Guochao (国潮) literally means “national wave”: the term refers to the customs and style of young Chinese, born in the last years of the last century, capable of mixing contemporary design, high technology and strong references to culture and traditional goods.

Guochao brands are particularly popular with GenZ, who are keen to learn more about their history, culture and how it all fits together in the modern world. Nationalism, which has always been central to the construction of Chinese identity, launching interesting consumer trends, such as that of the new Made in China, which favors local products with traditional reminiscences.

The Guochao therefore best represents young Chinese, urbanized and globalized, but at the same time taps into this desire by featuring brands that fuse the old and the new in their design and marketing.

Guochao falls into two broad categories:

  • The first is tied to a resurgence of older Chinese brands, such as beauty label Pechoin (established 1931), Li Ning (1989), and personal care brand Liushen (1990). 
  • The second category involves newer forms of domestic IP, such as ancient-style Hanfu clothing, museums’ Wenchuang products (literally cultural creations), and designer toys.

Among the most curious aspects of Guochao, there is the rediscovery of mascots and a childish style that has always been part of the traditional Chinese imagination and today more than ever in vogue. A cute design that calls into question cartoonish puppets, references to childhood but dedicated to an almost adult audience.

Many brands have reset their campaigns by introducing a mascot to represent them, involving KOLs able to promote not only their commercial messages and their products, but also the newborn representative puppet.

These playful elements are often combined with refined and luxury products, in fashion as in the jewelry sector, so as to create an elitist narrative on the one hand, warm and accessible on the other, capable of involving the younger audience. Two trends involving Guochao are especially noteworthy thanks to their commercial success and potential for further growth.

Online platforms such as Tmall and Taobao are the major sales channels for Chinese brands. According to data, more than half of consumers prefer to purchase Chinese brands on e-commerce platforms or official online stores. Two trends involving Guochao are especially noteworthy thanks to their commercial success and potential for further growth.

  • The first is brand collaborations, which often serve to rejuvenate the identities of older and well-established brands while tapping into nostalgia, such as the partnership between up-and-coming Chinese fragrance company Scent Library and traditional confectionery brand White Rabbit on a candy-scented perfume that sold close to 150,000 units within ten minutes on Tmall.
  • The second category relevant to Guochao ties to the latest trends in pop culture and is distinguished by the combination of Chinese cultural elements and modernity.

The days of imitations of Western goods represent the China past; now China is leading the way globally not just in technology, but also in design, culture, and business.

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