China increasingly looks abroad,
brands find greater acceptance
Government balances need for change and stability
Brands and consumers felt the consequences of China’s shifting priorities. Having driven record economic growth and lifted hundreds of millions of people from poverty, the Chinese government is now focused on managing its success: guiding the transformation to a more competitive economy, while carefully balancing the rate of change with the need for stability.
Efforts to remove surplus and match production with demand in the new consumption-driven era impacted various categories, generally favoring market-driven brands over state-owned enterprises (SOEs). The banks, insurance, and oil and gas categories, still dependent on the old economy, faced challenges.
There were exceptions. Alcohol and food and dairy, categories with substantial SOE presence, increased in value, usually because of the marketing activities of individual brands. Several brands of Baijiu, China’s traditional white alcohol, continued to rebound in value—for example, after repositioning to grow despite the government’s discouragement of extravagant official entertainment. Moutai is the second-fastest riser in the 2017 BrandZÔ Global Top 100, with brand value increasing 48 percent.
Economic rebalancing affected consumers disproportionately, hurting those dislocated from industries in the production-driven economy while helping others in the urban middle class associated with the service sector. This division affected diverse product categories and brands, and was especially evident in fast-moving consumer goods (FMCG). While sales slowed for mass products aimed at less affluent consumers, products desired by the middle class experienced premiumization. Kantar Worldpanel called this phenomenon “Two Speed China.”
In addition to these factors, brands contended with media fragmentation, which required insight about how to effectively shift investment to emerging digital options. No media channel dominated. Individual consumers relied on multiple media channels, especially in the cities. Plus, the kind of information consumed is changing, with a rise in content marketing that is more informational than promotional.
E-commerce and social media are rapidly evolving and converging in China, where digital ecosystems are more comprehensive than in the West, and more central to people’s lives. Video is rising in importance, with new niche platforms complementing the more traditional sites, and live streaming and self-broadcasting rising rapidly in popularity.
Meanwhile, the government has encouraged global expansion, having articulated its “One Belt, One Road” strategic vision in 2014 and a world facing conference in May 2017, to encourage global expansion and cultivate overseas markets for its excess industrial capacity. The presence of Chinese brands in the BrandZ™ Global Top 100 has grown steadily since the first brand, the SOE China Mobile, appeared in 2006.
Today, the 13 Chinese brands in the Global Top 100 comprise 11 percent of the ranking’s value. And over the 12 years since 2006, the brand value of Chinese brands in the Global Top 100 has increased 937 percent. The Chinese brands come mostly from categories dominated by SOEs: alcohol (including brands like Moutai), banks, insurance, oil and gas, and telecom providers like China Mobile.
But as the Chinese economy liberalizes, more entrepreneurial brands are represented in the BrandZ™ Global Top 100, including Alibaba, which ranks No. 2, after Amazon, in the retail category and JD.Com. More technology brands have appeared in the ranking, including China’s most valuable brand, Tencent, the internet portal, and these other technology brands: Baidu, the search giant, and Huawei, the telecommunications giant with a thriving consumer mobile device business.
The concentration of technology brands illustrates a shift in the overseas consumer view of Brand China. Recent BrandZ™ global research, conducted in collaboration with Google, found that emerging entrepreneurial, internet-driven Chinese brands are finding acceptance overseas. These smaller nimbler brands, with increasing access to capital, are rapidly establishing overseas, in some cases before they develop in China.
The change in perception is most pronounced among young people. BrandZ™ research across 18 countries in 2015 found that 40 percent of people aged 18 to 35, thought of Chinese brands as creative, compared with only 31 percent of people aged 51 to 65. The change in perception is likely to continue as Chinese brands increase the pace of overseas growth.
Emerging Chinese brands
impress overseas consumers
Chinese entrepreneurial brands are rapidly emerging. Although small, they are large enough to make an impression on consumers, even overseas. BrandZ™ examined overseas consumer attitudes toward both emerging and established Chinese brands.
The research considered nine product categories in seven developed markets, including three continental European countries, the UK, the US, Australia, and Japan. It compared how consumers view Chinese brands with how they view non-Chinese brands—both global brands and local country brands. The research concluded:
- Entrepreneurial, internet-driven Chinese brands are finding acceptance overseas, and consumer electronics brands dominate the ranks of Chinese exporters; however,
- Consumers worldwide are still less likely to choose a Chinese brand in most categories; and
- As Chinese companies continue to expand beyond nearby Asian countries, export success will require extensive market insight and brand building.
These findings are contained the BrandZ™ Top 30 Chinese Global Brand Builders, a report produced by BrandZ™ and Kantar Millward Brown in collaboration with Google. The report identifies and ranks Chinese brands based on the strength of their BrandZ™ Brand Power outside of China. Brand Power is a BrandZ™ metric of brand equity that describes consumers’ inclination to select a brand.