Lenovo the most well-known Chinese brand overseas: BrandZ

Consumer-electronics brands dominate BrandZ's Top 30 Chinese Global Brand Builders list, but internet-driven brands are closing the awareness gap against overseas competitors.

LONDON - The world's largest PC supplier Lenovo tops BrandZ's inaugural Top 30 Chinese Global Brand Builders ranking released by WPP and Kantar Millward Brown in collaboration with Google. 

Lenovo leads with a brand power score of 1,682 in a list dominated by consumer-electronics and tech brands. The brand power score measures consumer's predisposition to choose a particular brand based on research carried out via Google Surveys in September 2016, according to the companies. A total of 167 Chinese brands were evaluated across seven countries, with the median brand score being 85.

Air China, which is at sixth place after smartphone maker Xiaomi, is the only non-consumer electronics or tech-related brand among the top 10 (Haier and Hisense, though primarily white-goods makers, also make consumer-electronics products). The dominance of consumer  brands in the list—40 percent of the ranking's total brand power—indicates the strength of Brand China in this domain overseas.

Great potential for internet-driven brands

Overall, the top 30 list divides into two baskets of brands—15 brands from established categories (consumer electronics and home appliances) and 15 brands from internet-driven categories (mobile gaming, ecommerce and smart devices).

Although consumer-electronics brands have outranked the internet-driven categories in the list, the latter has a narrower awareness gap against overseas competitors. For instance, a gap of 55 percentage points exists between awarenesss of a local or global consumer-electronics brand versus that of a Chinese brand. Chinese mobile gaming brands register only 5 percentage points of awareness gap compared to their global competitors, while the gap in smart devices is 10 percentage points.

"The study shows that the movement of ideas and product leadership has expanded globally, with consumers increasingly looking to China as a potential source for the newest and most innovative products and brands," said David Roth, CEO for EMEA and Asia with The Store WPP. "By analysing consumer perceptions of Chinese and non-Chinese brands, we have been able to identify gaps in Chinese brand performance and provide recommendations for brand-building strength."

Indeed, Roth's call for brand-building rings true as awareness for Chinese brands remains low outside of China. Chinese brands need to work harder to communicate their technolgy innovations and improved quality of their products. According to the study, only 10 percent of consumers were aware of the original Chinese brands in the list.

Chinese companies that have exported as Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs) receive little public recognition while dronemaker DJI, which occupies the 13th place, is not well known as a Chinese brand.

In comparison, 60 percent of consumers were aware of non-Chinese brands and 27 percent had considered purchasing a non-Chinese brand, while only 8 percent had considered a Chinese brand. A wider awareness gap for Chinese brand is registered in Japan, UK and US where consumers have higher expectations for quality products and the sentiment for local products is strong especially in Japan.

Doreen Wang, head of BrandZ, Kantar Millward Brown, said brands must use the internet to widen their global reach. "The expansion of a brand is now no longer defined by the limits of its category, but by the possibilities of technology. So there is no longer a need to wait to be a domestic giant before going global. Start your brand intending to go global, and anticipate the necessary business infrastructure.”    

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