Summer Project Proposal

For my project, I will be exploring the ways in which western brands market themselves in China and the buying trends that exist, especially with the Chinese youth (16-25). I want to focus on how these western brands portray themselves to the customers and how these customers perceive these brands. One of my key interests is to determine where the appeal lies for Chinese consumers. Is it the actual product that the customer values? Is it the status that comes with it? Is it merely because it is western? What are Western, and particularly American, brands doing to attract a new consumer base in China and is it working? What could these brands do differently.

As a student who is entering the William and Mary Mason School of Business in the fall, issues of business, especially in the emerging market of China, are both pertinent and interesting. It seems as if every week there is another announcement about a US firm beginning operations in China. There the great turnarounds of companies like Buick, who’s American sales continue to struggle while their sales in China are booming. However, then there are tales of firms like Gap, who have yet been unable to see the boom in sales they were expecting. Why, in a country of 3 billion people, are some firms unable to strike it rich while others struggle? I want to answer this question by examining the perceptions and trends of youth consumers.

To examine these trends, I must first find a fitting location. As a twenty year resident of Minnesota, whenever I need to purchase something at a mall and I don’t know exactly which store I need to go to, I simply head to the largest shopping mall in the country (Mall of America). So, in China, I want to seek out an equivalent location. After a little research, I believe I have settled on Jinyuan Yansha (Golden Resources) Shopping Mall (金源时代购物中心).  My initial research suggests that the mall caters to low to middle tier consumers and focuses more on quantity of vendors than on the overall atmosphere. This is versus an upscale mall that features luxury brands. The mall is only a little over 8km from Tsinghua University, and an estimated 18min drive. The address is 1 Yuanda Road, Haidian District, Beijing. Though the driving estimate does not take into account traffic that I would expect slows transit down significantly.


However, I would struggle to gather any meaningful data if I did not have some personal contacts I could observe. The premise of my research is motivations and perceptions so I need to make connections. Luckily, I have a friend at William and Mary named Carinne Zhang who lives in Beijing, not far from Tsinghua. She has offered to go out with me several times and I have spoken with her about accompanying her and some of her friends as they go to the mall. By accompanying them, I hope to observe they way they shop, the natural conversations they have regarding stores, brands, and rationale. By utilizing this personal connection, I hope to learn more about the way in which young Chinese consumers purchase goods.

Along with actual visits to the mall, I plan on creating a survey that can be distributed on campus to a larger population of students. The survey will focus on several American brands and trying to gauge the perceptions of these brands by Chinese college students. I hope to use these survey results, in conjunction with my observations, to create a more holistic image of what influences Chinese youth consumers’ purchasing patterns and perceptions of American brands. With this survey, I will attempt to gather data from a large population size of Tsinghua Students by handing out the survey in communal areas, not the library, on campus.

A final aspect of my research that I would like to explore, if I have time, is the different types of shopping areas. For instance, the Golden Resources Mall listed above, is considered to be a lower tier mall when compared to malls that host luxury brands. If I can, I would like to visit the Malls at Oriental Palace (No.1 East Chang An Avenue). 东方新天地This mall is located closer to the heart of Beijing and features more upscale retail familiar to western shoppers. This mall is about a 30 minute drive from the Tsinghua Campus and is slightly smaller that than the Golden Resources Mall. I want to talk to some shoppers here, as well as Carinne, to see determine how purchasing patterns differ in these different settings.

As far a documentation goes, I will be recording much of my interview with an audio/visual recorder (probably my iPhone). The survey responses should be relatively easy to categorize and analyze with data analysis programs like Excel. I will be bringing both a camera and journal to catalogue my experiences and I plan on bringing a back-up drive to store my data on.

I look forward to beginning my research in a new and exciting place. The comparison between western and Chinese cultures is exciting and relevant to my studies now and in the future. I hope to gain knowledge that can be put to use in an internship next year or a job down the road.