Chinese Consumers drawn to British brands

 China Business Conference 2014 (610px)

(A speaker discusses UK export opportunities at the China Business Conference 2014)


British Airways, Rolls-Royce, Jaguar Land Rover and haircare brand Tangle Teezer are among the brands benefiting from strong demand for UK goods among Chinese consumers, according to a recent China Business Conference run by the China-Britain Business Council.

The conference, which featured a mixture of case studies and discussions, highlighted the opportunity to increase UK exports created by a buzz for British-branded goods among China's middle classes.

This buzz has been fuelled by, among other things, the interest generated in the country by television shows, Downton Abbey and Sherlock, and by the Royal Wedding.

British Airways is one brand that has developed a particular approach in China to captitalise on this enthusiasm.

Paul Rogers, Marketing Manager APAC, British Airways, explained that in the West, British Airways was comfortable being a leader, whereas in China it assumed the position of being a challenger brand.

Rogers emphasised the power of the British brand in China – one British Airways slogan in the country is “come to Britain and visit the best, then go to Europe and visit the rest”. When communicating to Chinese consumers, Rogers said, British Airways stressed its name, British heritage and, most importantly, its direct flights from China to Britain. 

During the event, Jackie Stevenson, Founding Partner of the Brooklyn Brothers agency, presented a case study on the marketing campaign behind Jaguar Land Rover’s Evoque model.

Brooklyn Brothers began its marketing 18 months before the car went on sale – when it did not yet have a product to sell. Stevenson named this “the Birkin handbag effect”, resulting in “the cult of the pre-order”. She said the cult of the pre-order was especially effective in China since consumers wanted a pre-order buzz.

Chinese consumers are prepared to wait for top quality products; simultaneously launching a product and encouraging consumers to pre-order builds anticipation, exclusivity and excitement. Victoria Beckham endorsed the campaign - designing her very own special edition of the Evoque that went on sale exclusively in Beijing.

Other speakers painted a profile of a new generation of Chinese consumers, drawing attention to details such as the preference of the country's shoppers for using social media and for buying from aggregator e-commerce platforms such as Alibaba, rather than from individual retailer websites.

It is estimated that online platforms in the US and the UK account for 23% and 28%, respectively, of e-commerce sales in those countries. By contrast, in China 90% of all online sales go through online platforms, with indiviual retailer websites accounting for only 10%.

Another speaker - Vivian Wang Davies, Director of International Commercial Relations, Royal Mail - highlighted the opportunity for British businesses created by the rapid increase in the value of purchases made by Chinese consumers from overseas websites.

Wang Davies commented on “the halo effect” around British business and said Chinese consumers valued companies that offered features such as transparent charging, simple payment processes and easy returns. 

Gemma Clarke, International Managing Director, Tangle Teezer, told delegates that businesses did not need to spend huge amounts of money to sell in China.

Tangle Teezer is not a global multinational. It has a marketing team of two covering 80 markets worldwide and after just three years of selling to China, the country is now its second most profitable market.

Clarke emphasised the “British opportunity” with the right product selling in the right market. The Tangle Teezer hairbrush launched in China after a famous Chinese model bought a Tangle Teezer in London and blogged about it on the Chinese micro blogging site, Weibo.

Summing up the day's message, Stephen Phillips, Chief Executive of CBBC, commented: “If there are still companies who haven’t looked at the China opportunity, they should have a wake-up call. Whilst trading with China is not going to suit all UK businesses, they should have at least considered it.” 

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