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Trust, innovation key for brands in China

News, 13 October 2015

SHANGHAI: Chinese consumers are more outward-looking than much of Asia, but brands must focus on trustworthiness and innovation in order to be successful there.

A new McCann study, The Truth About Global Brands, surveyed consumers in 29 countries, including more than 9,000 in nine Asia-Pacific markets and found that China's positive sentiment towards globalization is the highest in Asia.

Fully 86% of Chinese consumers feel proud of their local culture and national identity, but nearly two thirds of Chinese are eager to be integrated into a global culture.

For brands, China's outward-looking consumers provide tremendous opportunities for international brands. Despite a high level of nationalistic pride, just 34% of Chinese consumers are optimistic about 'Made in China' products.

McCann's study reports that trustworthiness (41%) and innovation of brands (43%) are important factors for Chinese consumers – both much higher than the global average.

Chinese consumers are also likely to refer to their peers for information about products. For brands, transparency and actively building trust on a personal level is key. According to a recent Edelman survey – Innovation and the Earned Brand – 41% of Chinese respondents say peer conversations make them trust a brand more, help them overcome concerns (30%), help them make decisions (31%) and warn them of risks (37%) about a product or service.

In practice, brands who actively engage on a personal level are more likely to be resilient with Chinese consumers. Four in every five Chinese consumers tend to trust brands that encourage peer-to-peer conversations, according to Edelman.

The power of such conversations was demonstrated in 2013, amidst an infant formula contamination crisis. New Zealand dairy giant Fonterra took a hit in China with negative press and misinformation spreading through China's social media channels about the safety of its infant formula.

Real employees – writing in Chinese languages – addressed all of the concerns stemming from real consumer voices, creating real mutual dialogue to reassure them on the quality and standard of Fonterra's products while making personal connections with consumers. Just a few weeks later, Fonterra launched a premium dairy range in China, which sold out.

Data sourced from Marketing; additional content by Warc staff