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Branding Tips for the China Market


By Jussara Bierman, Rare HQ Ltd

China is the world’s most dynamic, exciting and challenging marketplace. Its large population, rapid growth, and economic power have made it a haven for entrepreneurs, and a promising market for growth oriented foreign companies. Maturation in the Chinese market is seeing China shifting from the world’s factory to a brand creator and marketer, and as the Chinese consumer becomes more savvy and demanding brand awareness is rising in value and significance.

The increase in brand value aligns with the growth of Chinese innovation, better marketing and image building, correlating with rising household income and the growing demand for high quality products. Successful foreign brands in this market are the ones that can keep pace as well as comprehend and meet changing consumer expectations.

Whilst entering the Chinese market is not for the faint-hearted there is no reason to be deterred if you are prepared to build a strategy to commercialise your brand for China. This requires fresh thinking and being cognisant of the linguistic, cultural and business imperatives that can influence brand perception in a market that is both exotic and diverse.

Some key learnings for brand development into the China market:

1. Naming is important

Linguistic differences between the Chinese and English languages are extensive, making direct translation of brand names difficult. Should your brand translate sound or meaning or both when moving from a Western context to a Chinese one?

2. Social media opportunity

The Chinese have enthusiastically embraced social media. A quarter of the world’s social media users are in China. China has its own social media platforms. Reaching consumers requires knowing which of the many Chinese social media platforms to use. If you want brand penetration in China, social media is not a space to be ignored.

3. Story matters

Chinese cultural background and history revolves around story which makes telling your brand story especially important when anchoring your brand’s esteem and knowledge in this marketplace. Foreign branding is usually unfamiliar and undifferentiated to Chinese consumers. This forces them to pay more attention to the visual cues on labels and packaging to communicate the brand message or story. These cues can be integral to the purchase decision.

4. Quality and reliability sells

Foreign brands that can be trusted in terms of quality and safety are making inroads into the market. Product health and safety are coming under increasing scrutiny by Chinese authorities. Corporate social responsibility is increasingly becoming part of a brand’s persona.

5. Youth culture a driver

China’s young people are avid consumers. They have a strong preference for instant messaging over email, and have a greater trust in brands that microblog.

6. Luxury shines

Luxury brands continue to draw Chinese shoppers as a symbol of increased affluence and success.

7. Localising brand message

The increasing opportunities in smaller cities and rural locations calls for localising of your brand message. Branding that works in the large coastal cities may not connect with consumers in smaller locales. Linguistic differences throughout China are also a factor here.

8. Innovation intrigues

Chinese consumers are eager to learn about new and contemporary brands. The market is cluttered with media options from traditional to online. So when introducing a new product it is essential to evaluate the effectiveness of the marketing channel you use.

9. Exposure to brands

The Internet exposes consumers to a myriad of brands and this accelerates the introduction of brands throughout the China. The information and shopping functions of the Internet are rapidly converging to meet the needs of consumers who may want to network with friends on a shopping platform or shop on a networking platform.

10. Creating a brand strategy is crucial

Do not expect brand traction in the China market without good solid market research; testing your name, labeling and packaging for relevance and story; building a marketing strategy appropriate to your product utilising media platforms that will build your brand persona. Get advice it will certainly be more cost effective in the long-term.

Jussara Bierman is the Managing Director of Rare HQ Ltd – Rare is a global branding agency that supports businesses to commercialise their brand. Services cover brand strategy through to design and digital execution. Our approach is based on four key capabilities - DISCOVER your brand, develop its STRATEGY, EXPRESS it creatively and IMPLEMENT it in the market place - in New Zealand, China and the rest of the world. Contact


To share your experience and knowledge of doing business in China please contact Luke Qin at