Will Galgey writes:
A couple of weeks ago I spoke at the launch of the WPP BrandZ report on the Top 50 Chinese Brands, which Oliver blogged about here, and I wanted to add some thoughts to his post.
When I was last in China a few months ago, I came back from breakfast to find my hotel room being cleaned. The maid, who spoke no English, beamed a broad smile and immediately started trying to tell me something, gesticulating with her fingers to make the number ‘two’ and pointing at the television, which she had tuned to CNN. My Mandarin was no better than her English, and it was only after she left that I saw the news that China had just overtaken Japan to become the second largest economy in the world.
The story exemplifies for me the intense pride the Chinese have in their country and its achievements, which we also see in our proprietary Global MONITOR data. (How many Britons, or Italians, or Canadians, would know or care about their country’s ranking in the world economic league table?).
Many commentators conclude that this national pride will increasingly lead the Chinese to turn inwards, and favour domestic brands over their western counterparts. But this is wrong. The reality is that the Chinese are sufficiently self-confident in what it means to be Chinese, and their ability to choose selectively from other cultures, that they are actually very open to other cultural influences and don’t bristle at the idea of accepting western brands. In our Global MONITOR survey, the Chinese (along with Saudis) are the least likely to feel that ‘our society is too Americanised’.
But simply playing to notions of status and elitism through an association with the West is no longer enough for western brands looking to succeed in China. Chinese consumers are now far more savvy about price and value and are adopting a much more sophisticated attitude to brands – both foreign and domestic.
It sounds obvious, but both foreign and local brands must remember the difference between what it takes to claim the indoors and the outdoors. Haier and Lenovo do well in China because their products are kept in the home, while Nokia and Chanel do well because they’re on public display. Of course, this is a crude division – and becoming more so every day. To cross it requires a much deeper analysis of the underlying values and attitudes that are driving consumer needs and wants in China, something we are currently helping a number of clients to get to grips with.
The picture at the top of this post comes from an article on Chinese brands in Business World, and is used with thanks.