EUROPE: White Tigers – Chinese companies with a strong business presence in Europe but little or no brand identity – are gearing up for major brand-building activity over the next couple of years, according to a new study.

Research by INNOCEAN Worldwide Europe, based on a survey of 1,000 consumers across Europe, revealed nine aggressively growing Asian businesses – predominantly Chinese – that have successfully expanded into Europe in spite of being virtually unknown to most European consumers.

INNOCEAN noted they all had competitive pricing and strong distribution networks and said they were poised to launch a period of intensive brand-building activity to win heart and minds and secure a place in Europe as major players.

And it argued that this would force Western marketers to rewrite their strategies.

The research indicated that almost six in ten (61%) of European consumers were no longer particularly concerned by where a brand was based or manufactured, which INNOCEAN suggested was an important shift since Asian brands have often had to deal with negative perceptions.

"Any marketer will tell you it takes longer to build a brand than to build a business, but the gap is closing fast," said Glen Flaherty, chief strategy officer at INNOCEAN Worldwide Europe.

"Whilst it took the first wave of Asian companies to arrive in Europe, such as Panasonic, 30 years to build the mass brand awareness they have today, it is likely to take companies such as Haier just a few short years."

Haier, the domestic appliances manufacturer, has already achieved a brand awareness level of 17% in Europe, according to INNOCEAN.

At 11%, ZTE, the mobile phone maker, is the only other Chinese brand reporting brand awareness in double digits.

The other six Chinese businesses identified by the research all operate in the domestic appliances and consumer electronics sectors and include: TCL Communications, with 6% awareness; Hisense, also on 6%; Aigo, on 4%; OPPO, on 4%; Xiaomi, on 3%; and Changhong, on 2%.

Flaherty noted that digital channels would play a vital role in helping these companies reach consumers directly and in bringing down the cost of entry.

"Today's newcomers are learning important lessons from brands that have made the journey before, allowing them to achieve impact at a speed that would have been unimaginable even ten years ago," he said

Data sourced from INNOCEAN; additional content by Warc staff