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China 2015: BRAND CHINA | Consumer Perceptions

During China’s rapid economic rise over the past 30 years, western consumers viewed Chinese brands as the makers of low-quality products or products of adequate quality marketed by western companies under their own brand names.

That perception should change as China’s economy rebalances and Chinese brands leverage their decades of production experience to make and market quality, value-added merchandise under their own brand names.

To succeed abroad, Chinese brands need to bridge the
gap between how consumers worldwide perceive Chinese brands and how they perceive successful global brands. Alibaba’s record IPO (Initial Public Offering) will help improve the consumer view of Chinese brands. But changing long-held perceptions takes time.

Change begins with understanding the perception gap. To do that, we compared how the BrandZTM Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese brands are perceived by consumers in China with how consumers worldwide perceive the BrandZTM Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands.

Based on how consumers ascribed 20 BrandZTM brand personality characteristics to various brands, our analysis revealed some similarity between these perceptions of Chinese and global brands and some critical distinctions:

  • The scores Chinese consumers give Chinese brands for being trustworthy, straightforward and friendly are higher than the scores global consumers give
    global brands for those characteristics.
  • The scores global consumers give global brands for bring assertive and in control
    are higher than the scores Chinese consumers give Chinese brands for those characteristics. 

 This analysis suggests that the distinctiveness of Chinese brands could be based on greater approachability and empathy compared

with their more distant and autocratic global competitors. As Chinese brands go global they’ll need to leverage points of difference to stand out from the competition.

Just being Chinese should help Chinese brands establish distinctiveness, however. Recent BrandZTM research about international travel found that people who travel outside their own country score China relatively high in being different as a destination. This idea of “difference” attracts travelers and is at the heart of potential tourism growth. The appeal of “difference” also applies to brands.

Being seen as different (setting trends, being unique in a positive way) is one of three BrandZTM components of brand success. The other two are: meaningful (meeting functional and emotional needs), and salient (being the one that comes first to mind as the answer to what consumers perceive they want).

Brands that have a difference, which is meaningful in a relevant way to consumers, are on a strong path to growth.