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LAST WORDS: Western Brands and Products Flopping in China
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Western Brands and Products Flopping in China
By Mike Cormack

BT 201804 Last 01 编辑      在21世纪加速的全球化进程中,有很多外国品牌纷纷来到中国,抢占中国这个巨大的市场。其中成功企业遍布各行各业:在餐饮方面,肯德基、麦当劳、必胜客等常见的快餐平价品牌遍布大小商场,星巴克则直接占领了中国主流的咖啡店市场;芝华士威士忌这种酒在英国并不常见,但因其重磅广告及在中国大陆市场的投入,芝华士威士忌简直成了中国夜总会的首选酒水品牌。在汽车领域,丰田、大众、奔驰、宝马等是中国人非常喜爱的主流汽车品牌。饰品方面,施华洛世奇成为了轻奢饰品的代表,而电子消费领域,苹果无疑成为最受欢迎的电子品牌之一。

      但与此同时,也有一些品牌在进入中国大陆市场时遇到了阻力。Tesco, Marks & Spencer, eBay, B&Q等等品牌都未能成功在中国大陆打开市场,这些失败的原因是多样化的。一些产品缺乏本地化,没有考虑到中国当地居民的需求;有一些则存在后勤物流方面的困难,阻碍了市场拓展,从而导致整个产业链效率低下,未能成功。

      有时候消费者购买的不仅仅是一件商品,更多的是外来品牌带给他们的生活方式。比如快消品Zara及轻奢品牌Michael Kors会让消费者感到穿成了自己认同的审美风格。除了常见的消费品,其他产业品牌也在进入中国市场。在教育领域,有很多国际学校来到中国办学,金融理财公司进驻中国为有钱人提供服务,高级护理公司带来先进的海外医疗设备和经验,各领域都有公司在中国蓬勃发展。相信中国大陆企业也将在更激烈的竞争中,学习进步,使整个市场更加繁荣,为消费者带来更多选择。

BT 201804 Last 02 The new Shanghai Roastery features Chinas first Starbucks Teavana BarThe news that another Western product has failed to make it in China hasn’t come as a surprise to anyone watching. Deodorant is just the latest in a line that includes otherwise-success stories such as Tesco, Marks & Spencer, eBay, B&Q, Home Depot, Groupon and Uber, which have all struck out in trying to replicate their domestic and international success into the mainland Chinese market.
 

The whys and wherefores of these failures are, or should be, fairly well known – lack of localization, not taking account local sensitivities, imagining a market because one exists elsewhere, and logistical difficulties which prevented efficiencies that brought success elsewhere. All true enough. What’s also true is that for each failure, there is a success story that is a counterpoint to its reason for failure. Apple does not localize its products. Carrefour is also dependent on logistical chains. Starbucks largely invented the market for the coffee shop in a tea-drinking culture. KFC and McDonalds go against the sense of China’s culinary traditions. Yet all have thrived in their own way.

BT 201804 Last 07Clearly there’s no reliable gauge or framework for establishing who will be successful. But what can be said is that China’s consumer culture is very new. Foreign brands only really started coming into China twenty to thirty years ago. For some products first-mover efforts were enough to embed it in the mind of the Chinese consumer. Chivas whisky is little regarded in Britain, but its heavy advertising makes it the brand of choice in Chinese nightclubs.
 

Also, the period from the 1990s onwards saw advertising and marketing move from print to digital and from passive observation to experiential. The very idea of “the brand” has changed, from a recognizable label or motif on mass-produced products to a repository of desirable values. This means a more emotional response to what corporations do. Consequently, Chinese consumers want something more than to be sold to.

BT 201804 Last 04You can go to the local wet market for staple products, just as in a romantic relationship, people want something that embodies, accentuates and enriches their lives. Brand relationships are thus not entirely rational. Desire comes into it. Brands that succeed sell more than products: they sell a desirable lifestyle. (Even KFC and McDonalds are seen in China as aspirational, living off their vision of 1950s Americana, of drive-thrus, dollar shakes and consumer convenience). They make the person what they want to be.

BT 201804 Last 05 BMW Childrens Traffic Safety Education programBMW is one of the most able practitioners of this in China. Its Shanghai Experience Centre is a locus of BMW promotions, as well as the brand’s definition and connotations, through curating the history of BMW, offering a driving zone and an off-road driving area. BMW Lifestyle products and German food - just as Apple stores - convey the tech company’s user-friendliness and urban cool. It’s also worth noting that BMW runs road safety activities for Chinese school children, and has done since 2005. Its BMW Children's Traffic Safety Education program is of course a good thing in itself, but it helpfully also emphasizes BMW’s corporate social responsibility in a country which is now its largest market, accounting for 22 per cent of its cars sold globally, and roughly 28 per cent of pre-tax income.
 

We’re going to see Western products sold in ever more fields in China, and thus ever more of these activities. The 19th National Congress announced that the Chinese economy will be further opened-up, with the areas - such as banking, finance, senior care, manufacturing, and services – further outlined at the World Economic Forum at Davos. Western products in these areas will therefore be heavily advertised and marketed in the years to come.

BT 201804 Last 06Let’s imagine what this will look like. Customer service in Chinese banks is, I think it’s not surprising, dreadful. It’s incredible that if you lose your bankcard, it’s easier to open up a new account than to issue a new one. It is little wonder that Alipay has become ubiquitous and that China’s FinTech leads the world. But for household financial services, such as mortgages, small-business loans, and so on, traditional banks remain essential. We might therefore see Western banks thronging Chinese universities, giving away freebies at the start of term or sponsoring sporting and extra-curricular teams.

BT 201804 Last 07 编辑Senior care will also be a fascinating industry to see Western companies attempting to enter China, given the tradition of several generations living under the same roof. Yet as China ages, adults born under the single child policy may find their parents facing medical issues beyond their capacity to manage. Alzheimer’s is the fastest growing disease in the mainland, with 9.5 million sufferers, perhaps as many undiagnosed cases, and one million more diagnosed every year. In this situation, medical care is genuinely the right and best solution. With state care patchy at best, this should therefore open significant opportunities to Western firms, with their greater experience of both providing care and selling it. They cannot be as brash as banks, of course, in seeking business. Sensitivity, tact, thoughtfulness, and care will be their watchwords.
 

This opening up is, of course, intended to keep Chinese companies on their toes, introducing competition at a time when it’s thought that they should be able to handle it. But the approach of another wave of Western firms trying to break China should be as important, and instructive, to mainland firms.

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