As the Chinese consumer class continues to grow exponentially, the trend of “for China, by China” has also grown in prominence in the advertising world. In order to take a look at the burgeoning local creative talent behind some of the most cutting-edge advertising campaigns of today, we’re interviewing Chinese creative leaders who are the go-to visionaries for the world’s top brands. This week’s spotlight is on Liu Qing, a post-80s generation creative professional who has served as the art director at the American Association of Advertising Agencies in Shanghai. Also known by the name LEFT, Liu’s impressive client list includes Lancôme, Porsche, Nike, Adidas, Puma, Microsoft, Volvo, Volkswagen, and Ford. Liu is part of NeochaEDGE, an online community showcasing China’s alternative creative talent.
Tell us about yourself.
I was born in Qingdao, Shandong Province, and currently live in Shanghai. I graduated from the School of Design at Jiangnan University with a degree in Visual Communication. Passionate about art since childhood, I began my formal art education in junior high school. I graduated from university with honors, and entered the creative and design industry without a second thought.
My work experience includes Art Director at the American Association of Advertising Agencies (4A) in Shanghai and Creative Director at a local advertising agency. Currently, I work as an illustration artist and multi-disciplinary creative professional. Collaborating with international and domestic clients for many years has provided me with a rich and diverse work experience. I have participated in many art exhibitions domestically and abroad and my works were selected by curators from the Shanghai Art Museum.
What are some design trends in today’s marketing? What styles appeal to your target customers?
In today’s digital age, the “flat design” trend has influenced digital product design to enter an era of minimalism. This style is prevalent in daily life and drives a global design trend that emphasizes simplicity and clarity. Other schools of design depend on a brand’s unique heritage.
Different groups of target consumers consist of people from different age levels, and each group’s current and future purchasing preferences are determined by its consumer attitudes and behaviors. Consumers aged 20 to 30 still present a high demand for personalized products as well as designs featuring local culture.
What are some insights regarding why foreign brands receive low brand recognition in terms of names and visual identities in the Chinese market?
The language barrier is one of the main reasons because it is fundamentally easier for a Chinese name to make an impression on local consumers. Lengthy English names are bound to be less recognizable and more difficult to remember, so many foreign brands create transliterations for marketing purposes. On the other hand, local consumers are accustomed to the carpet-bombing marketing strategy. Some well-known mid-market brands develop successful marketing strategies because they are able to connect and resonate with consumers. Since foreign brands come from different cultural backgrounds, they should emphasize and find ways to combine their uniqueness with the local culture when entering the China market. They should also build a brand identity system, with unique visual symbols and slogans. Adapting to local consumers’ recognition system is the key to a more effective marketing strategy.
What is your source of inspiration?
My inspiration comes from everything I see in my daily life. There is a wide range of information in this digital era, and the internet brings us an enormous amount of information, which stimulates thinking. On the other hand, I am constantly exploring the domestic culture and absorbing its essence for re-creation. Creative work is rooted in culture itself after all.
This interview was conducted in Chinese. Translation by Jasmine Lu.