Overseas hurdles await Chinese brands

15 August 2012

BEIJING: Air China, Lenovo and the Bank of China are the best-known Chinese brands internationally, but many overseas shoppers retain doubts about buying goods made in the country.

JWT, the agency, polled 1,006 adults in the UK and US, and discovered 28% were aware of Air China, the air carrier. Lenovo, the IT group, and Bank of China, the financial services group, came next, both on 26%.

Haier, the appliances manufacturer, followed on 12%, trailed by Tsingtao, the beer, with 11%, China Mobile, the telecoms giant, on 7%, the same score as Baidu, the search engine.

Completing the top ten were 361°, the sportswear specialist, Yanjing, another beer, with 5%, a figure matched by TCL, the electronics firm.

However, 65% of respondents thought items carrying the "made in China" label were mass produced and 56% perceived them as being cheap, totals hitting just 31% and 8% respectively for goods from the US.

A further 51% were "not impressed" with products made in China, and anticipated the country's brands would be of the same quality. An equal number said Chinese brands were not portrayed well in the media.

Elsewhere, 34% of interviewees were "not very impressed with Chinese companies in general", and 28% had endured "bad experiences" with brands from the Asian nation.

In sum, this negativity had knock-on consequences for Chinese brands, which 52% of the panel described as "mass produced". An additional 44% saw them as "cheap", 33% expressed safety concerns and 26% expected them to be poorly made.

The study also warned China's brands faced broader obstacles. Some 67% of the sample proved "wary" about the fact China was Communist, 62% were "anxious" about its economic rise, as were 57% about Chinese investment in their home nation.

When asked to name the categories in which they would be interested in trying Chinese brands, 28% of those surveyed pointed to food and beverages, falling to 25% for electronics, and 21% apiece for appliances, clothing and traditional medicine.

Shoppers in the 18–34 year old age range were most keen to try Chinese brands in 14 of the 16 sectors assessed. The exceptions were food and traditional medicine, where 48–67 year olds took this status.

"Changing perceptions of Chinese-made goods won't be easy. But we're seeing some bold Chinese brands starting to do so, using an array of strategies," Ann Mack, director of trendspotting for JWT, said.

"As we move into what many forecast will be a 'Chinese Century,' there is tremendous potential for Chinese brands to break through."

Data sourced from JWT; additional content by Warc staff