Finding 'magic' formula for global brand success

Strong brands need to have both logic and magic -- logic is about quality and the performance of products and magic is about emotions.

Over the past decade, some of the biggest businesses in China, like Tencent, Alibaba and Huawei, have been eyeing global market branding success.

However, the transformation from “Made in China” to “Created in China” can be difficult. The insights into how Chinese brands can tap into global potential were shared by Jan-Benedict Steenkamp during a recent forum hosted by the Institute for Nation(al) Branding Strategy at East China Normal University. Steenkamp is professor of Marketing at the University of North Carolina and chairman of International Experts Advisory Board, Institute for Nation(al) Branding Strategy at ECNU.

In his keynote speech Steenkamp pointed out that brands could make decision-making easier, reduce risks and provide emotional benefits for consumers. Thus branding is related to profits, as “The one who owns the brand generates and captures most of the profits.” Steenkamp attributed Huawei’s successful branding to its heavy investment in R&D, its ability to convert R&D into cutting edge new phones, and its advertising.

But more is needed. “Huawei needs to continue stepping up in advertising if it wants to move forward. I personally think that the one thing Huawei should really do is to be engaged in more sports sponsorship,” Steenkamp stressed.

Steenkamp also believed that strong brands need to have both logic and magic. “Logic is about quality and the performance of products,” he said. “Magic is about emotions, like how certain brands make people feel. It’s very easy to copy the functional quality of a competing brand, but it’s very difficult to copy the emotions. If you capture the emotions, it’s very unlikely for another brand to dislodge you.”

Steenkamp also elaborated on what he referred to as “magic.” Talking about Chinese aspiration to “go global,” Steenkamp conceded that notable Chinese brands are gathering strength, though the evolution from “Chinese products” to “Chinese brands” remains an uphill battle, for few Chinese brands have succeeded in competing with leading global brands at parity and premium prices.

Critically, as Steenkamp indicated, Chinese businesses need to become less sales–oriented and more market–oriented and be more aware of branding strategies, which can be conducive to bringing out the “magic” and, hopefully, helping them established in the global market.


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