Interview Labbrand EN

Here at Labbrand we guide our clients with brand innovations, which is we help them on the journey with naming, research, strategy (brand positioning) as well as with design and with digital. Digital brand experience designs.

What is really interesting here for Chinese brand naming is that it’s holding more of an emotional relevance, it needs to resonate with consumers, it is really part of how you give body and soul to you brand and that is a key practice and skill that we have done for 300 names. So in our naming department we have a full process of how to create a name, and we have our own linguistic checkers and also software (in-house owned software) that helps us with the first creation of the names. It is very important to check in terms of mandarin and to check some red flags in dialects. It can mean a totally different thing in Shanghainese.

So from working with brands we see a few trends that we can highlight. One  of that is from product-driven to lifestyle-driven role. So it is important for a brand to become a persona and interact with people, not just sell to them, but really immerse themselves into a community and influence their fanbase. How that relates to the market or to what you see in the street, is that you see lines and lines of people queuing up, but it will not be for the new iPhone, but for a milk tea for example.

Second trend is platform brands. There is a movement to becoming a platform that really enables the consumers and that creates mutual levels of influence that enriches the experience as well. A third highlight in strategy is IP brands. So the brand role is more about having a social role. It is about emerging yourself in a community and building a fanbase and let them buy what you want them to buy. Last but not least is the C2B and B2C trend. So in the west we are very knowledgeable about T-mall and other Alibaba platforms. But there is another platform that I would like to highlight here: Pinduoduo because it is fundamentally different than a T-Mall store because they eliminate the middleman. For example, there is a farm with apples and you promote your apple on the tree when they are not even ripe yet. So it is not about what T-Mall is “We sell what we have already produced” but we sell what the consumer wants.

We see that big brands are using China as we testing ground. Not only for the China market, but really using the deeper insights from the China market for the brand positioning globally, or for another region. An example of that is LinkedIn, with the naming exercise for the Chinese naming that we did for them. So their positioning for the west is “Hey we are one and we can connect our networks together”. One playing field. But for the China market that did not resonate with the consumers. They really wanted to be part of an elite “ We’re growing the elite force”. That was really coming from a deeper cultural insight. So in the end we had two name candidates: one was fitting for their global positioning and the other more coming from the China insights, that was from the elite. And in the end they chose the cultural one that was LingYing. And it is amazing what this name choice has done for the success of LinkedIn because it is truly a successful platform in China.

Chinese consumers are very well-educated, they know about your brand before you are in China, so it is really key to be really China ready, because it is a complex market (and a huge opportunity, as we all know). It is important to do it right. When do you feel confident to make that leap? I think it is important to be aware of all kinds of tactics and to immerse yourself with people that already have experience, but as well I think to just come here and spend time here, because if you come here for business trips you are not understanding as much deeper laying culture laying aspects and that is really important. Because Chinese culture is so rich and it is key to understand that. Brands do have made a quick entry and exit because of that. Because they were totally wrong.

Part of that China ready is that it is key to not underestimate China. Because I think that brands from the West can sometimes be mesmerized by the opportunity here. Billions of people and the market is huge. If we only have 1% of it, I’m done. But it is really, it is still key to go into the understanding of China. It is not a quick win. As I said it is key to do it right the first time. You do not have a second chance. I think focus is really a message that I would like to convey to them. Choose a niche and if you win that, you can always broaden from there.

So my advice for startups and scaleups that are looking to come to China is: be prepared, look where you are going to, cultural sensitivity is important. It is nice that you travel here for a business trip for a few days, but really go deep into the culture. Because there are very small sensitivities in culture that are truly important for brands to make it happen here.