Interviewing entrepreneurs in China: Why is branding in China so unique?

China Paradigm interviewed Qin Guo, managing partner and founding member at BSUR Shanghai, to understand what does branding in China mean, how to grow a successful brand in China compared to the West and what are the essential things people need to know when talking about branding in China.

Qin Guo, a brand strategist with a different approach of entrepreneurship in China

Graduated from the Lancaster University and the London School of Economics and Political Science, Qin Guo has worked in London and New York before moving back to Shanghai in 2009 to focus on marketing, art and branding, mainly as a business analyst and then exhibition manager at Pearl Lam Galleries in Shanghai. As an entrepreneur, she decided to approach a company that was already existing and opens an office in Shanghai. She joined BSUR in 2012 and has been the managing partner of BSUR in China for 7 years.

Branding in China
[Qin Guo, entrepreneur in China interview]

Interested in social trends and psychology, Qin Guo plays an essential role in developing branding and marketing strategies for BSUR’s growing Chinese client portfolio.

BSUR, a branding agency in China helping clients to find a true version of themselves

BSUR is a branding agency in China which provides services to help companies to develop brand strategies and creative communication concept in generating greater brand awareness.  Their clients are foreign businesses in China or willing to enter the Chinese market and also Chinese companies willing to expand their market in the country.

 ‘’We are helping our clients find a true version of themselves.’’

Bsur brings a new business approach of ‘‘Concepting’’ to branding and marketing because they believe authenticity is the best sales argument. Moreover, the name of the company, BSUR translates to the idea of identifying your own identity as it is the abbreviation of Be As You Are.

BSUR
[Branding agency in China]

What concept and what differences?

‘‘Branding, I guess many people are confused about the word brand. They think that refers to a logo or a website, but actually, this is so much more than that.’’

Qin Guo gives us her definition of branding and explains how to perfectly understand the brand culture in China.

 ‘‘Your brand is what comes to the mind when your customers think of your business, and then this is what makes you unique and different.’’

Branding in China gives you a competitive edge allowing you to make emotional connections with your customer. According to Qin Guo, without a branding strategy in China, your product will only be seen as a functional objective, and the differentiator will just be pricing. 

What is really different between brand culture in China and the West is that the market is more mature in terms of consumerism and product development in the West compared to China. It means that China has only started to develop brand knowledge in the past 8 years. Before that, the main concern was about manufacturing, margins, and distribution because they didn’t have so many competitors in the same category. But now China is changing because you have a fierce competition within the same category and you need the branding to have an individual brand identity or product to differentiate from your competitors. 

Food branding in China faces many challenges

BSUR has worked for the chocolate industry in China that is why Qin Guo gives us her tips and feelings about the changes of food branding in China and the main challenges they have faced when marketing the chocolate products.

 ‘‘What is really important for any brands in China or brands coming into the Chinese market, is that the taste has to be right for the Chinese consumers.’’

Many foreign companies come to China with a product that is very successful in Europe or America. But that’s not enough; you have to be sure that the taste is adapted to the Chinese preferences and especially for the group of a target audience that’s soothed to their preference. It is, therefore, necessary to undertake serious research such as food tasting in China to select the best flavors, to have them tested by groups of Chinese consumers. We should therefore not hesitate to invent new tastes for the Chinese market or even modify some of your recipes.

And on the other hand, the second challenge is about packaging and communication because it is extremely important to get the right message, especially in a market like China. Indeed, the food category is very competitive; without saying how fierce that can be in the chocolate segments because for Chinese people, there is no habit of eating chocolate. It is very different from Europe. Chinese people may have a  negative connotation about chocolates, where it has a lot of sugar inside.

Thus many conditions are to be taken into account when working on the identity, vision, and symbols of a foreign brand in China. Everything must be taken into account, especially in very competitive sectors such as food branding in China, fashion branding in China, or beverage branding in China.  


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