Saturday, February 7, 2015

What's In A Name?

Why are Chinese brands not popular worldwide?

As one of my blogging friends in China said: a sellable name is vital. I'd add: a marketable slogan is just as necessary. Recalling KFC's early forays into China in 1987, their English slogan - Finger Lickin' good! made for great ad copy in English speaking countries but horrified the Chinese because the translation: Eat your fingers off! was not appealing, to put it mildly.

We're all familiar with, and love laughing at Chinglish. Come time to market/distribute though, Chinglish does not inspire confidence. I'd even go so far as to say that, while Chinglish-labeled products might inspire a sales spike because of its novelty and humor, ultimately it would discourage potentially loyal customers/clients from long-term patronage. Seriously: how good can a product/service be if the company doesn't care to provide a credible translation, description or slogan?

King Long buses are a great case in point. Every city I've been to in China has 金龙 brand buses growling around the city. The actual translation – Golden Dragon would be much more culturally relevant and confidence-inspiring than King Long – the sound loan name actually used which really doesn't inspire much (other than perverse thoughts in some dirty minds).

Buy American / Buy Chinese

For years, Americans have been 'blaming China for taking their jobs'. This misperception fuels the Buy American campaign, inspiring people to only buy products made in America, and labeled as such. Some take this concept so far as to not buy Hondas, Toyotas or Nissans because they are foreign brands... disregarding the fact that those companies produce their vehicles in America and they are made by Americans. Some won't shop at Walmart because of all of the Made in China products for sale there. The negative perception of foreign-made products, especially Chinese-made products is perhaps one reason why Chinese brands are not considered for marketing in America. 

While Main Street America is only interested in buying American, the Chinese are indulging in the new overseas shopping opportunities. A recent article in ChinaDaily stated that several high end department stores such as Macy's and Nordstrom have partnered with Alipay just in time for Christmas, and Chinese shoppers have gone nuts!   

And then, there was an article about the young mother who uses her smartphone app to buy everything for her baby from overseas shops. The specific reason she gave is that she has no confidence in China-made products and feels her baby is safer consuming foreign milk and wearing foreign diapers.

Yet another article brought to light the plethora of counterfeit luxury goods in China. Because the discriminating Chinese consumer has no trust in or taste for Chinese-made products, s/he is willing to pay through the nose for imported products. Counterfeiters have cashed in on that trend by packaging Chinese-produced goods with labeling that indicates they were manufactured or come from overseas.

Here's a question: now that it has been revealed that some high end goods are actually China-made products with foreign labels, and Chinese with cultured palates have been consuming these China-made goods with no ability to distinguish them from actual, foreign-made products, shouldn't that inspire a surge of confidence in Chinese-made products?

People seem to overlook that in favor of venting their ire at being tricked. The government is intent on punishing the counterfeiters rather than focusing on Chinese brand promotion. Not to say that counterfeiters shouldn't be punished, but their trickery has highlighted a failing in the Chinese business sector: production and promotion of quality luxury goods. That would count as another deficiency in launching Chinese brands into foreign markets.

Back to the original question: Why aren't Chinese brands sold/promoted worlwide?

Let's answer that question with a question: if the Chinese business sector does not promote confidence in home-spun brands and Chinese consumers have no faith in domestic products, why should overseas markets be inspired to buy Chinese goods?

Chinese brands will not see positive results on the global market as long as news articles of Chinese people defaming Chinese brands/products make headlines. In fact, those commentaries have the undesired effect of supporting campaigns such as Made in America – whose rallying cry is 'Say NO to made in China crap!'. Until Chinese consumers stand by Chinese products – and news articles promote that consumption, until foreign (American) disdain for everything Made in China wanes, I don't see any way for Chinese products/services to hit the shelves abroad with any success.

One final note: As long as Chinese consumers are shopping abroad, what is happening with the Chinese economy?

Again I compare the Made in America campaign with Made in China. American shoppers may well buy products made in China (from Walmart or other outlets) and in doing so, they are supporting the American economy as well as China's. Chinese people shopping overseas via online outlets are doing nothing for the Chinese economy. Wouldn't it make more sense for the Chinese to support their GDP, promote confidence in Chinese products and thereby help launch Chinese goods into the world markets?   

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