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Novel framework helps brands align with “New Normal” emerging in China

BrandZ™ Analysis

Novel framework helps brands align with “New Normal” emerging in China

Care-Dare traits, attributes can unlock growth potential

by Thomas Piachaud

Director of Consulting

Kantar, Consulting Division


During the Covid-19 pandemic, many brands in China slashed marketing budgets and hibernated. This response is typical in a crisis when brands protect cash to invest after the market resurges and the prospects for positive ROI improve. That time has arrived.

Although the pandemic is not over, it has been confined to smaller, more easily controlled outbreaks. Chinese consumers feel more confident about spending. But their attitudes and behaviors have been shaped by the pandemic experience.

Immediate priorities focus on care for personal health, the environment, and the general welfare of the nation. As the threat of the contagion subsides and people dare to take greater risks, enjoyment and new experiences will become a higher priority.

To help brands align with the changing consumer priorities in China’s emerging “New Normal,” Kantar is introducing a novel brand building tool—the Care-Dare Framework—designed to reignite business and accelerate brand equity growth.

We began with Kantar NeedsScope, our proprietary brand planning system that organizes brand architypes into six temperaments, half associated with Care and half with Dare. We then combined NeedsScope with our BrandZ™ database, which contains information about brand perception, character, and attributes for almost 18,000 brands across 512 categories in over 50 markets.

The result is our BrandZ™ Care-Dare Index that quantifies the extent to which a brand fits primarily in the Care or Dare classification based on its scores in five weighted character traits and six attributes. A strong or Care or Dare alignment strengthens differentiation and confers permission for it to act in certain ways that may not be permissible for other brands. By quantifying current perceptions of a brand, it’s possible to identify potential growth opportunities or obstacles.

Defining Care brands

Care has emerged as the most immediate need among Chinese consumers responding to the pandemic. Health and safety are top priorities. Other care-related values are rising in importance, including protecting privacy and respecting the environment, according to our Kantar China MONITOR, which tracks changes in consumer values, attitudes, and behaviors.

Care brands share several BrandZ™ brand character traits, such as being generous, caring, and kind. Being seen as trustworthy and friendly, also important, requires consistent brand transparency and honesty. Brands that score highest in the BrandZ™ Care Index also excel at one particular BrandZ™ brand attribute, they “Make people’s lives better.”

Seven of the Care Brand Top 10 are Chinese brands. They include two Chinese technology leaders, Xiaomi and WeChat. Initially known for well-designed and well-priced smart phones, Xiaomi has expanded into a digital ecosystem for improving life with useful, affordable, and durable products like the Xiaomi FitBand. Similarly, WeChat, owned by Tencent, has become the ubiquitous super app that people use to navigate daily life. WeChat continues to make itself useful, if not indispensable, with new features like Mini Programs that simplify shopping by incorporating e-commerce sites within the app.

Of the three international brands, Japan’s Mamypoko is especially associated with care as a producer of diapers and other products for infants. For the two German car makers, Audio and VW, attention to craftsmanship and safety evoke associations with care.

Defining Dare brands

Dare becomes more important as the economy reopens and consumers look to release pent-up demand and take more risks. Although, unlike Care, Dare does not present an immediate opportunity because of ongoing pandemic-related restrictions, brands should prepare for a mid-term opportunity when consumers seek relief and escape.

Novelty and fun have become more important, while wealth has declined as a priority, according to Kantar China MONITOR. This finding highlights the need for brands to be ready to offer more engaging and potentially daring experiences to delight consumers.

The BrandZ™ Brand character traits exhibited by Dare brands are being adventurous, brave, creative, rebellious, and fun. Consumers see Dare brands as having differentiating attributes, including “Standing for something unique,” “Having a distinctive look and feel,” and “Leading the way.” Among the Top 10 Dare brands are several in technology-related categories.

By being creative and fun, the short-form video site Douyin (TikTok outside of China) has engaged large audiences worldwide, monetizing them with advertising and e-commerce. By being adventurous and appealing to users with fun group buying options, Pinduoduo has rapidly grown from an e-commerce alternative in lower tier cities to one of China’s leading online platforms alongside Alibaba and JD.com.

The leading Dare brands are seen as especially adventurous. These brands are skilled at innovating and adapting as market circumstances change. The Dare Brand Top 10 ranking is more international than the heavily Chinese Care Brand Top 10. The highest-ranking Dare brands, No. 1 Apple and No. 2 Tesla, achieve their leading positions through high scores in the BrandZ™ attributes of “Shaking things up” and “Leading the way.”

Significant opportunity

The opportunity to differentiate from the competition with Care and Dare is significant. Few brands in China score well in more than one- or two of the nine-character traits and attributes associated with Care or Dare. Two brand outliers, Apple and Tesla, excel in certain Dare attributes.

The most effective way to strengthen brand equity around Care or Dare, however, is with a holistic combination of at least four or five Care or Dare character traits and attributes, and only around 10 percent of the brands studied in China achieve their Care or Dare identity holistically.

To rapidly achieve a more holistic combination of Care or Dare character traits and attributes, we recommend linking with other brands. These co-branding initiatives have enormous potential to reach new audiences, lift a brand’s stature with existing audiences, and accelerate the growth of equity and value.

Determining the most effective mix of Care and Dare character traits and attributes can be complicated. It depends on the particular brands, the competitive landscape, and targeted audiences. But that complication makes a Care-Dare brand linkage hard to replicate, which creates a competitive advantage. While Care-Dare brand linkages are nuanced, they fall into two co-branding models:

  1. Same Strength This collaboration is between two brands that are each predominately Care or Dare but achieve their identity with different mixes of brand character traits and attributes. This kind of collaboration helps solidify and broaden the basic Care or Dare identity that the brands share. The brands are combining their equity, making it more likely that a consumer will choose one of them over the competition.

  1. Opposite Strength This collaboration is between a Care brand and a Dare brand, brands whose combinations of character traits and attributes yield opposite strengths. The combination of opposites can open access to new consumers, grow meaningful difference and salience, and drive equity growth.

Taking action

China’s transition to a “New Normal” will include the acceleration of many pre-Covid trends. Digitization and O2O options will expand. Many more people will shop online and visit live streaming sites to make purchases. Category barriers will continue to become porous and even disappear as brands form ecosystems of diverse products and services.

With these challenging market dynamics, standing still is not an option for brand health. Successful brands will look across categories and form mutually productive collaborations. Using the BrandZ™ Care-Dare framework brands can not only build their own equity, but also “piggyback” on the equity of partner brands.

For an evaluation how your brands fit into China’s emerging “New Normal,” and to learn more about how the innovative Kantar Care-Dare Framework can help strengthen competitive advantage, identify suitable Care-Dare partners, and accelerate brand equity growth, please contact Thomas.Piachaud@kantar.com.