Thursday, March 8, 2018

The Name is Fine China, So Why is there no Chinese Brand? By Yuting Zhang

Guest post by a brilliant merchandiser and critical business thinker. Thanks, Yuting

Recently I planned to buy some dinnerware to make a nicer presentation for my dining table. After doing a lot of research from, I noticed that I didn't see any chinese brand. After searching Google and Baidu (Baidu is the most popular search tool in Chinese language), to find out what’s the most world famous Chinese porcelain brand, I found nothing. Of course there are always some domestic brands in China who feel good about themselves and believe they are well-known globally, but actually not.
As a Chinese and a fans of fine china, after this research, I felt very tired and sad.
China is the start and origin of porcelain, and the product is still called “China,” but now we have no signature brands and share at the higher level of the world’s dinnerware market.
What makes me feel worse is that historically, China was the first country to become involved in international trade, and the first international merchandise that exported from China to Europe was porcelain.
Nowadays, when I search some well-known porcelain brands from Amazon, like Spode, Lenox, Portmeirion, the newer products are mostly made in China, even though the brands are located in England, USA etc.. You can see by comments on Amazon that consumers expected that the products which they bought could be made in England for example, but once they received the merchandise and figured out it was made in China, they started to complain. The fine china that was made in China, becomes unwelcome and uncomfortable.
Why? What makes this happen?
Because of the actual quality issue for those made in China? I have randomly compared the Spode(Made in England) and Villeroy&Boch(Made in Germany) coffee cups with the tea cups I bought in China 10years ago: my Chinese tea cups are cheaper in price, but in reality, the porcelain is higher quality--finer, whiter, thinner, and more delicately hand drawn blue patterns.
So why are consumers still complaining?
I think the main reason is because there is no Chinese brand among the higher level market, so it is hard for consumers to pay attention to the quality of Chinese products. Even though the international brand merchandise they bought is made in China, consumers still only recognize the brands, but not the COO. The company can always change its factory; the products may be produced in different locations, but the brand is exclusive.
So brands, not production, are the key to recognition in today’s international markets.
Even thought China has been the original empire of fine porcelain, and its originator, even though she still holds the highest skill and technics, even though China is still producing a massive percentage of the world’s porcelain she depends on others’ brands. so your expertise and the fate of your business is in the hands of another master, not yourself.
Unfortunately the perception of the label Made in China still represents cheap, fake, no taste.
Historically, this shouldn’t be the case. One hundred years ago and earlier, in many ways, China and the Orient were the dream of the western world. From those discontinued china patterns, you can find the clue about people’s thinking about China at that time: the patterns are always elegant, peaceful, with vases, lanterns, and luxurious silk clothing for men and woment. If we want to further research the artisans’ imagination, then we can look at the history of the past 500 years- there were millions of tons of silk, tea, porcelain exported from China to Europe. Those products fulfilled Europeans’ dream: one kind of rich, peaceful, elegant and poetic life. I believe that the Western world started to change their mind about China from 1841 during the Opium war, which was actually a trade war: China was forced to open its doors so that Europe could import more high quality merchandise and make substantial profits without due balance of trade.
There is no doubt that China is capable of producing the best quality of porcelain, as an example of the real quality situation. The problem is that China isn’t good at building its own brands. A famous and long lasting brand not only requires good quality, but also attractive design and proper marketing—How do you attract global customers to buy your merchandise? How do you fulfill customers expectations? How do you give your customers the passion to always come back? Only after successfully doing that, then your brand starts to own its soul, and you have your business moat built. Without your own brand or moat, your destiny is not in your control, and your fate is determined by others.
But-before you can attract customers to buy your brand with your quality and design, you must positively influence their perception of the identity of the brand and gain their trust that it will fulfill its promise.
Given the still present perception of Chinese design and quality, it will be a long and tough journey for China to gain back the share of the world’s trade in fine goods it had as many as 500 years ago.; with the right design marketing and production standards, China should be a leader in fine China and other industries. It has been a long time coming, but it will never be too late.

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