Burning Questions
Fellowship Award Winners

Philip H. Howard

Location: U.S.
Academic field: Sociology
Award category: PhD Holder

Topics to be Addressed during the Award Period:

Analyze the marketing strategies of dominant dairy processors in China.

  • Identify strategies that corporations use to reshape consumer behaviors and increase the consumption of dairy products in China by analyzing dominant dairy firms' annual reports, media coverage and government documents. 
    • Particular focus will be paid on rapidly growing firms Yili Group, China Mengniu, and Feihe, and the use of “Guochao,” or domestic brands that incorporate Chinese culture to challenge international brands.
    • The role of government agencies in China in assisting these strategies will also be evaluated.
  • Synthesize findings on the strengths and weaknesses of the marketing techniques employed by these firms to increase demand for dairy products, and provide examples of successes and failures. 
  • Recommend practical steps and measures that civil society may use to resist marketing strategies, policies, and consumer behavioral changes without unintentionally reinforcing the power of industrial dairy firms in China.

Some of the Things We Really Liked when We Read the Application:

Modern marketing strategies make great use of technologies and theories from other fields, including neuroscience, psychology, cultural anthropology, and big data. These approaches are used to develop products, and to target distribution, branding and advertising. Some of these tools have been demonstrated to effectively shift consumer choices through both conscious and subconscious pathways, so consumers are not fully aware of the impacts these strategies may have on their actions. We think that understanding how these strategies are deployed in China is instructive, especially since dairy is a class of food products that has never been of much interest in China, but yet has managed to grab the attention of so many consumers within a relatively short time.

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