The path to greatness

Doreen Wang
Global Head of BrandZ

Building a global Chinese brand, step by step

The scale and influence of Chinese brands on the world stage has grown tremendously over the last decade. Back in 2006, there was just one Chinese brand in the BrandZTM Global Top 100; in the 2018 ranking, there were 14.

The initial growth phase of Chinese brands was founded on the country’s strength as a low-cost production center and, in the tech sector particularly, protection from outside competitors.

The next phase came from brands seeking to augment their domestic success with sales in other markets, often targeting countries with a large Chinese-speaking population.

Now, Chinese brands are seeking true global status. The 2019 BrandZTM Top50 Global Brand Builders Study highlights those that have best succeeded. Huawei, Lenovo and Alibaba make the top three and are all known internationally not just as Chinese businesses but as global brands.

While there remain significant challenges for Chinese brands with aspirations of global success, it is becoming a less difficult path to tread. To guide brands in their pursuit of international growth, we have identified four important steps towards building a Chinese brand – globally.

1. Increase Brand Power

  • Brands with high Brand Power have strong engagement with consumers, who in turn feel strong desire for the brand. Super-charging Brand Power means focusing on being more:
  • Meaningful: meeting or surpassing consumers’ needs and appealing on both an emotional and rational level;
  • Different: being unique in way that benefits consumers, setting trends for others to follow;
  • Salient: being the brand that springs to mind when consumers have a need.

2. Stand for something big

All companies are based on an idea, but the most successful brands have a purpose. The higher the purpose, the greater the potential of the brand. A purpose determines how a brand will make someone’s day that bit easier or more fun – or even do something transformative to improve people’s lives.
A purpose is most effective when driven by the CEO and shared by everyone involved in the brand – not just the marketing department. At Huawei, for instance, all 180,000 employees own a stake in the business, underlining their shared responsibility for success.

3. Leverage the speed of China’s markets

Chinese companies are known for their ability to make things happen staggeringly fast, and this gives them a global advantage. Look how well the 11/11 “Singles Day” sales have been boosted by internalization of the event.
Being fast means working on logistics, especially for e-commerce brands seeking to win business around the world. Speed of delivery is major consideration for shoppers, and Chinese brands must deploy all their home-grown skills of speed and organization to win them over.

Speed also means reviewing business objectives based on a 10-year vision. Pursue great opportunities, avoid risks as they arise, but stay focused on the goal – even if that means changing course.

4. Team up with like-minded brands

Form alliances with brands you see as leaders and innovators in their own category and which already have a loyal consumer following. Alliances could include:

  1. Technical partnership – on a product that combines the “best of both worlds”
  2. Design partnership – working with a brand whose designers are seen as cutting-edge
  3. Distribution partnership – Selling your brand via the online store of a leading non-competitor brand
  4. Systems/Communications partnership – leveraging the brands that can better connect you with your audience. This is part of constantly looking beyond the accepted way of doing things.

Travel Checklist

  • Build a brand at the same time as building scale. Awareness is a key part of this, but not the full story.
  • Stand for something. Have a mission to make people’s lives better that resonates globally.
  • Commit. Don’t dip in and out of markets, and think long term about ROI.
  • Behave like a global brand. Be strategic about where to invest, recruit the best staff - wherever they are - and use global partnerships and technology to achieve scale.
  • Adapt to each market. Being global isn’t about being monolithic; it’s about a global strategy, locally executed.
  • Keep innovating, and ensure consumers know that’s what you’re doing.

Remember: brands that make a meaningful difference to people’s lives, in an ethical way, will travel.

Here’s wishing you a successful journey!