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'Made in China' brand image will take some time to change, Ogilvy says

  • Chinese companies have found that the road to becoming international brands has been rocky
  • Mainland brands are now more willing to understand consumers in foreign markets, said Scott Kronick, Asia Pacific president and CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations
  • He added that it would take some time to achieve global recognition as brands were not build overnight

From Haier to Huawei, major Chinese companies already popular on the mainland have found that the road to becoming international household names has been rocky, but things could be looking up.

"I think we're seeing it starting to evolve now," Scott Kronick, Asia Pacific president and CEO of Ogilvy Public Relations, told CNBC.

While China relied less branding and communication when it embarked on resource accumulation in the late 1990s, Lenovo's acquisition of IBM in 2005 proved to be an inflection point, Kronick said.

"When you saw that happen, ... all the Chinese companies were saying they want to do a Lenovo. They want to go and make world news by acquiring a major business, like the IBM PC business," Kronick said.

The PR executive also credited the greater willingness of Chinese corporates to better understand consumers in overseas markets, instead of just blindly applying existing business models, as another reason for changing attitudes to mainland brands.

Some companies have also taken to partnering with more well-established names to stand out from their competitors. For instance, Huawei, which already invests heavily in research and development and marketing, has partnered with premium camera maker Leica on several smartphone models to appeal to the high-end consumer segment.

"I think those partnerships are very important to brands like Huawei and Oppo. Absolutely. I think anything that will raise the waters of those brands, that's very, very important," Kronick said.

While the majority of the top brands in the world are based in the U.S., Chinese brands are slowly climbing in value, according to Millward Brown's annual report on the most valuable global brands. In 2017, 13 of the top 100 global brands were based in China, an increase from the single Chinese brand on the list 12 years ago.

"It takes time. I mean, these brands are not built overnight ... Every single bit of communication builds onto that," Kronick said.