A palette of strategies
China also benefits from the experience of its neighbors, so it doesn't have to reinvent any wheels. Like China, Japan and Korea traveled the fast road to world class economic status — creating global brands like Sony, Honda, LG and Kia.
"Twenty years ago Korean cars such as Hyundai were considered some of the world's worst cars. Consumers only bought them because of the low price. Today Hyundai and Kia vehicles are very high quality and frequently score higher than BMW and Mercedes in terms of quality," said Strother.
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Steenkamp calls this slow-but-steady-growth strategy the "Asian Tortoise Method." Some of China's largest companies are deploying this model.
For instance, since entering at the bottom of the market in 1984 Haier has slowly moved up the home appliance manufacturing ladder to become the world's largest white goods manufacturer. Pearl River Piano began operations in 1956, jumped on the US market and is now the world's best selling piano. Both companies started at the bottom, selling at the lowest price possible. They have slowly crawled their way up to the top, drawing in more consumers and raising prices.
According to Steenkamp and co-author Nirmalya Kumar, the "Asian Tortoise Method [is the] mother of all routes." It's historically successful, and secures the strongest consumer loyalty.
Chen argues that acquiring a global brand works just as well; this is the approach that catapulted Lenovo to stardom.
In 2005, Lenovo purchased IBM's PC division and leveraged its brand image to "pave the way to enter the US and high-end PC market." Just one year after the buyout Lenovo's gross profit rose almost 400 percent. Lenovo not only acquired IMB's famous ThinkPad brand, but also reaped the benefits of IBM's marketing expertise allowing Lenovo to globally leverage its brand image.
Acquisitions and the "Asian Tortoise" method might be the favored growth strategies, but some Chinese companies are pursuing an alternative model: building inroads in a specialized business area before penetrating Western consumer markets.
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Telecom equipment maker Huawei — which is perhaps second only to Lenovo in achieving global brand status — "leveraged business to business strength into the business to consumer market," Steenkamp says. Today, Huawei is the world's third largest smartphone provider.
Likewise, e-commerce site Alibaba started out facilitating international business to business commerce. In 2003, the company used its prominence to open Taobao for consumers. Last year Alibaba and Taobao handled more than US$170 billion in sales, more than eBay and Amazon combined, the Economist reports.
Regardless of the strategy, Chinese brands will be increasingly dominant in the West.
As the Chinese say, "冰冻三尺，非一日之寒" — "three feet of ice isn't the result of one cold day." And global brands aren't built overnight.