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China brand obscurity

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Quick, name a Chinese brand that pops into your mind? Give up? Other than Baidu.com (and I had to Google the spelling) I couldn’t come up with any either. Baidu.com is the Google’s equivalent in China. A popular search engine there, but largely unknown outside of China.

These days there are a lot of comparisons between the Chinese economic rise and that of Japan some 30 years ago. But there is one glaring difference between the two, and that is brand recognition. Even when Japanese-made products were largely dismissed as sub-standard, many of the companies behind the products were household names. Honda, Toyota, Sony, Sharp, and Casio just to name a few. By contrast Chinese companies seem to mostly operate behind the scene. They crank out most of the products we use today, yet they exist in relative anonymity.

It’s difficult to say whether such obscurity is deliberate or due to lack of marketing savviness by the Chinese. Maybe the Chinese market is not conducive to allowing a few to rise to the level of power and fame. By contrast, I can name a few Indian companies that operate within the industry India is renowned for, Information Technology. Tata, Wipro, and Infosys are the giant IT consulting firms that many IT workers in the US shudder to hear their names. Perhaps I know of these companies because I myself am part of the same industry. But then again, I can name a couple of South Korean companies such as Samsung, LG Electronics, and Hyundai.

As china becomes a dominant force in the world economy, I wonder how far this dominance can extend if the companies behind the expansion are largely unknown. Are we seeing the beginnings of a new type of economic dominance, one where the whole matters and the parts are faceless? That remains to be seen.

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