Mainland Chinese are proving a quick study of Western brands. In new research tracking the 'most engaging' brands in China, Beijing-based consultancy R3 found that only 19 of the top 50 were from local companies.
Still, some of the country's businesses are starting to understand the marketing game: China Mobile, which operates the largest mobile communications network in the world, weighs in as No.1 with consumers. Rounding out the top 10 are Nokia, Nike, Apple, Li-Ning (a sports and apparel company founded by its namesake, a Chinese gymnast), Lenovo (the former IBM PC unit acquired by the Chinese), KFC, Mengniu (an Inner Mongolia dairy products company), Sony, and Coca-Cola. The survey was conducted in the first two weeks in December across 10 Chinese cities. R3 reached out to 10,500 consumers aged 15-40, considered the country’s most active shoppers.
For a country where most consumers were still on bicycles 20 years ago, the Chinese like their car brands: VW is No. 20 on the popularity list, which comes as little surprise given that it is the country's largest foreign car manufacturer and industry pioneer, after it was the first Western car company to set up a joint-venture business in 1984. But the only other car brands to make the list are BMW, (which ranks 28th), Audi at 42, and Mercedes -Benz, 48.
The Chinese also appear to like brands associated with technology, communications, and media. Aside from those companies that dominated the top 10 ranking, the list includes brands like Canon, Chinese electronics company BBK, Dell, Philips, telecommunications company China Unicom, HP, IBM, Siemens, and Panasonic.
Sunny Chen, senior researcher at R3, notes that as the Chinese enter a new era of modern consumerism, they are leap-frogging more traditional media behaviors.
"Attention to digital advertising keeps growing and brands' online activities, such as social networks or online video websites, reach target consumers faster and better achieve brand impression and purchase intent than traditional media," Chen says.