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Now Salient, Chinese brands must communicate Difference

Chinese brands continue to struggle with being seen as Different, one of the three components of Brand Power, the BrandZ™ measurement of brand equity. Different means consumers view a brand as unique in some way, even trendsetting. The other Brand Power components are: Meaningful, consumers feel an afnity for the brand or think it meets their needs; and Salient, consumers think of the brand quickly when purchasing opportunities arise.

Since 2014, Chinese brands have done a good job improving their Salient scores with media investment that significantly raised brand awareness and drove sales, as documented in research by Kantar Worldpanel, which found that Chinese brands gained market share over multinationals in 18 of 26 fast moving consumer goods categories.

In this changed competitive environment it is important that both Chinese and multinational brands maintain Salience, but Salience alone will not sustain competitive advantage. It also is necessary to explain how a brand is Di erent and Meaningful; why it is unique and worthy of purchase. 




Chinese brands remained flat in Meaningful and declined in Di erent, during the past three years. Multinationals also remained relatively flat in Meaningful and continue to score substantially higher than Chinese brands in Diferent. Multinationals scored 106 in Di erent, a good score, while Chinese brands scored 90, well below the average of 100.

The wide disparity is significant. It means that Chinese brands are at a disadvantage when trying to distinguish themselves, either functionally or emotionally, especially from multinationals, which Chinese sometimes view as Diferent simply because they are foreign. As Chinese brands improve their Diferent scores, however, multinationals will need more than provenance alone to build Di erence.

Once brands establish ways in which they are Diferent in Meaningful ways from the competition, they need to communicate not only to maintain Salience, but also to explain how they are Meaningful and Di erent, and why those benefits help consumers. 








Implications for Brands
It is not a question of being Diferent just for the sake of being Diferent. There are benefits associated with being Diferent. Brands seen as Diferent are more likely to command a price premium, for example. 
A first step is to develop the brand personality characteristics most associated with being seen as Diferent. BrandZ™ analyzes brands worldwide according to 20 personality characteristics. In China, the four personality characteristics that consumers most associate with being Diferent are: Creative, Desirable, Trustworthy, and Wise. 
In most of the world, Creative and Desirable correlate most closely with Diferent. But not in China; in China, Trust correlates most closely with Diferent. It may be that because the product safety scandals in China fomented such distrust in brands, Trust is the strongest lever for being seen as Diferent.
After establishing Diference, the next step is communicating it. Chinese brands usually establish awareness, first. It is more efective to establish the meaningful diference before building awareness. Brands that develop all three aspects of Brand Power, or brand equity, increase market share more quickly.