In a year when the domestic market tried to scramble out of the pandemic and deal with global diplomatic and trade battles, newer tech brands and stay-at-home labels dominated the Top 50 BrandZ Chinese Global Brand Builders 2021.
In its fifth edition, this listing, compiled with Google, saw long-time leader Huawei, embroiled in trade disputes all year long, toppled from its perch, replaced by Alibaba and Bytedance, which vaulted to the first two positions from third and fourth, respectively, in 2020.
“Over the years, we have seen that Chinese companies who have invested in building their brands, are able to achieve sustainable, quality growth and find resilience during financially stressed times,” said Annabel Lin, managing director of Greater China Solution Specialists and APAC International Growth at Google. “During this challenging year, those brands have managed to stay the course, and increased their trust and relevance with consumers around the globe.”
Google and Kantar created a four-step methodology that pairs BrandZ's analytics and Google’s online reach and data gathering capabilities. In 2021, the ranking has added data from four emerging markets (India, Indonesia, Mexico and Brazil) on top of the seven developed markets covered in previous years (Australia, France, Germany, Japan, Spain, the United Kingdom and the United States). This year’s research surveyed more than 860,000 consumers in 11 markets. The report compared 1,662 candidate brands across 15 categories with brands in local markets to select the final Top 50 brands.
With this shift, the challenges for Chinese brands have also changed. For example, in this year's listing, in developed markets, with consumers yet mostly locked down in the past year, online content fast fashion and content apps saw a spike in their brand recognition. In emerging markets, meanwhile, brands looked to hook consumers with specific product attributes to reel them in.
Consider Chinese mobile handset maker Oppo's Indonesia strategy. The brand discovered that Indonesians like to take bright, clear selfies and therefore positioned itself as the “selfie expert” and launched its F series phone with a 16-megapixel front-facing camera. The result? The brand's 'Brand Power' across all surveyed markets is highest in Indonesia.
The recast in rankings wasn't at the top alone this year. Ten brands are new to the listing, eight of which have never been on it earlier. Some brands, such as JAC and Midea, which enjoy higher brand recall in emerging markets, benefited from the tweak in methodology this year, and mobile gaming accounted for three of the new brands, including gaming brand miHoYo, which debuted at No. 22. Founded by three students in 2012, the company today employs over 2,400 people.