Why Do Western Brands Fail in China?

Why brands fail is a big question asked by Top management as well as the overall companies when a brand fails. During the entire process, no one seems to see the failure of the brand coming. It is only after the company has given up that they realize where the Brand had failed. To understand why brands fail, let us have a look at the past of branding.

A bad marketing or branding campaign can result in an absolute mess

We remember, there were times when Products ruled and manufacturing was the king of trade. But slowly and surely, the market moved on further in another direction, and then came the time of digital Marketing and Branding. The right branding can even sell an average product.

In China, the lack of understanding of Chinese consumers and how the shop has cost many international brands failure. For a growing number of retailers, China presents a major opportunity for expansion as local consumers get richer and demand quality goods and services. Yet there are many high-profile cases in which Western brands have fallen short in their pursuit of the Chinese consumer.

Being Inauthentic

According to the figures, the most fundamental reason brands fail is a lack of authenticity and transparency. Without the customers needs insight and a focus on the wrong things, businesses could easily lose the consumer’s trust. The Chinese marketplace is crowded with millions of potential customers and many competing solutions. Know who you are, know what you do best, and know who you serve. Don’t try to be everything to everyone.

Without focus, your business will lose its competitive edge. It is impossible to have a strong strategy on a startup budget. What makes startups succeed in China is their ability to quickly pivot, and the lack of focus leads to the inability to make the necessary adjustments.

Rather than risk that from happening, focus on being authentic, and transparent, and finding ways that you can give more rather than take. It’s a rare commodity in business, but one necessary if it’s going to survive for the long term.

Breaking Your Brand Promise

When the marketing strategies are built to cover up the reality, the brand doesn’t last very long. If there is one important rule in the branding game that stands above all others, it’s: make a promise to your customers and keep it. It’s true that not everything can be told to the consumers but the product has to complement the brand promise or the company could get a great fall. Brands that don’t make good on their word are the first ones to fail. Those who foster trust by keeping their promise are those with cult-like followings.

Deception, in today’s digital age, would no longer result in the success of a brand as Chinese consumers are much aware of the current scenarios and, with an increase in competition, aren’t hesitant to switch over to a new brand. Such strategies may result in a decrease in brand equity and also affect the brand image of the business.

Failure to connect with the target audience

Every business will tell you that the customer is number 1, but only a small percentage acts that way. Businesses that fail lose touch with their Chinese customers.

Your brand exists in the minds of your Chinese customers. That means that in order to properly manage your brand, you must have all your attention continually on the Chinese customer needs, understanding your customer’s ever-changing needs and motivations. The minute a brand becomes disconnected from Chinese customer needs is the moment it has failed.

Keep an eye on the trending values of your Chinese customers. Always try to get some feedback from your audience. Find out if they still love your products. Do they want new features? What are they saying? Are you listening? I once talked to the CEO of a training company who told me that they don’t respond to negative reviews because they are unimportant. What? Are you kidding me?

Lacking Competitive Differentiation

The fact is most brands don’t fail in a catastrophic collapse. Most are quietly defeated by sameness, as safe positioning and bland messaging relegate them to the ever-growing heap of irrelevant has-beens. If you want to avoid failing, you have to identify areas for radical differentiation in the competitive landscape, and boldly exploit them.

The environment in which the brand functions is dynamic and requires it to change its marketing and branding strategies from time to time to keep up with the trend and to maintain and gain new consumers. In this age of digital era, if a brand still sticks with print media, it surely lags behind many of its competitors. Similarly, if a brand fails to infer the current and future needs, wants, and desires of the customers, there are greater chances that it may lose to its competitors.

Increasing competition has caused the brand’s value to be diluted. There are a lot of brands that came and went or couldn’t conquer. This is because already there is a such high competition that a brand is not able to stick and even brands which slow down in their pace, risk being thrown out of the market.

Failure to optimize conversions

It’s critical to build a strong company culture inspired by core values. Most entrepreneurs have so much that they need to deal with that they forget to address the absolute heart of any business. Without optimizing conversions, no matter what a business does, especially if it raises money and has a high burn rate, it’ll be futile trying to survive when the money runs dry. Address the conversions early on to ensure that there’s a positive ROI on any ad spends. Then you know you have a sustainable business.

You can’t solely rely on organic traffic methods like search engine optimization. Without conversion optimization, any business is wasting its time. Even long-shot unicorns need to focus on income-producing, conversion-optimizing activities, even while building up a customer base. Without it, it’s merely a matter of time until the money runs out and executives are scrambling to keep the doors open.

