Consumer views about what “Made in China” says about quality are changing around the world, particularly among the young, who increasingly view the label as a byword for innovation.
But many brands that are huge successes at home have a lot of work to do to raise their profiles in other markets, and they’re going about it in new ways, panellists led by Ogilvy China CEO Chris Reiterman said.
“Chinese brands are no longer seen as cheap and low quality; they’re much more associated with new ideas, innovation, but also being affordable,” said Alice Lee, General Manager, Brand Innovation Centre, and Managing Director, TCL Corp.
“In a nutshell, the perception of Chinese brands now is ‘affordable innovation’.”
Deepender Rana, CEO Kantar Insights, Greater China, said international consumers’ opinions tend to shift when they tried Chinese-made products for the first time. Brands looking to take their Chinese success abroad should therefore focus on the consumer experience.
“The Chinese brands, in terms of quality, are ahead, and in terms of perceptions, they’re behind,” he said. “So when the foreign consumers actually try the brand, they’re like ‘Wow’. They’re shocked. The role of brand building for Chinese brands abroad is to first get awareness and familiarity, so that we can encourage that trial.”
The need to put products in people’s hands – or at least videos of products in front of them – has been at the heart of drone giant Dajiang’s growth. The business generates more than 80 percent of its revenue outside China, and many buyers don’t even realize it’s a Chinese brand.
“We attach great importance on experience,” said DJI Vice-President Paul Xu.
“The idea of a drone is very new for many people … we must take it to the customer, let them experience it.” This was done both physically and by distributing about 1,000 online videos a year showing the products in in action. “This is to make our global customer resonate with our product, and we can then gain information on how they feel about our product.”
The other way to grow a Chinese brand abroad is through acquisition, something the travel company Ctrip has been doing, snapping up Hong Kong’s Yong An, the UK’s Skyscanner, India’s Make My Trip and a collection of other online travel agents in just the past three years.
James Tang, Senior Vice-President at Ctrip, said moving outside China was a gradual process; the bulk of revenue still comes from the home market, where the brand is known by the tagline “Go any time you please”.
“Based on my experience at Ctrip, my view is this,” he said. “One, build good brand, two, use your channel well, use any channel that gives you an ROI greater than one, and three, based on one and two, you need invest heavily to build your brand.”
Landy Huang is Chief Evangelist Officer, Greater China, at Google, and says her role is to help Chinese brands go global. They tend to fall into one of two camps: the gradual expansion model such as Ctrip’s, or global-first companies that from day one have a clear vision of global success achieved through digital marketing and distribution.
“These are two very different approaches,” she said. “I think both of them work, and both of them are very good – big style.”
Panelists said building a Chinese brand was like building a triangle of product, experience, and then promotion and advertising.
Paul Xu warned of the perils of the overnight internet sensation. “Many of the products may have raised few hundreds of millions in the beginning and then eventually faded out and disappeared completely. This happens quite often. I believe that building a global brand is a very long process.”
Chinese brands have a good story to tell. They just need to tell it better.
Deepender Rana, CEO, Kantar Insights, China