52 Chinese Brands You Ought to Know
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China’s middle class has become more demanding. They are no longer satisfied with fake products and copies of western brands and products. Chinese firms now have to develop and innovate to satisfy this demand.
This is clearly happening in China. Rising consumer aspirations are helping internet firms in China to disrupt traditional industries. These firms are beginning to rival their western counterparts. In order to challenge the competition Chinese firms are globalising.
Gone is the myth that China produces cheap goods that no one wants. I’m going to look at the biggest Chinese companies and how they are developing. Below is a list of categories. For each category I’ll list the most important and valuable firms.
These emerging multinational companies may not be so well known outside of China right now. But in the future these firms will be known around the world and will change the way we all live in future.
China’s airline industry is expected to grow by 13 per cent annually between 2011 and 2015. Three international carriers dominate the market and all are State Owned Enterprises (SOEs).
Air China (Strategic SOE)
China’s most valuable airline, at US$3.7 billion, has added a lot of new international routes recently. The company anticipates that growing demand in China will help grow its brand awareness globally.
China Eastern Airlines (Strategic SOE)
As with Air China, China Eastern has begun to expand aggressively into the international market. It has a code-sharing agreement with Qantas on China-Australia routes.
The company it valued at US$1.9 billion. Its future plans include investing in new technologies to further its international expansion plans.
China Southern Airlines (Strategic SOE)
China’s third biggest airline has increased its focus on international routes to deal with competition for domestic travel from China’s bullet trains. It mainly serves countries in the Asian region, although there are new routes to Germany.
Hainan Airlines (Strategic SOE)
Hainan Airlines has opened up new international routes to the US catering to business travellers. In summer 2013 the company reported that there was a 26 per cent overall increase in passengers: two million domestic and 88,000 international.
Because of new Chinese government policies limiting extravagant spending, Chinese alcohol firms (especially baijiu producers) saw a fall in sales. Some of the internationally known beer brands are doing well though.
ChangYu (Market-driven firm)
Formed in 1892, this domestic wine producer has targeted the home and overseas markets with brand-building strategies. In 2012 the brand began selling its wine in British supermarket Waitrose.
ChangYu’s domestic production has expanded with the help of European partners. It has opened three new vineyards across the west of China.
Great Wall (Competitive SOE)
Wine consumption in China has increased in recent years, but consumption per person remains relatively low compared to other countries. This signals that there is growth potential in China.
Great Wall markets around 100 different wines, which it exports to 20 countries and regions around the world. It was the official wine of the 2008 Olympic games in Beijing.
Established in 1900, Harbin is one of China’s oldest beer brands. From the north east of China, the city Harbin holds an annual beer festival, started in 2002.
An on going partnership with the NBA has given the brand exposure overseas. Harbin Beer operates as a subsidiary of AB InBev, the world’s largest brewer.
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China’s traditional liquor, baijiu, is relatively unknown outside of China. But the Moutai brand is the most famous baijiu brand on the mainland. The premium prices, a bottle can cost up to US$250, mean that the company is highly valued at US$10.5 billion.
Snow Beer (competitive SOE)
Snow is one of the most popular beers in China. It is particularly popular in southern China, where the company recently opened seven new breweries to add to the more than 80 the brand already operates in China.
Tsingtao (Market-driven firm)
Founded by German settlers in the coastal city of Qingdao in 1903, Tsingtao is by far one of China’s most recognised brands overseas. The beer is distributed to more than 80 countries and regions.
Last year the company, China’s biggest brewer, celebrated its 110-year anniversary. It opened a store on Alibaba’s online shopping portal, Tmall, adding a potentially important new sales channel.
Yanjing Beer (Competitive SOE)
This beer brand first gained an international reputation due to its sponsorship of the 2008 Olympic games held in Beijing. It has continued to receive international brand exposure by sponsoring two football teams in Ireland: Wexford Youth Football Club and Limerick Football Club.
Results for Chinese apparel brands have suffered recently. Increasing international competition coupled with rising costs of labour and raw materials negatively impacted these firms in general.
Belle (Market-driven firm)
The core business of this Chinese brand is footwear and sportswear. The company operates 18,000 stores, mostly in Mainland China, but also in Hong Kong and Macau.
Li Ning is a sport apparel, footwear and equipment company. It is China’s number one sports brand. It brands itself as a uniquely Chinese brand as part of it global strategy.
During the 2008 Olympics in Beijing, Li Ning sponsored the Spanish and Swedish Olympic teams and currently sponsors a host of Chinese athletes in various sports.
Lots of Chinese apparel brands have to fight for supremacy against established western brands. But in lower tier cities where expenditure per shopper is higher, Chinese clothing brands do well.
