Author Archives: Chris Farmer

Is China Ready To Build Global Brands? | Branding Strategy Insider

Brands in China Series

David Aaker thinks that it will be decades before Chinese companies are ready to develop strong brands capable of competing on the global stage. While I do not agree with his blanket assessment, I can personally vouch for one of the reasons he cites for his point of view. Unless senior managers at Chinese companies value the power of branding, then investment in brand and advertising will likely be wasted.

Source: Is China Ready To Build Global Brands? | Branding Strategy Insider

The Made-in-China Syndrome

IT IS THE largest manufacturing base in the world. It is the largest single consumer base on the planet. Yet China’s brand and reputation seems to mean only cheap and mass-produced.

Is this just the way things are?

China has become the world’s largest consumer of luxury goods. This has come about, according to various sources, because of an increase in Chinese wealth in certain strata of society, because of the allure of Western luxury super-brands such as Louis Vuitton, Chanel or Dior, and to a large extent on the lack of recognized brands coming from the People’s Republic. As a consumer powerhouse, China will keep the luxury sector afloat in years to come.

The question, however, is why are there so few Chinese luxury brands that are known abroad. Such brands are present on the market, including the Red Flag sedan of Chairman Mao, luxury retailer Shanghai Tang, or the luxury fashion label Ne Tiger. And while Shanghai Tang has made it to London (and Bangkok, Honolulu, Miami, New York, Las Vegas, Madrid, Paris, Tokyo, and Macau), there are no significant Made-in-China luxury brands to be found outside the country.

The Experts

Any discussion about luxury in China, moreover, brings the experts out in droves. They want to tell us about socio-economic indicators and drivers. They want to tell us about the rise of the Chinese middle class. They will also have a few slides about the spending power of the new Chinese super-rich and their habits.

This is all very interesting. But where are the brands?

Talking to a group of (mostly European) master’s students in Suzhou today, I asked the question: What does Made-in-China mean? And the answers came back –

“Too Chinese”
“Mass produced.”
“Bad quality.”

Bad rap. The argument that they were “too Chinese” meant that the Chinese culture and its associations are too far removed from Western Europe or America to have any impact. This may be true. But the opposite is also true – France and Italy are far from Beijing and yet their traditions are not seen as “too French.”

Brands around the world depend on China for their production. Huge volumes can be handled quickly and reliably at very reasonable prices. And this is probably the biggest stigma-generator of all.

Made-in-China is cheapened by Western brands who DEMAND the cheap, the cut-corners, and light-speed production times. Western brands producing in China count on the low price, and they accept lower quality to get it cheap and fast.



All of this redounds to the detriment of Made-in-China. None of this has anything to do with the centuries of tradition behind brands like Moutai, the most expensive Chinese liquor or Shui Jing Fang whose spirits are sold for hundreds of euros. But export these to Paris and they will sit quietly on the shelves, undisturbed by consumer desire.

Problematically, Chinese brands suffer from our bad memories. We have lost the memory of the China of the Silk Road and Marco Polo when anything brought back from the mysterious East had intrinsic value based on its provenance. Today, the effect runs the other way.

The answer to the question about Chinese brands and Made-in-China is that there ARE brands but we do not let them in. We choose not to understand them. We do not look beyond the China we know.

And the intrepid brand developer who is able to show the Western world a brand made in China whose value and prestige can outshine our own luxury brands will have a foothold in the future.

Brands in China Series

Brand: Serbia

serbia_products_mugWhat are the vital elements of a country’s brand?

The branding of Serbia has been going through a very long series of false starts and misfires for as long as I have known about it. I was involved in an early post-transition project in 2004 and 2005, but the branding initiative was ultimately shelved because no one could address the elephant in the conference room:

What is Serbia’s brand?

There are many schools of thought and many able practitioners of “nation branding” available for people seeking to answer this question. One group thinks that national products should take the fore, associating a country with what it produces. The examples of this kind of branding are many. Italy for example could be linked with pasta, coffee, design, fashion, or ice cream. But does this capture the essence?

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5 Steps to Building Your Restaurant Brand

How often have you gone out to a restaurant and said, “It’s just not like it used to be?”

If someone (like me for example) would come up to you after and ask you exactly WHAT wasn’t the same, the answer might not be easy. With restaurants, their brands are a synesthetic mix – maybe the food has changed, maybe the décor, maybe the lighting, maybe the seating arrangement, maybe the ambient aromas, maybe the music has been turned up, turned down, or turned on its head.

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Forgiveness and Brands

I require my toaster to make toast.

If my toaster frequently burns the toast, I will replace it without thinking too much.  I have a strictly functional relationship with it. Does it do the job it is supposed to? If it is made by Westinghouse, Tefal, KitchenAid, or any other known brand is of much less consequence than its function. This is especially true if I buy one which calls itself “the best”. I will switch it out. No regrets, no forgiveness.

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Quality, Quantity, and Infinite Monkeys

The theory runs something like this: If you have an infinite number of monkeys with an infinite number of typewriters and an infinite amount of time, they will eventually write the complete works of Shakespeare.

People forget about the flip-side, however. If you use the Infinite Monkey Strategy (IMS) you need an infinite amount of account managers sifting through an infinite amount of paper just to find the three or four words which will talk about your brand. And of course, you will be paying infinite over-time for it.

And what’s a typewriter?

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Famous: Building a Powerful Personal Brand

A glittering star dressed to look undressed and singing someone else’s songs may become a YouTube or Vine sensation overnight. She may go viral. She may have a million views and a million followers. But is she famous?

Yes. But.

The kind of fame that is useful in personal branding is the kind that endures. It is not about getting people to look but rather it is about engaging a very wide audience consistently. Woody Allen is famous for a lot of things, but the main reason is that he has consistently delivered quality films for nearly 50 years. He gained attention early because of his talent and (it must be said) hard work. Woody Allen’s goal was not to become famous – he wanted to make films.

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When Brands Intrude

The only thing you needed to buy was a dozen eggs, but somewhere on Aisle One you were Brand Attacked!

It happens when people, sitting idly around the marketing department, start wondering how they can engage new consumers better and faster.

“Let’s attack them!”

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