Telling Ineffectual Brand Stories: Failure to deliver real value

Your Chinese customers spend their days on their smartphones receiving relentless marketing messages coming at them in different ways. If you hope to get your story heard, it had better be meaningful, compelling, and unique. Brands that fail are brands that fall short of telling a relevant and memorable story to their audiences.

At the heart of any business is value. The world’s most successful businesses deliver the most value. Plain and simple. Find a way that you can under-promise but over-deliver. Always over-deliver. No matter what the situation. If you’re looking for a fast buck or to get rich quickly, you’ll quickly find yourself at a dead end. Instead, focus on the real value proposition. If you’re not adding as much (if not more) value as your competitors, then you need to rethink your approach.

If you are going to succeed in business you will have a clear definition of your customer. It is not an abstract idea. It is something that can be expressed in numbers.

Dolce and Gabbana is a good example of the most Embarrassing Branding Mistakes of 2018

In November, the luxury fashion line D&G released a marketing campaign full of ethnic stereotypes. An advertisement for the company shows a Chinese model attempting and failing to eat various Italian dishes with chopsticks. Even aside from the sexually suggestive content, people were outraged over the depiction of Chinese people as lacking refinement and an understanding of culture.

Things only got worse from there. Following the campaign, Diet Prada, a fashion-focused Instagram account, posted screenshots of an Instagram DM exchange between founder Stefano Gabbana and model Michaela Tranova, during which Gabbana says “the country of [series of poop emojis] is China,” and “China Ignorant Dirty Smelling Mafia.” The Diet Prada post went viral, and the backlash was immediate. The hashtag #BoycottDolce reportedly began trending on the Chinese social media site Weibo.

Gabbana and his co-founder Domenico Dolce have since apologized to the public but were forced to cancel their Shanghai runway show, costing them millions.


Having a Chaotic Brand Architecture

The existence of parent brands and sub-brands isn’t in and of itself a cause for concern. But failure comes when a brand’s architecture becomes so convoluted and diffuse that the hierarchy no longer makes sense. Brand architecture should maximize your marketing efforts by providing the infrastructure for powerful cross-promotion between your sub-brands.

Most businesses lack strategic and effective leadership. Without real experience in the Chinese market, most newcomers to the entrepreneurial fray struggle with the overwhelming amount of demands placed on them. When problems do arise, which they often do, navigating those murky waters becomes an impossible task. That’s why businesses, big or small, need to build up their board of seasoned counselors and find trusted mentors if they’re serious about longevity.

If you are going to succeed in business you will have a clear definition of your customer. It is not an abstract idea. It is something that can be expressed in numbers.

Unable to compete against market leaders

Staying afloat is exponentially harder when competition is fierce and smaller businesses have a bullseye on their backs, especially true in lucrative markets where the stakes are high. If smaller businesses can’t compete against their larger counterparts, they must find ways to pivot and stay in business. To do that takes a keen business sense and true guts.

One of the best qualities of a strong brand is consistency. But too often consistency meets with complacency, which leads to one of the worst qualities a brand can embody: stagnation. Now, more than ever, the Chinese marketplace waits for no one. Your brand must be nimble, dynamic, and relentlessly abreast of current trends. Avoiding failure means avoiding irrelevancy.

Most businesses fail because they create products or services without involving their customers. If you are really serious about success in China, you will build your products with your Chinese customers.

Failure to create the proper business systems

Sales funnels aren’t the only automation required to run a successful business that’s built for the long term. Other proper business systems need to be put in place. Policies need to be enacted. Financial audits and tracking procedures need to be created. And so on. Without a good deal of systems and automation, the amount of work becomes overwhelming and the details can easily be overlooked.

Trying to change your stripes is nothing new in branding. It happens to the best brands and is an inevitable thought when things start to go wrong. Many companies have launched campaigns or new branding strategies that fail to connect or make customers unhappy. In most cases, the voices of a few loud consumers will be the main problem, and all you need is minor tweaks to your existing design. However, some companies may panic, and decide to throw everything out the window to start again.

It may seem tempting, but the reality is that brands aren’t a one-off thing. They take time to cultivate and grow, and starting over repeatedly will do more harm than good to your image. New logos can also confuse your audience, or muddy your company’s message. Remember, your brand is as valuable as your product, and throwing it away means losing the goodwill you’ve built.

