Nationalism is a deeply rooted emotion in many Asian societies- a holistic view that puts the community first- the children, the family, the nation- above the individual. This applies to the world of branding as well. Successful Chinese brands, such as Tsinghua and Lenovo, are a source of great pride for the nation not only because they are successful to some degree on a global scale, but also because they embrace their Chinese heritage.

The Chinese also greatly accept the stereotypes of nations that have an culturally associated expertise in a certain industry. For example: France is seen as a high-class culture and therefore is a top supplier of luxury goods, Italy is seen as a fashion capital and any clothing bought from there is immediately trendy, and Korea is known for high quality electronics. Britain in the mind of the Chinese has developed the persona of a sophisticated society that prizes history, literature and art.

Yet Japan has always struggled to develop an identity in the eyes of the Chinese. As the more organized, sleek and polite cousin of China, Chinese consumers have positive curiosity about Japanese brands but an underlying competitive tension exists.

With the recent political turmoil over the Diaoyu islands, Japan’s brands have been facing many harsh reactions in mainland China. Japanese cars have been smashed on the streets, employees in Sushi restaurants have been threatened and even large chains, such as Uniqlo, have shut their doors in mainland China for the time being for the safety of their staff. The China Association of Car Manufacturers released its monthly car stats for the Chinese market and showed that Japanese brands are essentially in a free fall situation in the Chinese market with Japanese brands falling by almost 60% on the whole in October 2012. And yet the backlash of the Japanese on Chinese brands has been minimal.

While consumers make brand decisions based on personal factors, foreign brands should also consider that government relations certainly factor in– especial in China.

 

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