Starcom MediaVest Group Truly Understands What Women In Greater China Really Want

April 9, 2013

Top media agency in China unveils WOMEN女, a landmark study offering insights
about women across Greater China though the passage of time

BEIJING – Starcom MediaVest Group today unveiled WOMEN女, the largest and most comprehensive female-focused study that has ever been embarked by any communications agency in Greater China. Believing that women will be the greatest drivers of change in the coming years, the in-depth study seeks to understand the lives, loves, brands, media and personal motivations of women in mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan during pivotal points of their lives.

Using both qualitative and quantitative methods, WOMEN involved over 11,000 women in 26 cities across Greater China, and addressed four defining life stages; Young Ladies in education, Career Women, Mothers and Golden Girls. With women in Greater China becoming more empowered and creative in their careers and making non-traditional choices about marriage, family or how they spend their twilight years, the study’s findings can be invaluable in helping brands to forge deeper relationships with their potential customers.

“We firmly believe that in the coming years, women of all ages will continue to drive the greatest changes to the region’s culture, society and how we approach the marketing of products and brands that they may buy,” said Bertilla Teo, CEO of Starcom MediaVest Group Greater China. “The Women’s Study has shown us that not only do changes between and within life stages have a dramatic impact upon a woman’s beliefs and preferences, but also that life stage behaviors themselves are continually evolving. There is certainly no one message for all women and we must keep our fingers on the pulse to sense and respond to new behavior changes as they emerge. Only from such real human understanding can we create the meaningful experiences that will help our clients’ brands become truly great in the hearts of women across Greater China,” she added.

Outlined below are four key findings stemming from each life stage of women.

Young Ladies – Miss Understood

Driven by frequent and often strong comments from voices that may only be 10 years older than them, the current generation of urban teens and young adults in Greater China region have largely been perceived as one that has grown up soft and pampered. Few of them have known life without a computer let alone had to worry about whether their basic needs will be covered.

At a superficial level, WOMEN revealed that, perhaps like any confident teen or college student in the world, a large majority (81%) of Young Ladies did state that they like to be the center of attention, that (86%) they wanted to be recognized as unique individuals and (83%) choose brands that will make people respect them more.  In the traditionally modest or reserved culture of China in particular, such assertiveness could indeed appear attention-seeking and self-indulgent.
However, through our in-depth interviews with the respondents, young ladies in Greater China come across as being optimistic, creative and aspiring for experiences. Not wanting to follow in the footsteps of their parents or past role models, they do appear to be independent, ambitious and keen to take charge of their own destiny. They clearly are going to do things in their own way. It just may be that “their way” will not conform to tradition.

Ultimately, underlying this “all about me” confidence lies a young lady who perhaps has been misunderstood and under-estimated, especially by the “not-so” older generations.

Career Women – A man’s world no longer?

Guided by a growing feminine confidence,  at a statistical level at least, career women in Greater China are coming into their own, with as many as 30% of women taking senior management positions within companies (compared to 15% in the USA, 23% in the UK and just 11% in Germany according to a recent GTI survey).

However, our study found that while many of them view men as equals in the corporate world, nearly 88% of them also agree that marriage and babies still limit opportunity to make it to the very top.

While the most ambitious women in Greater China come from Hong Kong, Tier 1 and 2 women in China are not far behind. In Taiwan, where family-centric tradition is still strong, career woman have adopted a more balanced stance, with many of them comfortable to stop or drop down a level at work in order to start a family.

Interestingly, for Mainland women in particular, the alternative option is entrepreneurship. With financial independence as their over-riding motivation, we found that a majority of Career Women in China claimed that they either had or intended to set up their own business. Given such sentiment, it comes as no surprise then that 50% of Taobao stores are operated by women. Furthermore, according to the All China Women’s Federation, there are already more than 29 million female entrepreneurs in Greater China. It may remain as a man’s world at the very top, but today’s career women are empowered and taking personal charge of their financial destinies.

Mothers: The Conflict of Motherhood in Affluent Cities

While women in China are marrying later, the 4>2>1 phenomenon (4 grandparents, 2 parents, 1 child) still puts enormous pressure on a woman to marry well and produce a grandchild before she is 30. While this is not yet regarded as unfair in the lower tier China cities, WOMEN revealed that women in tier 1 and tier 2 appear to be fretting against this pincer movement of education expectations at one end of their lives, and marriage and baby shortly thereafter.

With the number of educated, single women in their 30’s rising in Hong Kong, Taiwan and now China, we can expect to see some interesting demographic “bumps” in the future.

Golden Girls: Is 60 the new 20?
For a generation that saw nothing but hard work and often hardship in their younger years, WOMENhighlighted a strong sense of joi de vivre in the “golden girls” we met in Mainland China, with nearly 90% of the respondents we interviewed claiming that this was the golden time of their lives. While such high positivity was inevitably determined by the level of health and mobility still enjoyed, it was clear that the important roles most still invariably enjoyed within family hierarchy gave them a strong continued sense of purpose and value.

Taking advantage of local community amenities, many golden girls are learning new skills and even sports.  And, when grandparenting duties are not required, like reverse teenagers, they “hang out” with their friends and grumble happily about the obligations put upon them.

While their brand and shopping choices are still largely governed by price, with their increasing propensity to use digital devices and shop online, (about 1.75 million seniors are shopping on Taobao currently), WOMEN has exposed a question about whether their role as a brand ambassador or gatekeeper has been undervalued.

Following the success of possibly China’s largest Tier 1 to Tier 5 cities study, Starcom MediaVest Group’s Yangtze Study in 2011, and the Luxe Study in 2012, WOMEN is Starcom MediaVest Group’s latest efforts in better understanding the people of Greater China, so as to design and deliver experiences that can enhance the lives of consumers and help brands become truly great.

About Starcom MediaVest Group

Starcom MediaVest Group is the Human Experience Company. We believe experiences matter. They enhance lives and build brands. We bring brand experiences to life through SMG’s three global agency brands: MediaVest, Starcom, and Spark. Ranked one of the largest brand communications groups in the world, Starcom MediaVest Group ( encompasses an integrated network of human experience strategists, investment specialists, content creators and digital experts. With nearly 7,300 employees in 110 offices worldwide, SMG partners with the world’s leading companies including The Coca-Cola Company, Kraft Foods, P&G, Samsung, Walmart, among others. In 2010, Adweek named SMG “Media Agency of the Decade.”



For more information, please contact:

China Contact:

Lisa Wang

Corporate Communications Manager

Starcom MediaVest Group

T: +86 10 8519 9672



US Contact:

Ashok Sinha

Vice President, SMG Global Brand Reputation & Communications

T: 646.557.7229