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10 Prescriptive ideas for building brand strength in today’s China

1. Pair insight with innovation
Brands with deep insight about consumer desires enjoyed a market advantage, as demonstrated by leading mobile handset brands, a category where offering sleek design and multiple features is just the starting point. Brands that distinguished themselves from the completion identified the top priorities of their target middle class consumers – listening to music and taking selfies. And once the brands identified these priorities, they responded with relevant innovation.
2. Pursue quality
Less is more. Members of China’s middle class today prefer quality over quantity. Several factors influence this attitude. Most important, these consumers are sophisticated shoppers, and many already have a lot of stuff. In addition, many are moving into middle or old age. And in an aging society people with means are more likely to purchase treasures rather than collectables.

3. Be on e-commerce
E-commerce now accounts for 94 percent of the retail category value in the BrandZ™ China Top 100. But e-commerce growth potential is still significant, as market penetration was only 46 percent in 2016, roughly comparable to Brazil and the US, according to the Kantar TNS Connected Life study of e-commerce penetration across 56 country markets.

4. Be on mobile
E-commerce increasingly happens on mobile. Chinese spend 65 percent of their online time on mobile devices, according to the Kantar TNS Connected Life study. Most important, this devotion to mobile includes not just young people, as is the case in many societies, but people across the age spectrum.

5. Be fun
Chinese middle class consumers respond to products and experiences that help them express their individuality and enjoy themselves. This is a spirit to convey in the brand experience, when it is appropriate.

6. Perfect omni-channel
Not long ago it was possible to penetrate the Chinese market simply by linking with major retailers with extensive store networks. That is history. Even major retailers are challenged by the rise of e-commerce and the change in consumer buying habits. Having an omni-channel strategy is imperative for entering or expanding in China.

7. Move fast
This instruction seems self-evident. Speed and agility are critical to success in most of today’s world, but those qualities count for more in China, where companies typically have a bias for action. It is important to be strategic and deliberative, but over deliberation creates a risk of being overtaken.

8. Invest in new digital media
Do not abandon traditional media, but understand that around 84 percent of China’s trendsetters, affluent urban consumers age 20 to 45, are engaged with new digital media, including messages viewed in elevators, stores, and cinemas. Reaching young people requires being present where you increasingly find them.

9. Develop content marketing
Chinese consumers are somewhat more receptive to branded content marketing compared with global consumers. Chinese consumers are more likely to say that they enjoy content from brands on social media and benefit from ads tailored to their needs. And Chinese consumers are also slightly less likely to become annoyed when brands seem to follow them online.

10. Go global
Going abroad may not be for every brand, but it is no longer an option reserved for only the largest and most valuable brands. Even smaller entrepreneurial brands are looking abroad. And overseas growth is part of the founding plan of some start-ups. Two of the factors driving this trend are: the need to find new markets as domestic growth slows; and the increasing overseas consumer receptivity toward Chinese brands.