Professor Juliet Zhu on How to Win the Heart of Chinese Consumers

January 06, 2014

Beijing, December 04, 2013—Juliet Zhu, CKGSB Professor of Marketing and Branding Center co-director, spoke yesterday at an event to unveil WPP’s annual BrandZ™ Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese Brands study.

CKGSB Professor of Marketing speaks during the official release of WPPs 2014 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese Brands study


Beijing, December 04, 2013Juliet Zhu, CKGSB Professor of Marketing and Branding Center co-director, spoke yesterday at an event to unveil WPP’s annual BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese Brands study.

Now in its fourth year, the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese Brands study shows that China is increasingly becoming a consumer-driven market—a consequence of the government’s decision to rebalance the domestic economy. During the event, speakers shed light on how to effectively brand companies in China.

“To compete in the Chinese market, there are two things to keep in mind: positioning and consistently offering good quality,” CKGSB’s Professor Zhu said. “In terms of positioning, the core is to bond consumers with your brand. As such, whenever the consumers think of your brand, they can associate it with a relevant and meaningful concept.” This way, your brand can be remembered because you satisfy a consumer need, which is highlighted as one of the key trends in this year’s BrandZ report: Chinese consumers consider themselves more associated with brands making a meaningful difference, which leads to and stimulates consumer loyalty and value growth.

Another key issue is to offer and maintain good quality. Professor Zhu indicated that there are many Japanese and European brands which have long histories of over a hundred years, while in China, this is relatively rare. She observes that not only is this something that Chinese brands should care about, but that it should also be of concern for some foreign brands as well. When foreign brands enter the Chinese market, they tend to be myopic in their perspectives, such as offering the same products with higher prices but lower quality in China. “To capture customers in the long-term, brands must ensure quality,” Professor Zhu emphasized.

At the same time—as many business leaders and experts stated during the event—understanding the Chinese consumer is another major challenge to becoming successful in China. Professor Zhu shared her insights on this issue by pointing to two characteristics of Chinese consumers: They are sensitive about price and brand. “These are the two main factors they are considering when they make decisions,” she explained. “First of all, you need to identify which are the products that they are sensitive about, and whether it is the price or the brand that they are more concerned about.” Chinese consumers tend to care about the brand over the price, when a brand brings social status. Otherwise, price often comes first.

Nowadays, Chinese consumers have many brand choices, which makes differentiation and memorability all the more critical. Based on her decades research, Professor Zhu suggests that “by simplifying and categorizing your messages, it makes your brand pop up when there is a need, otherwise, you will be eliminated.” Once you are able to consistently build a clear and simple image in the mind of your target consumers, your brand will stand out in the market.

Both Chinese and foreign brands recognize the importance of the Chinese market, but they are also under significant pressure to excel in this increasingly competitive and challenging region. Deep understanding and effective strategy to adapt to this changing market and its consumers has becoming the priority for companies. As David Roth, CEO of WPP’s global retail practice in Europe, the Middle East, Africa and Asia said, “We are entering the era of a rebalancing China and this is already having a big impact on brands. A more market-driven economy of strong brands will be essential for competitive success.”

To learn more and read the 2014 report, please visit the BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Brands page on the WPP website.

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