me-china2The rise of the Chinese, Western inspired brand…

Montpellier’s creative director, Roger Taylor, who has a long working relationship with China, has been looking at branding Chinese-style from the inside out. He writes in this latest blog that the days of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book and productivity posters extolling the Cultural Revolution have long gone…




For years, Chinese brand identities were seemingly meaningless strings of English words with no relation to the product or service, such as ‘Happy Fish Brand’ and intended for a purely local audience. But even these limited ‘innovations’ paved the way for a new approach to corporate identity and branding. It is safe to say, despite any roll-back on political world views, the days of Chairman Mao’s Little Red Book and productivity posters extolling the Cultural Revolution have long gone.


However, with the rise of China as a Global economic superpower, the loudest roar in the Tiger Economies, which are admittedly revving down to a purr, there are moves to cross the cultural brand gap. Their Western inspired brands now not only need to address the Chinese home market, but increasingly also they are looking at the export market and need to stand up to established brands to effectively compete on the same level. To aid this process, China has being buying up existing brand names such as the automotive brand ‘MG’ a brand of SAIC (Shanghai Automotive IndustryCorporation), which acquired the rights to the MG brand when this British company went bankrupt in 2005. SAIC also produces and markets cars under the Maxus and Roewe brands and has manufacturing joint ventures with General Motors, Iveco and Volkswagen to produce cars under the Baojun, Buick, Cadillac, Chevrolet, Wuling, Iveco, Skoda and Volkswagen brands. Meanwhile, they have also been busy creating their own indigenous brands. This is most prominent in the automotive sector where there are a staggering 70-plus individual home-grown automotive brands within China.

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In its recent history of branding, identities have just been add-ons at the end of the production process, in effect, a visual flourish to aid in marketing.


However, truly ‘home grown’ Western brands have for many years had brand identities that are central to the whole business. A brand identity should be the visual manifestation of the business’s values and addresses both staff who must live the brand and strengthening bonds with customers who aspire to the brand. Chinese consumers are brand aware, but this has not yet translated to brand loyalty for local brands. That will take time as the market develops, and elements other than just price increase in importance.

In part two, I will be looking at a runaway success that is tackling western brands head on…that is the phenomenon of Huwaei. The company was named one of BrandZ’s ‘Top 100 Global Brands’ for 2015, ranking 70 on the list.


It is the world’s biggest telecommunications company and one of themost innovative. It makes the networks that power the internet and mobile phone networks. As a primer check out this product round up in Android Authority with video links and interviews with Joonsuh Kim, the company’s mobile design lead, who talks about the company’s vision for smartphones, one that’s centred on the concept of “true value.”Screen Shot 2016-03-09 at 16.18.52

Chinese consumers trust known international brands which shows that they increasingly understand that the brand is deeper than just the visual identity. Of course, this is partly a reaction to the chronic number of counterfeit goods and services across China.


The core elements of brand success in China will not be so different than the rest of the world in the future: Define brand position, understand the customer base, target the future customer.