An interview with Ms. Jenny Lo, General Manager – China,
CatchOn, a Finn Partners company
A younger generation increasingly prevails in the consumer markets of China. Ms. Jenny Lo, with rich experience and expertise in brand development, research and marketing communications, has developed a deep insight of Chinese young customers’ consumption habits and needs during her eight-year stint in Shanghai as the General Manager of CatchOn – China Region. Jenny and her team have been dedicated to carrying out independent market research and analysis for clients and help international brands to have a stronger presence in the China market. She has worked with renowned hospitality and luxury lifestyle brands including Six Senses Resorts Hotels Spas, Dorchester Collection, Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group, Shangri-La and Fairmont Raffles. Jenny is also the founder of Ups A Daisy, a social enterprise created to make a difference in the lives of underprivileged and marginalised women. SpaChina interviewed Jenny on the wellness concerns and consumption trends of Chinese young people.
How do you define the popular term of “front wave” and “back wave” in China’s society today? Which category do you fall into?
I come from Hong Kong and have been working for CatchOn for sixteen years. Our company’s main business is making brand strategies and doing marketing for our clients. I came to Shanghai eight years ago to open the company’s Shanghai branch. I have stayed here since then.
It’s very hard for me to say which category I belong to, especially when I take into consideration the characters of the business I am engaged in. If you ask me to define “front wave” and “back wave”, my answer is, the “front wave” is the group of people with experience and the “back wave” is those with creativity. However, China’s consumption market keeps changing all the time. As we know, in the retail industry, a big transformation occurs every ten years. So I place myself somewhere between the front and back wave because I believe experience and creativity are equally essential to me and my team.
Our company has been involved with a variety of wellness and beauty-related programmes for major hospitality clients; Shangri-La and Six Senses are two of them. The original concept definition and brand planning of Qi SPA of Shangri-La are our work. We also make brand strategies for many overseas clients who want to enter the China market. Our aim is to better link them with Chinese customers without compromising their brand DNA.
What are Chinese young customers’ needs in regards to wellness nowadays? What future trends can you predict? What consumption revolution will these new consumption habits trigger?
Our company always stays sensitive to young people’s consumption trends. Since I myself have lived in Shanghai for many years, I have a better understanding of what young Chinese consumers like today. They view health from a 360° all-round perspective.
Take fitness for instance. In the past, people went to gym in order to lose weight. But now, people are eager to achieve a comprehensive health goal including weight loss, body shaping, muscle enhancement, cardio-pulmonary function boost and more. Young people also regard it as a way to challenge themselves and make new friends. So outwardly, they are still doing the same thing, like going to the gym, but their understanding and motivation have become totally different.
Among Chinese young people, a new group has arisen called “Wellness Punk”. They go to play hard on one hand and have some wellness awareness on the other. For example, they party all night, and the next day, they go to have a foot massage for balance. They do drink alcohol, but they will put some wolfberries in the drink, convincing themselves that they are doing a somewhat healthy activity. So they try to use such methods to compensate for their unhealthy behavior. It’s indeed a unique phenomenon among Chinese young people since I don’t see such things in any other countries. It’s very interesting.
I also find that when young people view health today, they no longer focus on “I”, but “we”. They care more about the environment and sustainable development. I recently read a book written by a professor from the University of Cambridge. To begin the book, he invites us to ask ourselves: Am I a good ancestor? The answer is no. Because the environment we leave to our descendants is one that requires them a lot of toil to repair and improve. The younger generation today is very clear of the effects the environment has on them. So they always say: I only eat local ingredients and plant-based meat. I only want organic products. They say this not because they want to seek fashion but because they want to exert the least harm on the environment. Maybe outwardly, there isn’t much difference between their consumption habits and ours, but the motivation behind their actions is completely different. I can deeply feel that more and more young people today are trying to find out the meaning of life. When they graduate from school and enter society, they are facing an ever-changing world full of uncertainties and competition, they are looking for a goal of life and a way to fulfill their self-value in this society. So when they choose products, they care not only for the products’ functions, but more importantly, the value, the concept, the content of the brand and the lifestyle that it advocates. So when we are developing our product, we must take into consideration these consumption motivations of the younger generation.