Corporate Eye

Foreign Brands Hold Strong in China

China is a hot spot for brands around the world as more and more companies focus on the huge audience of consumers there. For example, just last month I was interviewed about how the Playboy brand can position itself for future success in Asia, particularly in China, based on my research about the brand in my book Building Brand Value the Playboy Way. You can read that interview and article in English on It’s an interesting read.

Now, research from marketing consultancy R3 reveals that consumers in China are more open to foreign brands than you might think. Every three months, R3 conducts research in 10 cities in China among an audience of 15-40 year old respondents. These people rate brands based on three factors: preference (within a brand’s category), engagement (if the brand is correctly linked with a celebrity or media asset), and values (if the brand has strong values and associations with consumers).

During the first quarter of 2011, 19 of the top 50 brands in China were not from local companies (according to the 10,500 study respondents). While China Mobile, owner of the largest mobile network in the world, ranked at the top of the overall list, it didn’t take the top spot for the engagement rating. That top spot went to BBK, an electronics company in China.

BBK’s enagement rating was closely trailed by Nike’s engagement rating. Why does the athletic-wear company rank so high in China? As Sunny Chen, Senior Researcher for R3, explains, Nike “leads for strong engagement and association with stars and media in China.” Consumers in China like brands that are associated with popular celebrities and media properties. They’re also spending more time on popular social sites in China such as Q-Zone and shopping sites like Taobao, according to R3’s research. Social media has the ability to reach Chinese consumers faster than traditional media, and those consumers are actively looking for information from brands.

Which brands are engaging consumers in China? The top 10 as ranked in Q1 2011 are listed below. You can find the rest in the complete list from R3.

  1. China Mobile
  2. Nokia
  3. Nike
  4. Apple
  5. LiNing
  6. Lenovo
  7. KFC
  8. Mengnlu
  9. Sony
  10. Coca-Cola

There is a new world of opportunity for brands to connect with new consumers in the China market. Is your brand there yet? Leave a comment and share your thoughts.

Image: Flickr

The following two tabs change content below.
Susan Gunelius is the author of 10 marketing, social media, branding, copywriting, and technology books, and she is President & CEO of KeySplash Creative, Inc., a marketing communications company. She also owns Women on Business, an award-wining blog for business women. She is a featured columnist for and, and her marketing-related articles have appeared on websites such as,,, and more. She has over 20 years of experience in the marketing field having spent the first decade of her career directing marketing programs for some of the largest companies in the world, including divisions of AT&T and HSBC. Today, her clients include large and small companies around the world and household brands like Citigroup, Cox Communications, Intuit, and more. Susan is frequently interviewed about marketing and branding by television, radio, print, and online media organizations, and she speaks about these topics at events around the world. You can connect with her on Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn, or Google+.