Opinion

_______ in China

28 August, 2017 Share socially

The same can be applied to brands too…

This isn’t just any chocolate. This is melt-in-the-mouth indulgence, eat-in-one-sitting, put-in-the-stocking-for-grandma-as-a-present, Belgian chocolate. This isn’t just any pasta. This is organic goodness, fill your bowl, endorsed by Nonna, Italian pasta. This isn’t just any coffee. This is barista-made, know me by name, served down an arty laneway, Australian coffee.

We know there is a certain cachet that comes with teaming a product or service to its country of origin; there is a hidden assumption that we’re buying something of quality when brands lean on a country’s legacy or specialism.

Outdated associations

It’s traditionally been a different story for one country however. For China, their origin story has often translated to poorly treated workers and poor-quality products. This picture has been painted through the mass manufacturing of low-tech, low-margin, disposable goods - China is still the largest manufacturer and exporter of toy products, over 70% of the world’s total in fact.

This has meant that Chinese brands typically have been reluctant to wear the “Made in China” label, looking for inspiration instead from the Western world in terms of how they should position their identity and voice.

A new image

But a new story for China is emerging. The negative labels of before are being removed, as it becomes a place where innovation and talent are flourishing.

In part, this is due to the emergence of a generation of young people who are positively predisposed towards Chinese brands, more so than their parents or grandparents. Technology wise, China’s phone market accounted for a third of all smartphone sales worldwide in 2015, but surprisingly Apple was only the 3rd biggest supplier – home grown brands Huawei and Xiaomi claimed the top spots.

Earlier this year, China also became the games capital of the world. The 600 million gamers in China generated $24.6 billion of the industry's market value over 2016, according to a report published by Atomico. It’s easy to see why when you consider that Tencent Holdings Ltd., one of the 10 largest public technology companies in the world, owns not only the social platform WeChat, but desktop game League of Legends, as well as Honour of Kings, the highest grossing mobile game in China. Not bad for a once niche subculture now worth double the value of the film industry.

And it’s also stepping out and defining a new modern style for itself. Young Chinese designers are starting to drive catwalk trends around the world. Uma Wang was recently named as one of Vogue Italia’s up and coming designers to watch, Masha Ma’s clothing adorns the likes of Lady Gaga and Naomi Campbell, whilst Yiqing Yin recently became the first Chinese-born designer admitted into Paris's coterie of haute couture creators.

So maybe it’s time for us to re-write that infamous label, and in a way that is true to the country today. Let’s think less about Made in China, and celebrate its unique culture and entrepreneurialism instead. 

Think 'Invented in China', 'Created in China', or 'Started in China'.

By Mel Gillespie, FutureBrand Melbourne

Photo by Steven Wei on Unsplash