Assumptions about where products are made may be lasting, but strong Asian brands are moving up the ladder.
National stereotypes, rightly or wrongly, influence people’s decisions on where they live and work, where they invest, the products and services they buy – and at what price. Buyers – and producers –of Swiss watches, German cars, French fragrances, Korean televisions and Singaporean clean governance know this well, and their competitors do too. In Hong Kong, Chinese entrepreneur Jimmy Lai famously called his fashion chain Giordano to make it sound Italian, giving it some instant design credibility. Similarly, British electronics retailer Currys branded a range of goods sourced from across Asia “Matsui,” complete with a rising sun logo, to give it an air of Japanese-ness, even though none of the goods were actually made in Japan.
Public impressions of countries’ strengths do change, however. Successful brands help improve the strength of the national brand they represent, and a strong national brand reflects on the brands it exports. There will be a few readers old enough to remember when “Made in Japan” or “Made in Hong Kong” was shorthand for cheap and likely to break. Now, Hong Kong’s financial industry is the envy of the world, and most things Japanese command a premium.
And the winner is …
The comparative value of countries’ brands has been scrutinised by several research companies, each using different methodologies and each generating slightly different results. Brand Finance’s Nation Brands Report calculates the value of a country brand in the same way that corporate brands are calculated, but with GDP as a proxy for revenue. There is no survey element, and the company uses about 180 data points from sources such as the World Economic Forum and Oxford Economics to track foreign investment and award a value for Brand Strength (out of 100) which “levels the playing field” and allows smaller economies to effectively compete with the giants.
The Brand Value rankings naturally reflect GDP, so are led by the US, China, Germany, the UK and Japan. On the Brand Strength measure, however, Germany leads the field, followed very closely by Singapore, Switzerland, the US and the UK. Also featuring in the top 20 on Brand Strength are Malaysia, Hong Kong, New Zealand, Australia, Japan, Taiwan and, in 20th place, China.
“Brand China PLC is a generally healthy business; it’s generating a lot of GDP and is doing really well,” says Bryn Anderson, Brand Finance chief operations officer, in regard to the two measures Brand Finance produces. “However, if you were to compare China to a corporate brand, it’s a country that’s not producing its own brands; it’s producing for other brands and acquiring brands, so as brand China, it’s not doing so well.”
Comparing this to the Brand Finance Global 500 most valuable brands of 2015, however, it is striking that two of the top ten brands are from Asia Pacific: Apple at number one is followed by Samsung at two, and China Mobile stands at ten.
Brand Finance Global 500 – 2015: The world’s most valuable brands
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