10 actions for building
valuable brands in China
- Build Difference
Chinese brands generally score well in Meaningful (filling needs in relevant ways) and Salience (coming to mind at the moment of consideration), but they continue to lag in Difference, the ability to be seen as distinctive from the competition and even trendsetting. As the China market becomes even more competitive the importance of Difference increases.
- Go Deep
Go where the brand can win. China is growing fastest in lower tier cities, and it will for the foreseeable future. The potential is great both for winning business and making mistakes. Relying on the insights gained from competing in the coastal metropolises can help, but it can also create misunderstanding. The emergence of small insurgent Chinese brands with deep local knowledge presents a special challenge for fast-moving consumer product multinational brands.
- Go Global
Chinese consumer brands are increasingly viewed positively by overseas consumers. To accelerate overseas growth, it is important to differentiate, build greater awareness, create a long-term communications strategy, and find the right talent, people familiar with both the local market the operating style of a Chinese company.
- Go New Retail
To expand in China, it is necessary to participate in New Retail, to meet the consumer both online and offline and fulfill expectations for finding the right product or service and having the order rapidly fulfilled. The larger question is how best to participate in New Retail. It is important to choose ecosystems that share relevant consumer data and best align with the audiences a brand wants to reach.
- Refine the Brand Experience
Delivering the right product on time is just the start. The development of e-commerce and seamless online-offline purchasing and fulfillment means that it is difficult for a brand to distinguish itself just by getting the basics right, although getting the basics right is critical. Standing out from the sameness requires delivering a memorable brand experience by personalizing one or more aspects of the brand, including product, service, and communications.
- Be Intelligent
Many of the recent Chinese start-up brands have ignored existing categories and instead build businesses by identifying an unmet consumer need. Some of these brands have expanded into conglomerates of disparate services that together produce the one-stop, extreme convenience lifestyle favored by many Chinese consumers. The path to this success usually involves a combination of human and artificial intelligence.
- Be Social
To expand in China, and especially to reach young people, it is important to be present on social media. The challenge is understanding the complexities of social media, selecting the right platforms, and being present most effectively. Some platforms are useful for sending traditional brand messages. On other platforms, such as sites for playing games or watching short videos, it is more productive to introduce compelling, brand-relevant content.
- Optimize Media ROI
Too many consumers complain that they are confused by the marketing media they see. Strong marketing ROI depends on integrating the brand impression across the campaign. Celebrities spokespeople still influence Chinese consumers. But it is important to select the right celebrity, one aligned with the brand’s purpose and values. Increasingly, messages delivered by peers, rather than celebrities, seem more authentic to Chinese consumers.
- Build a Brand
The size of the Chinese market and the ubiquity of e-commerce and mobile access make it possible to build a business fairly quickly. The challenge comes when growth stalls. At that point, a brand would be useful. It could convey trust and difference and help a business stand out from the crowd of seemingly comparable businesses. But that point might come too late.
- Build a Powerful Brand
Brands that score high in Power, a BrandZ™ metric of brand equity, grow market share more quickly. Power predisposes customers to select the brand, which becomes determinative at the point of sale. At the point of sale, physical or online, a powerful brand enjoys an important edge against all the other brands trying convert consumers to customers and close sales.