Confusion of the Dragon: Brand ineptitude in the PRC?
I always notice when some firm has the idea of saturation media buying on London Underground. Lately I have seen an unruly amount of crude posters for some firm called ‘aigo’ which, according to the awkward copy may well be the biggest consumer electronics company I haven’t heard of yet. If it is big and I haven’t heard of it the reason often is that it is stuck in a regional ghetto with not particularly relevant products. Whenever I have been in a market in the developing world I have noticed a profusion of dubious brands making 14″ CRTs, MP3 players, whatever. These are great growth markets to be sure, but low margins and high tariffs have scared away big brands (though one can see plenty of ‘Tinitron’ TVs, ‘Panesonic’ radios and ‘Sonny’ VCD players). So when I saw the fetching if overmadeup face of a woman who looked like she may have snapped in a bikini at some Shanghai PC resellers conference alongside strange copy suggesting I ‘relive the fun times’ with a ‘digital photo frame’ (conveniently available in the novelties section of Selfridges) I was curious and bored at the same time.
Putting aside the fact that a ‘digital photo frame’ consisting of a low resolution LCD display and the ability to play some tinny background music as you sift through 32mb worth of rubbish holiday snaps is a redefinition of crap, the sad fact was that the ad was so bad I was turned off before I even considered the product. It looked less cool that an old East German advert for ineffective washing powder. With long copy that read like it was put through Google translator and awkward design it was a piece of cheap flatulence unworthy of the inventors of the compass, clock and gunpowder. It’s not that hard to get someone who can make a decent ad for you, BTW.
It is a truism that the PRC is the powerhouse of tomorrow, but the fact remains that to compete on any level beyond mere commodity you need credible brands. The PRC does not have a single one that can begin to punch its weight globally. The free parts of Asia create innovative products and powerful brands by the score – a tyrannical, fascistic gerontocracy seems to be completely unable to do so. Which could well be a major block on China’s future growth.