Why Western Brands are #1 Online in China

western brands online in China

Estee Lauder is thankful for Tmall branding opportunities.

Reassuring news for the western company hesitant to sail the high seas of China’s online ocean:


Foreign brands score highest for brand equity on China’s Internet in nine of the thirteen categories Millward Brown recently measured. Two of the three domestic winners are for insurance and commercial banking, both off limits to foreign enterprise.


Takeaway – Western Brand Advantage translates into digital. China’s 630 million online seek, find, and engage with the big western brands below in omni-channel harmony. These are global companies with global budgets, true, but insights into their Chinese online success yield digital dividends.


Apple top chinese online phone brandSmart Phones- Apple


Why It’s #1: Innovative genius is universally acknowledged (if brought to market well). Chinese consumers are universal consumers, not culturally alienated consumers.


But Don’t Forget: #3 Xiaomi brings a different kind of innovative genius – customer responsiveness. The Chinese brand is outselling Apple and all comers at home. Next stop, India.


JFC #1 online retail food brand chinaRetail Food & Beverage – KFC


Why It’s #1: A Hare & Tortoise story, KFC rabbited off 1,000 China locations before 2003, when pundits were still skeptical Starbucks could win over a tea culture. The Colonel took to the Chinese Internet with a cane in the mid-2000s, a pioneer in online customer loyalty, and keeping its video ads right in line with its global messaging.


But Don’t Forget: Hares get tired. The Colonel is tired. Big digital branding can lose appeal faster than a pan of chicken wings at the buffet after they bring out the shrimp. China’s wide open for conferring equity on a worthy contender – Boston Market, say.


Ford number one online in ChinaCompact Cars: Ford Focus


Why: Analysts credit the extra chrome and leather Ford provides Chinese customers for its rising stock in China, which is how they say they don’t know. Relentless and efficient digital advertising has dovetailed with its shrewd pricing and safety-first messaging to cast a bigger net online than second place Volkswagen, a China JV since 1978.


Also: Listen to Ford CEO Allen Mulally talk about how smart Chinese consumers are for going online to “know all the vehicles and love what Ford stands for.” Sounds like the CEO is thoroughly bought-in for China digital equity.


Ford CEO talks China online

“They’re SO SMART, because they’re on the Internet.”

No wonder Ford’s Ecosport and SUV models’ online presence is also surging, in line with their sales numbers in China.


Nike best online retail brand in ChinaClothing/Apparel: NIKE


Why It’s #1: We mentioned universal consumers…the Hero with a Thousand Faces is universal. Nike’s myth-making athlete endorsements worked wonders in China, although you never saw Kobe in Qing battle armor. NBA attitude is now, and so is the Chinese consumer.


Don’t forget: Tracy McGrady sold far more gear with his name on it in China than his Mandarin-fluent teammate, Yao Ming.


Also: Adidas is doing arguably as well with the same bounty of mythical endorsement material, but Nai Ke dominates the online conversation.



Beauty & Skin Care: Estee LauderEstee best online Chinese brand


Why It’s #1:Estee CEO Fabrizio Freda knows better than to let a trend like anti-corruption scare him from the long game of a much bigger trend – China, the market of the 21st century. He wisely sees the saturation of a few first tier cities and has raced ahead into the scores of cities with multi-million populations and paltry global brand presence.


Esteel Lauder mirrors this approach with its Tmall store, arguably the best place online in China to take a western brand to the consumer masses. The move has been key in driving its double digit 2014 online growth.



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