Arts & Culture in China: How to win the hearts of the new generation audience

30 May 2022

One of the most interesting phenomena in Greater China now is the region’s growing audience for arts and culture. The rise in this new generation of “arts and culture” consumers is driving significant lifestyle changes domestically and reshaping the Chinese consumer world. In this article, Sinclair share our insights on this trend in China, and how brands can learn and benefit from it.


Why is arts & culture grabbing more and more attention, and why does it matter?

Arts and culture have a fascinating way of connecting people to their own identities. This has become a significant trend in Greater China where people are showing more appreciation for culture and art, especially works which link them back to their roots in traditional Chinese culture. The international uncertainty of the Covid-19 pandemic has triggered a rise of nationalism amongst consumers and is becoming a mainstream sentiment, getting more people interested in Chinese culture-related topics.

Driven by economic and social development, we can no longer ignore the fact that young people, especially Generation Z (Gen Z), are making up a unique yet robust force of consumption. This generation, who have grown up with a more comfortable lifestyle in comparison to others, especially value self-expression. Appreciation of arts and culture reflects one’s aesthetic tastes and self-identity, whilst demonstrating what individuals care for in a distinctive way. For Gen Z, it has become the perfect way for them to express their own personalities.

In summary, it is important for brands to acknowledge the significance of arts and culture communications – it makes your story more compelling, it differentiates you from your competitors, and it helps amplify your brand’s core values. Leveraging arts and culture communication also helps you earn more of China’s cultural consumers. This group of people demonstrate cultural awareness when making consumption decisions. They usually show high buying power.


How are brands and institutions communicating with their audience using arts & culture? What can we learn from them?

Riding on this emerging trend, auction houses, exhibitions, and art institutions are heightening their marketing and communication efforts, inspiring many other industries to unleash their creativity and explore new opportunities to meaningfully connect.


  1. For the love of NFTs:

NFTs have seen explosive growth over the past couple of years. According to DappRadar, NFT sales reached $25 billion in 2021. Allocating more marketing resources to this department, auction houses have been pushing boundaries and innovating the forms of NFT artwork sales.

In 2021, Sotheby’s collaborated with award-winning Chinese director Wong Kar-wai to sell his first-ever NFT creation, edited from his never-before-seen film footage – resulting in the first Asian film NFT being sold at HK$4.28 million. This year, Phillips Auction House partnered with Hong Kong brand-tech company Gusto Collective and introduced a first to market collaboration between the international auction house and a virtual human, MonoC, exploring the full pioneering potential of digital art.

In the luxury world, NFTs have also gained popularity. In 2021, Gucci released an NFT in the form of an art film. This influenced more brands such as Louis Vuitton, Burberry, and Balenciaga to begin offering exclusive NFT merchandise, collaborating with gaming companies to create NFT costumes for characters, and creating NFT artworks – all of which have earned popularity amongst Gen Z.


Key Takeaway:

NFT is the absolute buzzword nowadays, and not just only in the art world. We have seen tech giants, luxury brands, and consumer goods alike tapping into the world of NFTs.

While NFTs are useful for generating awareness, it is also crucial to strategise content and context when utilising this tool. Creative and unexpected formats combined with relevant content is necessary to win the hearts of today’s culture-loving and tech-savvy consumers.

If you are interested in reading more about this trend, Sinclair Arts has also released a comprehensive trend report on Arts x Digitalisation.


  1. The rise of digital experiences:

More and more art exhibitions and auction previews are hosted via an “online viewing room.” In 2021, Sinclair supported Design Shanghai in bringing an integrated digital experience to the exhibit, presenting livestreams, online design talks, and forums through its official WeChat channel and media partnerships’ online channels, effectively taking the typically ‘offline’ event online.  Fashion brands and luxury houses are also hosting online fashion shows, offering audiences an immersive digital journey.

To adapt to rapidly changing Covid-19 restrictions, online platforms have become the best contingency plan. This March, Sotheby’s unveiled the “Facets of Art” Hong Kong Spring Auctions online preview. To enhance the virtual experience, Sotheby’s launched an audio guide, WeChat mini-program, online exhibit and preview livestream. At least 13,000+ audience members took part in the online exhibition.


Key Takeaway:

Going digital is a “must” for brands that want to survive in the post-pandemic world. A unified all-channel digital experience (e.g. WeChat, Weibo, Douyin and RED) helps brands establish a clear identity in terms of format and platform with easy navigation. In addition, media partnerships can also be beneficial in terms of reaching a broader audience.

Meanwhile, brands should also keep in mind the importance of the content they offer. After all, while platforms can be important, content is what gets consumers to follow a brand. So focusing on relevant content of high-quality is can help you appeal to and keep the audience – less is more when it comes to creating content with meaning.


  1. Talk of the town cross-overs:

Due to the demanding market for arts and cultural collectibles, we have seen brands shifting their focus to art, especially in the luxury and fashion world. Collaboration between galleries, artists, auction houses and exhibitions has become more common, where partnerships allow both sides to establish a more dynamic image amongst new generation audiences.

Brands are also expanding in the form of cross-overs. We have seen many fashion, sports, and automobile brands embark on this journey. In 2019, Italian fashion house Marni collaborated with China’s Miao ethnic community, gaining fashion inspiration from its aesthetics and building a connection with Chinese audiences through Chinese traditions.

For corporate level communication, arts and culture is also useful. Swire Properties, for example, collaborates with the Victoria & Albert Museum, London (V&A), bringing the critically-acclaimed exhibition Bags: Inside Out to Asia, with exclusive local offerings, they distinctively expanded their consumer base


Key Takeaway:

Brand partnerships to tap into the arts and culture field is the right move. But what should brands consider when choosing the right partners? Firstly, as brand collaboration is no longer a new approach, brands should consider more unexpected, entertaining collaborations when presenting new information or ideas to stand out amongst competitors. To achieve this, brands should consider multi-party collaborations, which can bring more assets to leverage. Choosing niche, local, or independent partners for collaboration is proven to be welcome, showing that new generation audiences enjoy the element of surprise.


Get in touch here if you would like to learn more about our insights, our work in arts and culture, or discuss your marketing and communications needs with us.


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