Here is a quote from The China Observer that deserves more thought.
The motivations that fuel the most dynamic categories remain profoundly Chinese. And brands are always tools of advancement and benefits are always externalized.
Tom Doctoroff pegs two important points in these two sentences.
1. People buy to help them advance in their career. They need symbols to be seen as someone who could be advanced.
2. People buy to help themselves feel important. This is the face thing you hear about. Because China is a low self esteem country, they need more external proof of their value to feel good.
So Chinese people may not go to Venice to see the canals. They often go so they can tell their friends and coworkers. I admit to having some show off tendencies.. Chinese people, on average, have them much more.
People might go to Starbucks for the environment, but in China they would want to be seen there.
So if you want to sell something that could be a status symbol, then find a way people can use it in public. Have a place where they can sit to eat that fancy food rather than just take it home for example.
The other issue comes from point one. Even if someone does not feel a need to prove themselves, others expect them to and will look down on them if they do not have a new car to drive to work. So everyone is in the face game whether they want to be or not.
This makes a natural place for us to find a market in an otherwise pragmatic, cost sensitive market.
Anything to add?