Progress proves slow for Chinese brands

06 December 2011

BEIJING: Brand owners in China still have to make substantial progress to convince consumers in Western markets that they offer more than a low-cost purchase option, research has revealed.

Calling Brands, the consultancy, polled 1,476 people in France, Germany and the UK, and revealed 8% "never" considered buying Chinese products, and 29% only did so in a limited number of categories.

Some 7% of interviewees "mostly" included items made in China among the range of viable choices, and 2% "always" did so. A 53% share, however, had no "strong views" either way.

The analysis suggested "overall consideration" levels stood at 9%, indicating the scale of the challenge facing brands from the Asian nation seeking to gain ground abroad.

When picking the preferred credentials of products they bought, 80% of shoppers wanted something that was "reliable", 78% focused on trustworthiness, 77% chose good value and high quality and 76% emphasised safety.

Practicality registered 72% on this metric, low prices yielded 69%, an attractive design recorded 68% and being "approachable" secured 66%.

The description most readily associated with Chinese brands is that of "low cost", mentioned by 60% of adults. The next highest figure was being "international", delivering just over 20%.

More favourably, during the last five years, a majority of the measures assessed had seen a double digit improvement in equivalent ratings, peaking at a 44% leap for "sophistication" and 31% for "good quality".

Participants in France were the least positive about Chinese brands. For example, a modest 2% of the French sample perceived products from China as providing "good value", rising to 21% in Germany and 25% in the UK.

Precisely 75% of German and French contributors believed brands from their own country possessed appealing characteristics, falling to 40% in the UK, but still well ahead of the scores afforded to the Chinese alternatives.

In terms of spontaneous awareness, a 7% proportion of the panel could name-check Lenovo, the IT group. Haier, the appliances company, and Huawei, the telecoms specialist, both generated 2%.

Turning to prompted awareness, Lenovo surged past 40%, while Haier and Huawei both topped 20%. Tsingtao, the beer, surpassed 15% here, and Li Ning, the sports brand, and Geely, the automaker, also reached double digits.

Data sourced from Financial Times/Calling Brands; additional content by Warc staff