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Observation 6: Going Global

Chinese brands find growing consumer awareness abroad


Acceptance varies by consumer age, category, and country


Just as going deeper into China aligns with the government’s goal of building a broader, more equitable society, going global aligns with the government’s complementary goal of reviving China’s historical stature as a cultural and geo-political world power.


China had been quietly advancing its global ambitions before President Xi Jinping forcefully articulated them at the 19th Party Congress. In 2006, only one Chinese brand ranked in the BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Global Brands. That brand, China Mobile, was valued at $39.2 billion. Today, 13 Chinese brands rank in the BrandZ™ Global Top 100. Valued at $406.0 billion, they represent a 937 percent increase in brand value.


And consumers globally are more aware of Chinese brands across categories, as documented by BrandZ™ analysis of overseas Chinese brand building conducted in collaboration with Google. Between 2013 and 2017, the gap between online searches for Chinese brands and brands from other nations has narrowed 29 percent.


The acceptance of Chinese brands varies by age. Younger people are more likely to view Chinese brands positively and associate them with innovation. In contrast, older people are more likely to associate Chinese brands with lingering impressions of China as a place known for cheap and sometimes unsafe products.  


And worldwide acceptance of Chinese products is increasing, but with variations by country, according to a BrandZ™ survey. Britons are most receptive to Chinese brands; 71 percent said that knowing a brand came from China would not change or would increase their inclination to purchase. Conversely, two-thirds of Japanese said knowing a brand came from China would weaken their desire to purchase it.


Brand Implications

Until recently, many exporting Chinese brand expanded first to nearby countries in Asia where cultural affinity helped accelerate acceptance. Today, Chinese brands, from a wide group of categories, are moving beyond neighboring regions to serve consumers globally. The government’s Belt and Road initiative inspires some of this activity but does not guarantee its success. That depends on brand building activities to educate consumers, country-by-by country, about Chinese brands, and updating consumer impressions of Brand China. The measurement of overseas brands success will be about generating sales, but also demonstrating category leadership.