Interviewing entrepreneurs in China: What does brand DNA in China mean?

Brand DNA in China

China Paradigm interviewed Louis Houdart, the founder and CEO of Creative Capital, a creative branding agency in China. This episode of our China marketing podcast aims to understand the innovations and developments that Chinese brands are undertaking and the meanings of brand DNA in China and branding in China.

Louis Houdart, a multifaceted entrepreneur in the field of brand DNA in China

Originally from Paris, Louis Houdart is the founder of Creative Capital, a branding agency in China. Before arriving in Asia where he now has more than 15 years experience, Louis Houdart studied in England, Spain, Singapore, and the US. Graduated with an MBA from Columbia Business School and London Business School and also with a Masters Degree in branding from SDA Bocconi, Louis Houdart arrived in China in 2000 full of ideas.

In 2009, he started his first business in China, called Secret Garden, which as a retail experience to build and develop a smooth and independent retail chain of flower shops. That was when he created this very strong brand identity that he realized the impact of brand DNA in China on sales and decided to really work in branding in China.

With a strong experience in retail, Louis Houdart started Creative Capital in 2011. Today he has also joined Altavia which is the first international independent group specialized in sales communications for retailers.

brand DNA in China
[Louis Houdart, an experienced entrepreneur in China, specialized in Chinese brands strategies]

Our China Paradigm’s guest is also a regular guest speaker at different conferences and universities. He speaks fluent Chinese, English, and French.

Creative Capital, a made-in-China branding agency

Creative Capital is now one of the leading independent branding agency in China with offices in Shanghai, Hong-Kong, New-York, Shenzhen, and Jakarta. Creative Capital’s mission is to help to grow great brands in some of the biggest capitals in the world.

Having served more than 100 clients, they have in total, a team of 50 people.

This foreign company in China today works mostly with Chinese clients on strategy projects (80%) but also works with prestigious international clients such as LVMH group, Chanel, L’Oreal group.

Louis Houdart divides the company’s activity into three main services:

The first offer is brand creation, so creating a new brand from scratch. The second offer is ‘‘brand to the road’’ or ‘‘company to the road’’, to help companies to grow with having a logo, a soul and a story and the third offer is helping beautiful foreign brands to localize their message to the Chinese audience.

According to Louis Houdart, the secret of a good branding agency in China is to understand what design can bring to a brand or product:

‘‘Design and creativity is not a way only for the sake of making something beautiful, but it is also a way to bring value to different stakeholders and shareholders.’’

branding agency in China
[Creative Capital, branding agency in China]

Creative Capital defines itself as an agency that ‘‘designs culture’’ using cultural identity as a tool for the creation of strong brands and striking communication campaigns.

Branding in China: What is the difference between a retailer and a brand?

‘‘I think there is a big misunderstanding about what the brand is and what the retailer is.’’

Louis Houdart takes the example of Zara:

‘‘Zara is not a brand to me, it’s a famous trademark. Zara is a retailer. They sell.’’

Indeed, Zara has a great offer, and this is their business model, to sell fashion products at a very fair price and the latest trends very quickly to the customers. But that is simply their offer, they are a very well-done retailer and much more a chain machine than a brand according to Louis Houdart. On the other side, Louis Vuitton is not really a retailer. Louis Vuitton is a real brand:

‘‘When I close my eyes and  think about Louis Vuitton, I will see their product, I will see their story of luxury traveling, I will see their last campaign.’’

Louis Vuitton is not just selling products; they are selling a dream. This is the main difference between retailers and brands: a powerful brand DNA.

‘‘Acer is not a beautiful brand. I mean Acer is a famous name but if I close my eyes and I try to think what an Acer product looks like; no one would be able to. I challenge you to describe me an Acer product if you don’t have an Acer computer in front of you. This is where we are relevant.’’

Thus, with Creative Capital, Louis tries to bring souls to brands. To bring something that customers feel special and can relate and attach to because a brand is not just a name and a logo. However, many people working in branding in China have a different understanding of what a brand really is.


Listen to this episode here:

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