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Brand expansion through reverse socialization: an example of iPhone in China

Ruoshui Jiao (Department of Sociology, Lanzhou University, Lanzhou, China)
Jack Wei (Department of Marketing and Real Estate, University of West Georgia, Carrollton, Georgia, USA)

Qualitative Market Research

ISSN: 1352-2752

Article publication date: 5 February 2020

Issue publication date: 20 March 2020




One of the greatest challenges that global brands face as they expand into new markets and segments is overcoming social and cultural barriers that prevent them from being accepted by consumers. By drawing on theories of Mead’s prefigurative cultures, reverse socialization and symbolic interactionism, this paper aims to investigate the process of reverse socialization, the antecedents and its impact on parents’ attitude toward the reverse socialized brand.


Using in-depth interviewing method, data were collected from 20 Chinese consumers by capturing the accounts of both parents and their children involved in reverse socialization. The interpretive content analysis was used to study the data.


Reverse socialization exerts positive influence on brand attitude and facilitates parents’ adoption of the socialized brand. The brand has acquired additional symbolic meanings for Chinese consumers, which in turn enhances self-brand connections among them.

Practical implications

Managerial implications include strategies for cross-cultural marketers to maximize the acceptance of brands by elderly consumers through reverse socialization and efficiently expand the brands’ market into more segments.


As the first research of its kind (to the authors’ knowledge), the findings fill a gap in the marketing literature by demonstrating adult children’s influence on parents through reverse socialization.



Jiao, R. and Wei, J. (2020), "Brand expansion through reverse socialization: an example of iPhone in China", Qualitative Market Research, Vol. 23 No. 1, pp. 1-20.



Emerald Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2020, Emerald Publishing Limited

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