants. One of his cousins even went to the point of confusing Qianyis deodorant with perfume. Guo depicts these two scenarios to display that there might be a likelihood of other people in China that are fond of using deodorants; however, their numbers are small thus impacting profitable sales of such products. The lack of sales is evident in the financial records of companies mentioned in the article.
Guo supports the title of the article by highlighting scientific evidence that explains why Chinese people do not use deodorants. The author mentions a research study conducted among East Asians and Chinas ethnic Han Majority. The findings of the study indicated that the participants have a gene that minimizes the likelihood of body stink (Guo par. 19). In this example, Guo tries to connect science or simple biology with the lack of sales of deodorant in China. The link between the two seems to work, and companies have been attempting to develop creative ways to initiate sales of their products. Guo mentions an ad by Rexona that portrays a mans armpits as a threat to others. However, despite such an effort by the company the sales of the product did not upscale. This shows the Chinese people have a strict adherence to their cultural and scientific beliefs; a notion that has prompted some expatriates to leave the market. Alex Stevens, a former public relations professional from America is one example of an individual who left Beijing because of the failure of the deodorant business.
Question 1. Would you recommend a friend to invest in the sale of deodorant in China?
No, from the look of the cultural beliefs of the majority of the people and the failure of well-known companies to make profitable sales of their products, China is not a convenient country to start the business.
Question 2. Did the companies try harder to makes sales or were they reluctant?
The businesses tried the best they could to sell the products to the Chinese people. A significant number of the companies invested heavily in advertisements just to convince consumers to use deodorants.
Question 3. What causes minimal to lack of sale of deodorants in China?
The primary causes for lack of sales are cultural beliefs and simple biology.
Guo, Owen. Aiming at Chinas Armpits: When Foreign Brands Misfire. The New York Times, 2 Feb. 2018, https://www.nytimes.com/2018/02/02/business/china-consumers-deodorant.html?rref=collection%2Ftimestopic%2FChina
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