Metersbonwe operate in this environment with a philosophy of quality fashion at affordable prices, coupled with rapid stock turnover.
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The company sells fashionable clothing for youth under the Semir brand. It uses its Balabala brand for its range of children’s clothing.
In 2013 the brand partnered with Italian company Miniconf Spa and became the exclusive distributor of the Minibanda and Sarabanda children’s fashion brands in China.
To improve its brand awareness, Septwolves has opened five new online stores – on Taobao, 360Buy, Tencent, Coo8 and Yihaodian. It plans to launch on Suning and Amazon by the end of 2014.
The company has targeted male apparel consumers in their late 20s to early 30s, who outspend the national annual average by 18 per cent.
Youngor is a maker, marketer and retailer of men’s apparel. 80 per cent of the groups profits come from its high street and shopping centre sales. The rest comes from online sales, department store concessions and manufacturing for international fashion brands Polo and Calvin Klein.
China’s car market experienced double-digit growth mainly due to the youth market. Despite government efforts to regulate car ownership, the growth rate of car ownership in tier 2 and 3 cities rose by over 30 per cent.
BYD (Market-driven firm)
Primarily developing innovative green technologies, BYD has secured contracts in Holland, Canada, Israel and the US to produce electronic buses. The brand has also made inroads into the UK and Hong Kong, developing a fleet of electric taxis. About 800 BYD electric taxis operate in Shenzhen.
BYD also manufacture mobile handset components and rechargeable batteries. It is the largest manufacturer of rechargeable batteries in the world.
This automotive manufacturing company primarily produces automobiles, motorcycles, engines and transmissions. Geely sells its cars under five brand names, including Volvo, which it acquired in 2010.
The company began selling Chinese designed and manufactured cars in the UK in 2012. They also intend to start sales in Italy.
Hongqi, meaning red flag, has recently sold 1,000 new cars to the Chinese military. This is in line with the government’s new procurement policy to favour domestic brands. In the past the military favoured foreign brands such as Audi and Volkswagen.
Many consumer electronic retailers shifted strategies to deal with the rise of competition from e-commerce. All of these companies have looked for new opportunities in lower tier markets.
Gome is one of the most recognisable brands for consumer electronics domestically in China.
It manufactures energy-saving products as part of its innovation drive to compete in China’s competitive consumer electronics market.
Lenovo (competitive SOE)
This is one of the most recognisable Chinese brands globally, although many people don’t realise that it’s Chinese. The company was successfully founded on PC and laptop computing, but has expertly managed to shift toward mobile devices.
Lenovo’s value of US$2.6 billion reflects the fact that sales in 2013 of smartphones and tablets exceeded PC sales for the first time in the company’s history.
Suning (Market-driven firm)
Headquartered in Nanjing, Suning is China’s largest electronics retailer. It is known for its bricks and mortar stores but has transitioned to a new business model, moving towards e-commerce.
Suning has recently signed a sponsorship agreement and strategic partnership with one of the most successful European football teams of all time. The brand is the first Chinese sponsor in FC Barcelona history.
Suning also sponsors other sporting events to spread its brand. It is the main sponsor of the second Youth Olympic Games, which is in Nanjing in summer 2014.
Image via www.fcbarcelona.com
The emerging middle class in China has seen education expenditure grow at a fast pace. Chinese culture prizes educational attainment. Chinese parents give a high priority to education, believing that it can give their children a critical advantage in a highly competitive job market.
New Oriental (Market-driven firm)
New oriental operates 57 schools and over 700 learning centres in 50 cities in China. The company provides private educational services including courses in English, kindergarten, private tutoring and exam preparation.
The company is planning on becoming a leading online education platform. Education accounts for a high proportion of household spending in China and this has helped boost New Oriental’s strong position in the education market.
TAL education group provides tutoring services for kindergarten to 12th grade students in three formats: small classrooms, one-on-one premium service and online courses.
It uses its umbrella brand, Xueersi, to market its various services. It offers English and Chinese language education along with maths and sciences, including physics, chemistry and biology.
The home appliance industry has experienced pressure from many different areas recently, especially e-commerce. This has forced many companies to innovate.
Gree (Market-driven firm)
Gree’s core business is manufacturing of air conditioning products. It also produces energy saving products and air purifiers. This side of the business has been boosted by severe air pollution in Northern China.
The company has continued to build its brand overseas with a new Gree LED sign in New York’s Times Square. It has offices in Malaysia and factories in China, Brazil, Pakistan, Vietnam and California.
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Haier (Market-driven firm)
This is one of China’s biggest global brands, present in over 100 countries around the world. It has made R&D investments in Europe a major part of its strategy recently.
