How to Market Products Using China’s City Tiers

By Jenny Zhang, Research Analyst

Companies looking to market in China will hear about the country’s city tiers and wonder what it’s all about. It’s no question that the world’s most populated country would have the highest consumer demand. Their consumer expendable income is also on the rise, and with a flashy, name-brand-recognizing culture, marketing is more important than ever. The question is, can we market products to these so-called “tier cities” and how can we do so? I’ll start with a little explanation and let’s work on answering that question.

I’d like to reference South China Morning Post’s (SCMP) interactive definition of tiers. Here, they divide 613 cities into 4 tiers, but another popular approach is 6 tiers. As you can see, there is no standard way of defining tiers from the government, but the highest tiers, 1 and 2, are generally agreed upon by economists, politicians and the public.

Name a city in China: Beijing? Shanghai? These are Tier 1. The combination of GDP, Politics and Population classifies cities into the four tiers, however, some cities rank differently in the three areas so the average is taken to identify the tier, says SCMP. You can start to see how companies would want to understand tiers so they can target certain people. Consumers in Tier 1 cities tend to be more affluent and highly educated. Tier 4 cities are in the rural parts of Western China. Population is scarce and so are resources. They include provinces such as Tibet and Inner Mongolia. Are you starting to get ideas?

Advertising needs to appeal to the demographics. Same with promotions or deals. We will start asking what kind of media to advertise on based on what the consumers have access to. So the answer to the question we had in the beginning is “yes”, we can market products to different tiers and the way to do so depends on your product. The next time a client asks you about marketing in China, suggest looking at tiers and see where your research takes you.


Chinese Car Owners Have Created an English Word – “daqi”


No zuo no die” has added to the Dictionary of American Slang. It is hard to tell whether “daqi” will be used as a new formal English world in the future or not. This depends on the increasing importance of Chinese consumption market.

 By Li Ning, editor of JMedia, who interviewed Morpace’s Chris Tan for this article

The full article can also be viewed here

Almost every Chinese car buyer wants their own car to be “daqi”. It leads the foreign automotive consulting companies in China to use Pinyin “daqi” to express the emotional needs of Chinese consumers directly in their reports.

But what does “daqi” mean?

Morpace Marketing Research Company, through years of automotive research have found out that consumers in each country have their own words for ideal models. Americans like to use “Harsh”, to express strong, durable, solid as well as a description of the non-smooth surface of the material; in India, everyone likes to use “royal feel” for luxurious cars.

When the Chinese respondents chose the exterior design of ideal models, more than 90% of them first blurted out the word of “daqi”. For example, a Mercedes – Benz S – Class luxury car owner considers his car to be more “daqi” than any other car at the same level; a Jaguar XJL owner also thinks his car is more “daqi” than others. Not only the owners of these luxury brands and full-size models, but also the owners of compact cars with mass market brands will consider “daqi” for the reason to choose their cars such as Ford Focus and Qoros 3.

Due to the different backgrounds, experience and preferences, the car owners have different understanding on “daqi”. For example, a countryman who believes in most cases bulky is more “daqi”, while an urban resident may prefer tall and slender.

Chris Tan, senior project director in the Morpace. Inc. told the journalists that some people refer to the size of the vehicle itself for “daqi”, such as a frog eye headlight of Porsche, an axe shap wheel of Kia K5, a crocodilian shape front grille of Jeep. There are some consumers that associate “daqi” with images of car owners, such as: business executives, government officials and corporate white-collar workers.

Among these respondents, at least one thing in common for the definition of “daqi” is the harmony of the car and space. On the one hand, the cars are not as garish as the Hummer and Lincoln limousine. They can get along with other cars, but it is recognizable in its own way; on the other hand, cars need to reflect the perfect combination of recognizable front image and every part, including the hood, headlights, grille and bumpers. If one part is not coordinative, it might leave the impression of asymmetric or timid. In addition, for those consumers with lower education level and less ability to articulate, “daqi” probably contains everything.

Morpace.Inc. quantifies the term “daqi” into specific indicators of size, shape and design by allowing respondents to see hundreds of images based on the different definitions of “daqi” from different Chinese consumers,. These images include a variety of tools, vehicles, equipment, sceneries, people, animals etc. Summarized the understanding of different owners and potential owners on “daqi” and its influence on designing cars though different choices of pictures.

Now, the term “daqi” makes sense to Chris Tan and his international clients. Proficient international carmakers in the Chinese automotive market all have a full understanding about “daqi”.