Quality, services keys to brand success, firms told
Mainland companies need to improve the quality of their goods and set up strong after-sales services if they wish to become globally recognised brands, market researcher Thomas Isaac (right) said.
Isaac, a director of research services at TNS, an international custom research agency, said the next five years would be a pivotal turning point for Chinese brands hoping to become global leaders across a range of industries.
'Look at countries like [South] Korea. Not a long time ago, they were in a similar position with foreign enterprises flocking there for cheap manufacturing. But now they are no longer considered cheap manufacturers,' he said.
The Korean experience could serve as an example for China, he said, and research conducted by TNS together with the Association of Accredited Advertising Agencies of Hong Kong indicated Chinese brands had a good chance of breaking into the global branded market if they put more emphasis on quality.
'There is not necessarily an inability to produce high-quality products. Chinese brands are presently not focusing on this, and they do not put the same effort as international companies into producing good quality for their brands.'
He cited Apple as an example of the quality of manufacture in China that was not being exploited. 'A lot of their products are actually made in China, and there are no questions and concerns about those products,' he said.
Another weak point for Chinese brands was an inadequate after-sales service culture, Issac said. 'It should not be a matter of 'I made the product. I sold it. Now I wash my hands of it'. There must be a mechanism to ensure that consumers get good service.'
The joint survey of 490 brand experts from 29 countries showed only 9 per cent of the interviewees regarded Chinese brands as on par with or above their international competitors, with quality and safety rated the biggest concerns.
But Paul Yang, the chief brand architect of CEO Brand Management Academy, a Beijing-based consulting company, said the result exceeded his worst expectations. 'If 9 per cent of people show confidence in Chinese brands, this is a good signal. It is no longer zero,' he said.
Isaac said the survey showed Lenovo was the best-known Chinese brand, followed by Air China, Bank of China and China Central Television. White goods maker Haier was fifth.
Pan Lei, a manager of a Beijing cashmere company that owns the well-known domestic brand, Snow Lotus, said the biggest barrier for him to becoming globally recognised was China's image as a country.
'Mention France and Italy, and you will picture a romantic country. Germany means quality. But China? A populous undeveloped communist nation!' Pan said.
Isaac said the overall image presented by a country did have an impact on branding, 'but the image of a company can be changed. So can the image of a country'.
To achieve this transformation, he said, Chinese companies should try to improve communications and inform consumers about quality improvements. 'If there are negative perceptions about your goods, it is going to take an effort to communicate that things have changed. Otherwise, it will take a long time for people to notice it themselves,' he said.