The brand’s product focus in China includes refrigerators, washing machines, water heaters, air conditioners and televisons.
Haier is currently sponsoring the football World Cup coverage on Chinese TV channel CCTV5, which has blanket coverage of the worlds biggest and most watched sporting event.
Hisense (Competitive SOE)
A major producer of flat screen TVs, Hisense exports its products to over 100 countries, with a third of its revenue coming from international business. It has partnered with a German firm, Loewe, to improve its distribution network in Europe.
The company has three R&D centres in China and one in the US focusing on LED and Smart TV innovations. The brand also recently cooperated with Sina Weibo to introduce a smart air conditioner that can be controlled from the internet.
Midea (Market-driven firm)
Midea is a leader in the sale of household appliances such as washing machines and air conditioners. Export accounts for around 19 per cent of total revenue. The company has begun to focus on technical innovation.
Recently it has shifted to e-commerce sales as the home appliance industry, formerly driven by price, now increasingly compete for consumers who value technological excellence and brand.
Supor (Market-driven firm)
Supor is China’s leading cookware brand. It sells its products through large retailers such as Gome and Suning and also on a number of online stores. Its current strategy involves expanding into electrical appliances.
The company has increased brand awareness by sponsoring and partnering with the popular CCTV documentary show ‘A bite of China’. The TV show documents different styles of food from all around China.
After years of rapid growth due to a rise in tourism and business travel the market has somewhat slowed down. This has not stopped the leading brands opening new locations though. Hotels have innovated recently by developing sub-brands to serve all segments of the market.
Hanting (Market-driven firm)
The China Lodging Group only began operating in 2005, but has expanded rapidly. The company now operates 1,216 hotels in 213 cities of which over 1000 carry the Hanting brand.
Home Inn (Market-driven firm)
Home Inn has a portfolio of brands including Motel 168 and Yitel. The Motel 168 brand is particularly well known around China and is aimed at younger travellers.
In total the company has 1,953 hotels in 271 cities across China. Most of the locations are owned by franchisees with management expertise provided by Home Inn.
Jin Jiang Inn
The company has a big brand portfolio with its hotel brands ranging from budget to five-star. It operates 1,100 hotels in 230 cities, mainly concentrating around Beijing and Shanghai.
Its landmark hotel is situated on the Shanghai Bund, on the Huangpu River.
This sector has grown as more consumers have access to disposable cash. More sophisticated and discerning customers have traded up, which has lead to more premium brands dominating this growing market.
Founded in 1999 and bought by Johnson & Johnson in 2008, this leading skincare brand has established itself by using social media. Dabao launched a campaign encouraging people to take selfies and upload them to social media to win prizes.
As well as using social media to develop brand awareness the company has also established a store on Tmall.
ZhongHua has taken advantage of its more that 50-year brand history to help with its marketing campaigns. The brand is part of Unilever.
Because of China’s rapid industrialisation the property market has continued to grow. The largest companies have looked to overseas markets for growth in places such as New York, Los Angeles and San Francisco.
This real estate group concentrates its business in China, primarily partaking in residential projects designed to appeal to young families and professional couples.
It has gained recognition across Asia because it is the sponsor of China’s best football team, Guangzhou Evergrande. The team won the Asian Champions League in 2013, a pan-Asian football competition.
Shanghai based Greenland Group built Nanjing’s iconic Zifeng tower, at the time the sixth tallest building in the world. It is looking for overseas investments as it looks to expand in the future.
Recently the company acquired a real estate project in Toronto, Canada. It is also currently in negotiations about developments in France, as well as investing in projects in Malaysia and Los Angeles.
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Vanke is China’s largest residential real estate developer. Its value of US$2.5 billion is reflective of the company’s policy of building affordable inner-city housing.
Its expansion overseas reflects the increased emigration of Chinese citizens to countries such as America and Canada, appealing to the growing expat populations in these locations.
There are 88 Wanda Plazas across China and the firm has plans to go global over the next five years. The company invested £1 billion in the UK in 2013 on hotels and a luxury yacht company.
Wanda plans to be the largest luxury hotel owner and operator by 2020 with property portfolios all over the world.
This is China’s most competitive sector in terms of being market-driven. The dominant brands in search, social media and e-commerce have developed and created ‘branded ecosystems’ that have seen them thrive and some have gone onto become globally recognised.
Alibaba group’s sites account for over 60 per cent of parcels delivered in China. It has the most popular e-commerce platforms in China too, whether on desktop or mobile.
At the end of 2013 Alibaba had: 50 per cent B2C, B2B and third-party payment market share. It also had 95 per cent C2C market share.
The company has expanded into various different areas from online payments, to cloud computing to social media. The firm is currently preparing for its US IPO, where analysts believe it could be the biggest for an internet company.
