Chinese brands skyrocketed up Asia's Top 1000 Brands ranking in 2021, due in part to a reweighting of data* that more accurately reflects China's size and influence in the region.
In the consumer survey, conducted by NielsenIQ for Campaign Asia-Pacific, a total of 33 mainland-based brands made improvements in their ranking—with many jumping hundreds of places—while just five suffered drops. Those that improved cover a diverse range of industries, from oil and gas to ecommerce and technology.
The most improved brand from mainland China this year is home decoration and furniture brand Macalline, headquartered in Shanghai and listed in Hong Kong. It is followed by Sinopec, an oil and gas enterprise based in Beijing, and China Unicom, a state-owned telecommunication operator—which both jumped more than 600 places on the list.
Chinese brands that moved up the ranking
Financial services: Alipay (+137 to 120), Bank of China (+225 to 121), ICBC Asia (+360 to 212), China Merchants Bank(+488 to 366), China Construction Bank (+303 to 675)
Consumer electronics: Xiaomi (+26 to 114), Lenovo (+393 to 189), Oppo (+78 to 283)
Appliances: Haier (+118 to 115), Midea (+262 to 133), Hisense (+244 to 355),
Telecommunications: China Mobile (+406 to 165), China Unicom (+600 to 227)
Oil and gas: Sinopec (+631 to 210), PetroChina (+544 to 241)
Technology company: Baidu: (+517 to 217), Tencent (+145 to 236)
Ecommerce platform: Taobao (+32 to 222), JD (+561 to 291)
Furniture: Macalline (+651 to 276)
Pharmaceuticals: Yunnan Baiyao (+534 to 421)
Car rental: China Auto Rental (+503 to 223)
Travel agency: CTrip (now Trip.com) (+390 to 219)
Courier service: SFExpress (+420 to 324)
Restaurant: Haidilao (+411 to 136)
Food and beverages: Nongfu Spring (+365 to 380), Haitian(+240 to 461), Yili (+27 to 478)
Media and online video company: iQiyi (+274 to 356)
Laundry detergent: Blue Moon (+83 to 249)
Meanwhile, 59 mainland-based brands entered the list for the first time in 2021. The new entrants cover an equally diverse range of categories.
New Chinese entrants in the Top 1000 ranking
Food delivery: Meituan Waimai (132), Eleme (135)
Fashion and clothing: Shein (239), Youngor (795), Bosideng (924)
Appliances: Gree (311), Flyco (530), Galanz (594), Skyworth (940), TCL (987)
Airlines: Air China (323)
Liquor: Moutai (329), Wuliangye (557)
Ecommerce: Tmall(334), VIP(808)
Food & Agriculture: New Hope Liuhe (337), Three Squirrels (570), Shanghaijia (835), DALI Food (850), Hsu Fu Chi(915)
Beer: Tsingtao (377), Snow Beer (722), Harbin (834)
Consumer electronics: DJI (376), Vivo (669), OnePlus (683)
Sports: Li Ning (402), Anta (662), Fila (856), CSL/Chinese Super League (902)
Insurance: China Life (403), PICC (519), Ping An Insurance (541), CPIC (837)
Technology and gaming: QQ(405), Lenovo Legion (562), Douyin (591), 360 (686), Kingsoft (735), Sogou (932)
Media and online video company: Bilibili (453), V.qq (635), Youku (789)
Travel agency: Alitrip (522), Qunar.com (605), Tuniu (938)
Pharmaceuticals: TongRenTang (537), Nanjing, Yang Sheng Tang (571)
Jewellery: Lao Feng Xiang (560), Chow Tai Seng (786)
Financial services: Agricultural Bank of China (958), Shanghai Pudong Development Bank (975)
Beverages: Luckin Coffee (653)
Cookware and small appliances: Supor(710)
Pet Care: Bridge Pet care(787)
Courier service: ZTO Express(934)
Convenience store: Meiyijia (935)
The most impressive debuts came from food delivery services Meituan Waimai and Eleme, ranking 132 and 135, respectively. Meituan is now evolving into a comprehensive O2O lifestyle service platform, with Tencent holding a 17.7% stake. Eleme, founded in 2018, was acquired by Alibaba Group but continues to operate independently.
Chinese internet conglomerates Tencent and Alibaba led groups of brands to move up on the list and add new entrants. Tencent Group now has WeChat, Tencent, QQ and V.qq, while Alibaba Group has Alipay, Eleme, Taobao, Tmall and Alitrip.
