A “Made in China” sticker on a product is no longer a sign of cheapness or poor quality — China’s venerable homegrown brands are increasingly holding their own as these heritage brands offer familiarity and recognition, according to Shanghai Daily. These brands resonate in a market that is seeing a resurgence of national pride. Yet Chinese companies today must still face the challenge of making their products relevant and appealing in a large and competitive market.
Panos Dimitropoulos, cultural insight leader at strategic marketing consultancy Added Value, offers his insights into what it means to be a Chinese brand today.
Traditional yet Trendy
“Time is a double-edged sword,” says Dimitropoulos. “On one hand, it suggests that a brand enjoys very high awareness while the quality can be guaranteed. On the other hand, people may feel the brand old-fashioned and no longer exciting.”
China’s time-honored brands benefit from their cultural heritage, reliability, and consumer awareness of their products. But brands must constantly reinvent themselves in today’s rapidly changing market if they are to remain popular among today’s consumers.
“[Brands] need to keep up-to-date and reflect changing consumer tastes. They need to realize how consumers are becoming more sophisticated,” Dimitropoulos notes.
Shanghai Jahwa is one time-honored company that has maintained its popularity through the production of new premium brands in the personal care category, including Liushen and Herborist. The oral care company Yun Nan Bai Yao has also found strength in making its roots in traditional Chinese medicine appealing to modern consumers.
Brand vs. Product
Though China boasts many time-honored companies that have “emotional resonance” among consumers and a nuanced understanding of their need, they often “do not have a clear image that stands out from the competition” and lack style. Companies should strive to market themselves in a way that is modern and stylish, to make their goods “brands” and not simply “products.”
Recent scrutiny of large corporations’ production quality and supply chain integrity under the recent government crackdown on corruption has also created hurdles for many Chinese brands.
The Government’s Role
State-owned brands in China have several advantages, including “impressive distribution networks, investment stability, and access to many resources.” The government also aids businesses in promoting continued growth and innovation, as well as increased quality. Dimitropoulos also notes that the government can help by promoting a favorable image of China worldwide.
“When it comes to brands’ overseas expansion, the government should be a strategic resource,” he says. “Marketing these brands overseas is also about marketing China as a country. There is opportunity for the government to tell a well-orchestrated China story.”
image credit: christopher cozier