How to Help Ensure the Success of Change Initiatives in China?

There are many different marketing techniques both online and offline to ensure success. Major offline examples include trade shows, networking, and in-person speaking engagements. Essential online methods include a Chinese website, and ongoing search engine optimization (SEO).

Taken together, online and offline marketing techniques allow you to reach Chinese Clients wherever they may be. Traditional, offline networking has been an important part of the professional services industry for some time, but these days crucial relationships are forged more and more often through social media.

Search engine optimization (SEO) on Baidu

Going hand-in-hand with a lead-generating website is a thoughtful strategy for search engine optimization. SEO marketing on Baidu is really a long-term for a variety of techniques designed to make sure that your valuable content gets in front of the right audiences online.

And one of the most important of those strategies is to ensure that your content really is valuable. You must develop well-written content that is truly useful to your specific target audience.

There are also a host of important technical issues to attend to. Your website must be structured and tagged properly and pages should contain the appropriate keyword to signal to the search engine what it is about.

SEO isn’t a one-time effort, but an ongoing strategy to create quality content that is easy for your audience to find. This is an absolutely crucial technique for generating low-cost, high-quality leads online and the only reason it’s not higher on the list is that its impact is primarily on the online side of your marketing equation.

Online Mini-video

Online video allows for many of the benefits of face-to-face interaction. With live mini-video, you can also pick up on visual cues like body language. The video also allows you to share detailed, highly visual tutorials or demonstrations easily.

You can use video as a live communication tool with distant prospects or clients, through services like  Other times, you might distribute recorded video on platforms like Douyin.

Professional services are ultimately all about people, and video is an exceptional way to showcase your audience. In addition to communication, some common uses for mini-video include:

  • Brands overviews
  • Overviews of your service areas
  • Video case studies
  • Video blogging
  • A “meet the team” video

Rich Content

There is the main objective of publishing rich content: maintaining your brand awareness. Written content is a great way to protect your brand’s particular expertise, the way of thinking. Some researches show that more than 50% of Chinese buyers would read articles or publications to learn more about a topic important to them professionally. By educating your audiences, you demonstrate your relevance to them and show them your qualifications as an expert.

The rich article is an excellent way to increase the drawing power of your website. Search engines like Baidu look for fresh content on your website. They also give preference to content in the Chinese versions. A good website with engaging content on your own site is a great marketing technique to deliver good benefits.

Building Brand Value

The last step in strategic brand management is when you build value for your brand by taking various necessary measures. The role of strategic brand management to plan is not to be able to offer too much value to the customer.

It has to make do with whatever it has. So to increase the value of the brand, the company has to enter new products and possibly new markets. It is the work of the brand manager to keep adding value and repeat the previous steps to keep changing the brand positioning as per the market demand or the demand of the customers.

Social Media Marketing

In this digital era, social media has taken over everyone’s life. Think about it; how many times a day do Chinese people open WeChat or Weibo casually just to see what their friends are up to? They are on there at least 20 times a day mindlessly scrolling and brands are smart. they’ve caught on to this behavior.

That’s why while you’re scrolling through your friend’s post you’re likely to see a brand pop in there every so often. Brands, big and small, make mistakes on social media all the time and in the digital’s age, brands put a wedge between themselves and their followers, you can bet everyone is going to be talking about it.

In today’s world, Chinese social media can be a highly effective way to increase brand awareness and bring in customers but only if it’s used the right way. As you’re creating your social media campaigns, keep in mind to not offend your audience or cross the line into being insensitive towards a wider audience. If you’re creating something and you question the content or context of the campaign, bring in a couple of other opinions otherwise you may see yourself on our next social media fail list.

Sum Up

The most effective marketing techniques are a diverse root of online and offline strategies. Each technique is most effective when it is working in concert with the others. Effective search engine optimization will help draw relevant audiences to your lead-generating website, where a targeted offer helps convert visitors into leads.

Gentlemen Marketing Agency

GMA is a global leader in helping international brands grow faster and become more profitable in China. Creating a brand isn’t hard, and making a lasting impression will help you make the biggest impact on your Chinese consumers. We offer you innovative ways to create a powerful and memorable branding strategy.

  • Find out more about becoming a leader in your industry by visiting our Website marketingtochina.com
  • Check out the research about how industry stars build their brands. We worked with more than 300 international Brands.
  • Check out our latest White book where we studied over 20 professional services to understand how to succeed.

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