May 10th marked a big day in China. On this date the International Forum on China Brand Development was held in the Shanghai Expo Center. The focus of the forum, Building Authentic Domestic and Global CHINESE brands. All we can say at CenterBrain is “hooray”.
Since 2012 when Jim Ebel, CEO of CenterBrain Partners, was asked to come to China at the invitation of GDUFS he has been on a journey to raise the awareness of the importance of building brands. That task hasn’t always been easy.
“I faced a lot of interest in the topic of branding, but also a lot of resistance to change. In 2012 Chinese companies were making lots of money as OEM’s, making products for the great brands of the world, most of them from the U.S. When things are good, people just don’t change.”
Jim persisted with his mission, building a brand team and opening an office of his highly successful global brand consultancy in Shunde. “We needed to make a commitment to China and we hoped that China would make a commitment to brands and to the skills that have allowed CenterBrain to develop 220 global brands over the last 27 years. But that’s not exactly what happened.”
Ebel noted that he uncovered an even more basic problem in 2012, “Chinese companies had almost no one on staff that understood the sophisticated processed to build well-positioned brands, and many companies had been cleverly ripped-off by so-called consultants that told them they just need a logo, some colors, a name and a “creative” ad campaign.”
Ebel realized that there was some fundamental work that still needed to be done, so he launched the CenterBrain Institute, a knowledge building workshop that many companies and universities have used to rapidly improve “brand talent” in the marketplace.
The International Forum on China Brand Development held on May 10th — The “Chinese Brands Day” in Shanghai, sends a strong signal to Chinese companies and perhaps the world that China is getting serious about brands, something Jim Ebel has been saying now for years. “Brands are soft-power, they convey your culture and creativity to the rest of the world. Great economies need them to be successful in the 21st century, even as much as technology” Ebel said.
中国品牌发展国际论坛在5月10 日“中国品牌日”这天于上海举办，向中国企业乃至世界发出了强烈的信号，表明中国开始认真对待品牌，这也是Jim多年来一直强调的。“品牌是软实力，它们将你的文化和创意传达到世界各地。在21世纪，强大的经济体需要大量品牌来获得成功，甚至需达到和技术一样的数量。” Ebel说道。
Ebel went on, “As a global brand positioning company, we are glad to see that Chinese brands are striving to join the global brand competition club. As the world’s largest manufacturingeconomy, lots of famous brands are made right here in China. China is beginning to field brand talent, they have the capital and the know-how. But, Chinese business has to have the fortitude and the patience for brands. It takes time and money to create brand assets. A lot of companies have been hesitant to be patient with brand building.”
And, China faces another challenge. Foreigners are somewhat reluctant to buy ChineseBrands.
Recently, BrandZ™️, the world’s largest brand equity database, conducted a study to understand global perceptions of Chinese brands. They asked Westerners the question, “Does knowing that a brand comes from China affect your purchase interest?” To consumers from England it mattered the least, with just 28% saying it affected their purchase decision. Yet, in the US, nearly 50% of Americans thought that knowing a brand is a Chinese brand could weaken their interest.
Ebel, who is an American, thinks this is just a temporary issue. “Americans love brands that are different and positioned to connect to their values. In the 80’s the Japanese came to America with brands and they were quickly accepted, just ask Sony, Toyota, Nissan and Honda about this. In the 90’s Korean brands like Samsung, Kia, Hyundai, and LG won the hearts and wallets of Americans too. Chinese brands need to understand the concept of branding at a deep level, that’s the key. One important factor is to really understand how the consumer thinks and acts, something we call the That’s Me factor. Again, is it about brand positioning, nothing more nothing less.”
As discussed at the Shanghai forum, and what we at CenterBrain Partners also advocate, is to stay focused on three things when beginning to build your brand.
Find your technology or product advantage and clearly communicate it through brand positioning.
Know your consumer at a very deep level not just demographically, but her persona.
Flawlessly execute the brand positioning across media choices, (POEM- Paid, Owned, Earned, Micro)
Then, give the brand a chance. Don’t expect immediate ROI. Brands are assets that are built, not just sales that are generated. If you are patient and focused, building a strong brand positioning using consumer driven methods, and if you maintain a consistent in market execution at the right investment levels for just three years, the brand will give back for at least 10 years. Long-term ROI will be extraordinary.
We’re looking forward to seeing more China brands join the stage with those from the U.S. and Europe. China will build global brands, perhaps this is the real beginning.