Alibaba is positioning itself to become one of the most recognised Chinese brands in the future with its various acquisitions and innovations in China and abroad.
Baidu (Market-driven firm)
China’s premier search engine is valued at US$20 billion. The firm has recently diversified into mobile. It has done this with acquisitions rather than build its own mobile business, but has had problems monetizing a mobile strategy.
Baidu is one of the most recognisable Chinese brands outside of China due to its similarities with Google’s pay per click services.
Huawei produces mid-priced smartphones and has recently made international headlines due to a strong global marketing drive. It has developed partnerships with various sports teams from around the world.
In China the company is the third largest maker of smartphones. The market in China is huge with 500 million internet users connecting online via mobile.
The company is looking to overseas markets to increase market share. Recently they started new partnerships with European football clubs Arsenal FC, Ajax Amsterdam and AC Milan.
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This internet technology company operates a portal that offers news, entertainment and email services. It also provides gamers with some of China’s most popular online games.
It has partnered with China Telecom to launch a social IM app to compete with its rivals in this field. 80 per cent of NetEase’s revenue comes from advertising and gaming fees.
360 is a leading provider of antivirus software, mobile applications and search engine technology. Its search engine, so.com, is second only to Baidu in terms of search engine market share.
The brand has recently teamed up with Alibaba to develop a shopping search website. It has also heavily increased its portfolio of mobile apps. Rather than develop apps, the company distributes apps from other technology companies.
Sina (Market-driven firm)
Sina operates three primary businesses: Sina.com, an online content portal; Sina.cn, a mobile portal; and Weibo.com, a microblogging site.
The company has recently partnered with Alibaba to form an online ecosystem to help mobile users move between social media and e-commerce.
The brand also has a deal with the NBA that enables Sina to broadcast basketball games on tablets and smartphones. Its portals are used by expat Chinese around the world.
Sohu (Market-driven firm)
Sohu is an internet portal that provides news, entertainment and other information services. It also has a search engine, Sogou, which is part owned by Tencent.
The company is one of China’s leading online brands. It has a gaming portal 17173.com, a gaming subsidiary Changyou and also a real estate website focus.cn.
Tencent (Market-driven firm)
China’s biggest internet firm is becoming one of China’s most recognised brands. Tencent makes WeChat, which has around 400 million monthly active users in China and around 100 million users outside of China.
The company is valued at US$34 billion due to monetizing mainly through mobile gaming on its social networking platforms. The big rivalry that Tencent has with Alibaba has seen both companies innovate and improve brand recognition around the world.
The telecom providers have had to cope with competition from over-the-top (OTT) brands, such as WeChat, which provide free communication services over the internet. That being said, these firms have innovated and created partnerships to make sure they remain relevant in the face of strong competition in China.
This is China’s most valuable brand, by some margin. Valued at US$61 billion, it is worth US$20 billion more than the next most valuable brand in China.
It is the world’s biggest mobile-phone company both by customers and by profits, but competition from internet firms have hit its core business of voice calls and text messages.
The company has heavily invested in 4G and they hope this will help it retain its dominant position in Chinese telecommunications.
This SOE has recently actively reduced overseas expansion to gain a stronger foothold in the Chinese market. The company is valued around US$8.2 billion.
It has focused on mobile messaging, investing in 4G and partnering with NetEase to move into the mobile arena to compete with Tencent’s WeChat.
China Unicom is China’s second largest mobile phone company. It dominates the 3G market over China mobile by some distance, although the total value of the company is way short of its main rival at US$4.4 billion.
Unicom appeals to younger urban customers having invested in lower-priced smartphones. It also teamed up with WeChat to offer dedicated data packages.
By 2015 China is expected to become the world’s number one tourist destination. Although this impacts on many other industries, the main impact will be upon Chinese travel agencies.
CITS (Competitive SOE)
CITS is a founding member of the World Tourism Cities Federation. This body helps to strengthen Chinese inner-city tourism markets.
China International Travel Services (CITS) is state-owned and is one of China’s leading travel agencies. The company has recently launched a range of new travel packages to Australia, which is an emerging market for Chinese tourism.
Ctrip (Market-driven firm)
Ctrip.com has focused its business on the growing market of Chinese consumers who like to travel alone rather than in a group. This helped the business revenue to grow 19 per cent YoY in 2012.
The introduction of a new mobile app in 2013 positioned the company well for young consumers with disposable cash and leisure time.
The app was downloaded over 50 million times, with over 20 percent of hotel reservations and 15 percent of air tickets being bought through the mobile app.
Are there any other Chinese brands you think should be added to this list? Please let me know in the comments.