We live in a global economy. An economy where we are used to seeing brands from around the world offer us the widest choice in goods and services. From German cars and Japanese computers to French fashion and Italian food, foreign brands on luxurious to everyday goods fill our homes, our stores and our lives. And through sites like Amazon’s Marketplace and eBay’s World of Good, the Internet has made the world even smaller and more democratized, enabling everyone to reach new markets and new sellers. We can shop the world without ever leaving homebase.
But the brandscape is changing. We are in the midst of a brand revolution where the old guard of established American, European or Asian products no longer define the market exclusively. A new wave of brands from the emerging nations of the world is dawning. Brazil, Russia, and particularly India and China (the BRIC nations), are beginning to understand the value of investing in brands. Today, many homegrown brands are the leaders within their own markets. In China, Baidu and Alibaba dominate Google and Yahoo. Huawei and Bird outsell Nokia and Motorola. Haier and GOME electronics are more established than Hitachi, SONY and Panasonic. In Russia, telecommunications are driven by Beeline and Zaitsev. In Brazil it’s all about Embraer and Oi, and in India, Tata and Reliance.
Companies discovering the value of brands to create loyalty amongst millions of indigenous customers, have built brands reflecting pride in their nation and relevance to their culture. But those national brands aren’t staying put. They’ve been expanding regionally, moving into adjacent markets, increasing their footprint and profile of their products. And they aren’t stopping there – they’re coming here. They started by buying western brands – like Lenovo and Land Rover – and more will be snapped up in 2010. They’re not just buying access, distribution and manufacturing. Most importantly, they’re buying brand recognition and gaining knowledge. They’ve learned from the early days of failure when many of their products were treated with ridicule or contempt. And though it’s still early days, they’re learning about the power of brands and training a new generation of entrepreneurs, designers and marketers to create them.
The question is, how extensible will their homegrown brands be? Will authenticity be a boon or a boggle with potentially difficult to pronounce names, culturally distinctive aesthetics and promises created for their own cultures? And how will the nations they represent add or detract value? Like Samsung and LG did for Korea, these emerging nations recognize that commercial brands can change how their nation is perceived as well as their GDP. Their governments are complementing commercial efforts with investments, advertising and education to evolve the face of their national brands. Forces will come together to change what ‘Made in China’ means to the world.
Ultimately, will they adapt to us or will we adapt to them? Their concerted efforts combined with a more global society and marketplace will likely force us to change our perceptions and the stereotypes that go with them. It will take time, investment and education. But the new branding nations will move beyond just being the world’s factories and start becoming the world’s stores.