Western, Chinese Brands Vie For Customer Loyalty As Emerging Middle Class And “Nouveau Riche” Demand Continues To Grow
Buick has capitalized on its reputation for quality and luxury in the Chinese market, enjoying massive success and launching China-only models like the Excelle
As demand for new vehicles has remained sluggish in developed markets over the past two years, major automakers have rightly looked to retool their strategies to draw customers and build their brands in new markets. As we’ve written before, selling your brand in markets like China, where customers expect different things — and derive status from very specific brand attributes — represents both a major opportunity and a new challenge. A good example of an automaker that has benefitted from the “blank slate” allowed it by entry into the young Chinese market is Buick, which has a reputation as a car for older, or middle-aged, drivers in its native market, the USA, yet has — through aggressive branding and advertising efforts — developed a reputation as a sleek, luxurious, youthful brand in the Chinese market.
So how can car brands optimize their brand equity in China? Depending on where they come from, their strategies differ greatly. While American car makers like Ford have had great success in overseas markets like Europe by pushing their reliability and value, in the Chinese market imported cars are, generally, chosen by buyers to be a status symbol, rather than “inexpensive.” Ford, then, cannot compete on price alone, as Chinese automakers like Chery and Geely — which have sizeable lineups of entry-level models — will always be able to undercut them. As a result, it is important for foreign car makers to not just build their brand in China, but to build a strong brand in China, one that speaks to Chinese consumers in a way that domestically-produced autos cannot. To break it down further, foreign automakers need to build a strong, distinctive brand — a German car must fit Chinese conceptions of German cars, Japanese cars Japanese attributes and so on.
In practice, how are foreign automakers faring in their Chinese branding strategies? Today, Reuters looks into the “uphill road” these brands are traveling in China, and how they have refocused their branding strategies to varying degrees of success. Using the example of a “nouveau riche” car buyers who has traded his BMW in for an Audi — since the Audi has developed a strong reputation in China as a car for bureaucrats or (comparatively) “old money” while BMW is considered a brand for the nouveau riche (a group into which the buyer in question is loath to be grouped) — the article provides valuable insight into the particularities of a market so new that even seasoned marketers and branding execs are often at a loss to develop long-term strategies.
Posted in Automobile, Business, China, Culture
Tagged america, asia, Audi, auto, bmw, brand marketing, brand strategy, branding, buick, chery, China, chinese, east asia, europe, ford, geely, japan, japanese, korea, marketing, nouveau riche, old money, south korea, strategy
Chinese Automaker Looking For More Global Reach As It Bids For Ailing Swedish Brand
Volvo's purchase by Geely has been rumored for months. So far, according to a Swedish newspaper, Geely's bid is the only "concrete" one to date. Image © rumerz.com
China Daily cites unverified reports today that China’s Geely Automotive has made the only “concrete” bid for the ailing Swedish automaker Volvo. If the reports by an unnamed Swedish newspaper prove correct, a successful bid for Volvo could mean the domestic Chinese automaker could be one (large) step closer to developing into a truly global brand, achieving its ambitions to produce luxury vehicles alongside the budget models that have made it popular in mainland China. However, since most major Chinese brands lack practical experience managing foreign workforces or doing business in developed automotive markets like Europe and the US, any potential acquisition by Geely would be either a distant possibility or simply unfeasible from the get-go. As these reports are, still, unverified, they have been whispered about before — however, we still have to take a wait-and-see attitude to this developing story.
Li Fangfang, who writes often on the automotive industry and particularly the way that domestic Chinese automakers are using the global economic crisis as a sort of springboard for their nascent brands, points out that Volvo’s potential sale could present unique opportunities but also serious challenges for Geely:
Posted in Automobile, Business, China, Investment, Luxury
Tagged acquisition, ford, geely, geely automotive, negotiations, purchase, volvo
Formerly Budget-Focused Brands Like Geely Shifting To Lucrative High-End Consumer Segment
The Chinese middle class is an important and growing consumer segment, and Chinese domestic brands are increasingly relying on this group's future purchasing power to drive global growth
The Wall Street Journal has a great profile today about Chinese auto brands that have shifted 180 degrees in the last few years, changing their target market from the younger, budget-conscious first-time car buyer to wealthier buyers who may already own one or more vehicles. This represents a very significant change in tactic on the part of Chinese automakers, who until recently had all but given up on this consumer bracket, apparently convinced that it would be impossible to compete with foreign luxury carmakers like Mercedes and BMW, two brands that have made commanding inroads in the China market.
Posted in Automobile, Business, China, Economy, Luxury
Tagged Automobile, benz, bmw, BYD, chery, China, ford, geely, Luxury, mercedes, porsche, saab, vehicle, wealth