Outside of China, the majority of consumers can’t name a single Chinese brand. According to research from agency Millward Brown and media company WPP on the top 50 most valuable Chinese brands, 83% of consumers beyond China’s borders couldn’t recall a Chinese brand or company. That message is significant, given that China wants badly to create its own global brands, said Adrian Gonzalez, head of Greater China at Millward Brown. Chinese companies like appliance maker Haier and computer electronics company Lenovo that aspire to global household names will need to better distinguish themselves to become more recognizable to the world’s consumers, Mr. Gonzalez said.
At home, it’s a different story. The brand study, which analyzed financial information of listed companies’ brands and paired it with data from a survey of 35,000 consumers, reveals that value of Chinese brands has grown by to $325 billion in the past year, up 16% from a year earlier. The top Chinese brands–ranging from banks and telecommunications to fashion and food companies– are not only competitive in pricing, but are resonating and connecting emotionally with Chinese shoppers, the study said. Chinese companies are also narrowing the wide gap they once had with multi-national counterparts, which had for years built better trust and service for Chinese consumers. Dairy giant Mengniu (18) and its rival Yi Li (22) have proven themselves, even after having been implicated in a 2008 scandal in which the chemical melamine added to milk caused the death of an infant and illnesses in 300,000 others, to be on par with foreign competitors, such as Swiss food company Nestle SA, and are offering products of similar quality, Mr. Gonzalez said.
Technology companies, such as Sina (25) and Baidu (6), are creating new programs and products specific to Chinese needs. Sina, which operates China’s most popular Weibo microblogging service, saw its brand value increase 244% compared with last year, according to the report. We’re seeing in many cases now that foreign companies feel the best way to succeed in China now is through acquiring a Chinese company,” Mr. Gonzalez said, adding that a decade ago that was not the case. Results of the study reveal another shift occurring within China: a fall of the country’s state-owned enterprises.
While China Mobile, the top Chinese brand, and state-owned banks still dominate the Chinese brand landscape, seven of the 14 brands on the list that lost ground with consumers were state-owned. China Mobile held on to its No. 1 ranking from last year but dropped 4% in value in 2011. Bank of China (4) fell 17%. “Government protectionism is starting to wear thin,” the study said – a marked contrast with the study’s 2010 results. Don’t expect the fall to transfer beyond state-companies, the study’s authors said. If there’s any wake up call to foreign brands—even outside of China— it’s that Chinese brands are on the rise.