For another year, Tencent's WeChat ranked the highest among all Chinese brands, improving from 117 in 2020 to 27.
Alex Duncan, cofounder of Kawo, a marketing SaaS platform for WeChat, Weibo & Douyin, says WeChat "is more embedded in the lives of Chinese netizens than ever before". The key to its success is that "under Allen Zhang's leadership, WeChat has continually put the user first", Duncan believes. Zhang once said, "Only when we treat users with genuine empathy will our products be used for a longer time." WeChat turned 10 in 2021 and boasts over 1.24 billion monthly active users.
Artefact Asia CRM director Anna Bian attributes WeChat's continued rise to its expanding offering. WeChat as a platform is not just a combination of ewallet, messaging platform, app-aggregator and news resource for its users, but also a rising business and ecommerce platform. Bian says, "In the past few years, many brands gradually moved communication channels from traditional ways to ‘WeChat Matrix’. It was established with a combination of WeChat Official Account/WeChat Miniprogram/WeChat Work/WeChat Video Account."
WeChat was one of three brands to enter the Top 100 this year.
Chinese brands which entered the Top 100
WeChat (+90 to 27)
Didi Chuxing (+218 to 45)
Huawei (+53 to 67)
The second-highest ranking Chinese brand is ride-hailing service Didi Chuxing, moving from 263 in 2020 to 45. However, the app was pulled from China’s app stores on July 4, and new user registration was halted. Now the brand is under investigation over alleged illegal collection and usage of personal data. Didi's IPO in the US on June 30 raised $4.4 billion, but the stock price soon dropped sharply.
Elsewhere, Huawei ranks 67th among Asia's Top 1000 Brands. Still caught up in China-US tensions, Huawei improved from 120 to 67, returning to the top 100 after a one-year exile. Other Chinese consumer-electronics brands including Xiaomi, Lenovo, and Oppo, also moved up. Three newcomers, DJI, Vivo, and OnePlus enter the list this year.
Duncan attributes "increased spending on more premium advertising" to Chinese brands’ fast and dramatic moves in the Top 1000 ranking this year. Because consumer spending is still growing, competition between companies is intense, he says. New brands spring up like bamboo shoots to differentiate in the market.
Bian says the rising Chinese brands demonstrate three qualities: A good understanding of the local market needs; innovation; and being data-driven and mostly digital-native. Many Chinese brands which entered the list are fast-growing digital disruptors.
On the other hand, dairy maker Mengniu dropped 25 to 433. Due to the pandemic, lockdown and travel restrictions, airlines on the list suffered drops. China Eastern Airlines dropped 83 spots to 458. China Southern Airlines 98 to 526. Tong Ren Tang, a traditional Chinese medicine brand from Beijing, went down to 836, dropping 342 places on the list. Hui Yuan dropped 177 to 865 on the list. Once a Chinese juice king, in January, Hong Kong Stock Exchange announced that it would cancel Hui Yuan’s listing status.
Weighing all the three markets from the Greater China region (including Hong Kong and Taiwan), seven Hong Kong-based brands and four Taiwan-based brands made improvements in their ranking, while 12 Hong Kong-based brands and 12 Taiwan-based brands dropped. The ranking of HSBC did not change; it's at 158, down from 144 in 2019. Meanwhile, four Hong Kong-based brands and two Taiwan-based brands entered the list.
Taiwan-originated brands such as Master Kong (+115 to 163), UBC coffee (+256 to 435) and Wangsteak (+111 to 564) jumped up the list as they had greater exposure to the mainland China market. According to the Wowprimce corporation website, 133 out of its 421 restaurants are in the mainland market. For Wangsteak, the number of restaurants in the mainland (53) is more than in Taiwan (11).
Two Hong Kong-based jewellery brands, Chow Tai Fook (+30 to 466) and Chow Seng Seng (+159 to 615), saw their ranking rise despite the decline in the Hong Kong and Macau business, as sales and market share in the mainland market pulled up the brands. Luk Fook (879), another Hong Kong-based jewellery brand, entered the list for the first time. All these Hong Kong jewellery brands are experiencing digital transformation and emphasising ecommerce.
Hong Kong digital native brands Lalamove (602) and Klook (552) were new entrants.
*We adjusted the weighting of responses from China (as well as India and Japan) in 2021 to more accurately reflect the importance of the China market. This has resulted in a general rise in the rankings of China-based companies or those that are popular among Chinese consumers.