Why Does China Love British Design?..

To gain further insight into the potential of targeting British designed and manufactured products to the Chinese markets, I’ve done some further reading. On one Chinese newspaper website, I discovered an article which suggested that the Range Rover Evoque is selling for up to three times the price than in Western countries, due to its association with British luxury and popular culture:

Heavy exposure of the brand in a popular TV drama that aired in China four years ago also contributed to its popularity with lines such as: “This is no ordinary jeep. It is called Range Rover. A vehicle specially designed for the British royal family … any courageous man would want a Range Rover.”

The company, run in India by Tata Motors since 2008, clearly still has solid roots to its British heritage, and it seems that this association is leading to increased sales in the East. In china sales increased 30%, while Mercedes and BMW posted increases of just 20% and 10.6%, respectively.

In a 2010 article in ‘The Telegraph’, titled ‘Made in Britain Loved in China’, I found the following statistics:

  • £7.2bn of British goods exported to China in 2010.
  • Burberry launched a 21,500 sq-ft flagship store in Beijing with much to-do last month, as part of its goal to take a significant share of the expected £15bn spend on designer goods in China by 2015.
  • There are now more than 85,000 Chinese students at British universities, and the country is the second-largest source of international students at Oxford (above).
  • China bought 24% more Scotch whisky in 2010, taking the total value of exports there to £55m.

It seems that the Chinese are particularly keen on British Brands. This Brand identity and it’s identity as firmly British is key to the product being successfully marketed in China. According to an article on the ‘brand-e’ website:

Researchers (at Warwick University) believe that Britain’s cultural capital represents a number of unique qualities that make it difficult for competitors in France, Italy or the US to imitate.

“Luxury goods are defined as those satisfying hedonic rather than functional needs and our research has found this is an area that Britain enjoys a distinct advantage in,” says Professor Qing Wang of Warwick Business School. “A very important factor that makes Britain standout is that it incorporates tradition and innovation seamlessly.

Put differently, Britain’s advantage lies in so-called soft power, which is defined as the ability to get what you want through attraction rather than through coercion and cultural heritage is a key part of that. The extent of its impact is hard to measure and even harder to replicate. As China promotes its own soft power, it has increasingly turned to Britain for inspiration.

The lure of luxury also spreads into other consumer segments. “There is a trickle-down effect from the tailor-made luxury product segment with high price tags and exclusivity benefits to other consumer segments where more affordable and mainstream luxury goods are offered,” says Navdeep Athwal, a doctoral researcher in Warwick Business School’s marketing group. “Members of luxury goods consumer-led virtual communities seek to emulate the behaviour of their elite counterparts and to gain the same levels of status and recognition.”

With regards to the potential for a Welsh tapestry to become popular and desirable to the Chinese market, there are many positives to take from the sale of Scottish Tweed. HM Revenue figures suggested that textile exports to China from Scotland had reached a high of £9.5 million for 2013. This market has increased more than double over the last ten years. The Chairman of ‘Harris Tweed’ suggested that this growth was crucially related to ‘heritage’ and ‘provenance’. Harris Tweed is already a supplier of upholstery for Chinese Markets, producing upholstery for furniture manufacturer; Tetrad. The full article can be read here.

The challenge for young British companies, with lesser known brand identities, is to develop brand identity and earn association with the provenance that can make the culturally British products so attractive. This, while also competing against copycat brands based in China, who are able to produce products at a far lower cost as their British counterparts, and attempt to imitate the heritage and provenance of true British goods.



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