Made in China: The New Brand of China

Made in China: The New China Brand

By Tom Dougherty

The New Brand of ChinaThe 2008 Olympics was indeed China’s “Coming Out Party” on the world stage. It was an announcement to the world that not only had China joined the 21st century, but, on a more important note, China has announced its new brand. There is brand equity in made in China.

To this point, most of the world looked on the China brand with a sense of trembling expectation, as we anticipated the economic awakening by a quarter of the world’s population. This educated and determined consortium of ethnicities held the world’s attention because of their economic potential. China owns the ability to produce products more cheaply than the rest of the developed world and we all assumed the county’s most plentiful natural resource was to be found in its vast and untapped labor force.

Announcement not Forewarning

But the blast over the brow of the developed world’s ship needs to be recognized. The 2008 Olympics and China’s determined efforts to announce its economic promise and initiative turns out to be a good more than a harbinger of things to come. China, as a global brand has arrived. Move over European Union, United States, and Japan. The world has a new and formidable brand to contend with. They set a bar that speaks to the China brand equities.

The New Brand of ChinaIn its nearly flawless presentation of the 2008 Summer games, China demonstrated to the world that they are not just on parity with the West, they may very well be ahead. When the opportunity arises to compare the London 2012 games with the one just past, the differences (dare we say “gap”) will become more than evident.

This was not just glitz and showbiz. It was logistics and construction, par excellence. In just a few short years, China rebuilt Beijing into one of the world’s economic capitals.

They not only built the Olympic village and facilities from the ground up, they also built anew their most storied city. And less you think that it was just a façade built for the Olympics only, visit any of a number of Chinese cities like Hong Kong and Shanghai and you will see that this cultural revolution is a mile deep and a thousand miles wide. China has asserted her pre-eminence and we are not talking about the numbers of Olympic gold medals won.

The Foundations of The China Brand Success

China has demonstrated the logistical expertise and organization needed to create a new standard in Olympics. They have now also demonstrated an understanding of the Western culture and its dependence on showmanship. In a masterful branded stroke, China took the game’s opening and closing festivities and changed forever the Western egocentric view of cultural dominance.

The New Brand of China and the Chinese FlagWith a dazzling display of Chinese culture, aesthetics, and tradition — blended seamlessly with an understanding and command of Western pop-culture and showmanship — China declared to the entire world that it was no longer an economic culture to be dismissed as one built around “cheap copies” of Western products. Nope.

China possesses a creative expertise that now challenges the world’s concept of invention and innovation. China raised the bar and showed us something that was both different and better than anything we had previously seen or will likely see again. There may come a time when companies are no longer thinking about how to compete with China on price, but on innovation as we start desiring products that are developed in China first.

The NEW Brand of China and its Equities

From a brand perspective this is a significant “great leap forward” because something that says MADE IN CHINA will no longer be considered “cheap.” Henceforth and forever more, MADE in CHINA will mean Innovative, Creative, new and less expensive. How is that for brand equity? (Read a blog post about China here)

The Alibaba IPO: Here comes the new Chinese Revolution

You may not have heard of Alibaba, but you’re about to learn all about the world’s largest e-commerce company. Headquartered in China, Alibaba has filed papers to launch an Initial Public Offering (IPO) in the US.

The IPO is expected to raise more than the $16 billion Facebook raised two years ago, an offering that hasn’t panned out all that well for investors. (Although Facebook’s stock price has stabilized since and, as of Wednesday, has risen to over 58.)

I’m not here to offer investment advice. As readers of this blog know, I think the stock market is basically a crapshoot much akin to gambling. But the brand of Alibaba intrigues me.

It’s a pretty powerful one. Alibaba has been described as a combination of Amazon, eBay and Google. It is bigger than eBay and Amazon combined.

alibabaIPOs on tech companies are always risky, but I like that Alibaba has cornered the market in East Asia (even fending off an attempt by eBay to get into the Asian market) with a position of “Global trade starts here.”

The theme line is not perfect because it’s more about the company than the user, but Alibaba does fulfill that brand promise. It also speaks to global investor/seller/buyers who see themselves as operating without boundaries.

You’ve heard it before but we are continuing to live in a global world and the country of China probably represents that as much as the US does. Maybe more. It is currently the second-largest economy in the world but some experts predict it’ll become the largest in the next few years.

That’s why the “global” aspect is interesting ground for Alibaba. China has a mixed brand at the moment. Some see it as representing the future, while others see it as dangerous. Alibaba, with its gigantic market force, represents that as well.

The IPO is sure to be huge. The stock price may tumble or rise. But Alibaba does represent something that may be important, which means it must be taken very seriously by its US competitors as well as investors.

What does the seizure of fake drugs labeled as tea from China mean?

I guess it comes as no surprise in a world filled with cheap imitation designer-labeled clothing manufactured in China that Chinese companies are also counterfeiting ethical drugs. Like the poorly finished and imitation Louis Vuitton purses and handbags flooding the street vendors, these pills are poor facsimiles of the real thing.

When French customs seized one of the largest hauls ever for the European Union, the intended fake pharmaceuticals not only were intended to hurt EU citizens (many of the pills had no pharmaceutical value at all) but they also hurt the world’s view of the China brand. In fact, they reinforce the current brand and that is not a good thing.

ChinaIt begs the question as to why it is in the long-term interests of China to put a stop to the disregarding of intellectual property and the view from the West (EU and North America) that “made in China” is not a valuable claim. Quite the reverse. The brand of China means questionable quality and serious doubt. In the case of the latest seizure of fake pharma, it also means harm.

Now, I am not claiming that the manufacture of these faux products is sanctioned or sponsored by the Chinese government. But I am saying that in a nation that regulates the number of children a family can birth with the harshest of penalties, you would think that if the Chinese government wanted to put a stop to the illicit trade in counterfeits it could do so.

From a brand perspective, it is very much in China’s interest to crack down on this sort of activity. This is because the power of a brand to persuade a belief or expectation is directly linked to how those that receive the brand perceive it. In other words, your brand is only as great as the customer gives it permission to be.

Right now, China, one of the fastest growing economies in the world, is looked at as a counterfeit haven. All the strides that the nation had made in graduating engineers and scientists and focusing on real innovation become less valuable to the world’s markets because of this perception.

Today, to China, this ignorance of closing its eyes to the burgeoning counterfeit market may seem like the cost of accelerating its economic growth. But, considering the very real strides China has made in the world of business, this is very short sighted.

If we are expected to view China as an equal, deserving of faith in its brand, China needs to grow up and prosecute anyone who hijacks and counterfeits anything — including intellectual property. This is in the brand’s long-term and short-term interest.