China: now the world’s second largest economy; 3 corporations in the Fortune Global 500; growing influence in every sphere of our lives from geo-political to the clothes we wear. Yet how many Chinese brands can you name outside your own category today? Tsingtao maybe? Lenovo? Haier? MG?
In the most recently published Interbrand ‘Best Global Brands’ Survey there is not a single Chinese brand in the top 100. However check out the Top 100 brands in China (courtesy of Brand Finance) and think forward ten years. How many will be as familiar to us then as Samsung, Hyundai, Sony, Canon, Acer, Toyota, Honda are now? And perhaps more pertinently, how many of them will be more familiar to consumers in today’s emerging and about to emerge markets than the so called ‘Global’ brands are now?
In the 4th quarter of 2010 the top 4 mobile phone vendors (in shipments, not profit) were Nokia, Samsung, LG and ZTE. Apple were 5th (note I said shipments, not profit) ZTE?
To quote from the IDC press release:
‘ZTE finished the quarter in the number 4 position with shipments steadily spreading from its home country of China to developing regions such as Africa and Latin America. ZTE has also recently made inroads in developed markets such as Western Europe and the U.S. as well as Japan. While most of its shipments have historically concentrated on entry-level and mid-range devices, some of its recent success is directly attributable to its rapidly expanding smartphone line, such as the Android-based Blade and Racer devices. Meanwhile, its S- and C-series entry-level feature phones provided additional competition within emerging markets.’
By following a strategy of building up volume in partnership with known brands and at the same time building their operational expertise they are creating a strong, well-resourced foundation for an eventual move to selling products under their own brand. An approach already followed by HTC.
Will they invest some of the cash they are now earning as an OEM player on brand-building? I wouldn’t be at all surprised.
But in the end, a brand’s strength is based on how much it is trusted by its customers to deliver on the promises it makes.
The tone of the coverage of Chinese Telecommunications Company Huawei’s offer to set up infrastructure to let us use our mobiles on the tube during the Olympics suggests that there is some way to go to build up trust in China plc.
However, it seems inevitable that we will soon – as consumers – have much greater familiarity with goods and services from Chinese brands.
The Chinese are coming. As a brand marketer, how do you propose to respond?