Consumerisation to Covid: China’s top brands triumphed in a decade of radical transformation

Consumerisation to Covid: China’s top brands triumphed in a decade of radical transformation

China’s brand landscape has transformed dramatically in the last 10 years. As the economy rebalanced from production to consumption, Chinese consumers became the most sophisticated on the planet. During this time, the country’s most valuable brands – as ranked by BrandZ – grew their value 225%, twice as fast as the highest-performing global brands. However, while they’ve become firmly embedded in national life, they must now work on their differentiation to gain strength overseas.

Material wellbeing remains a priority for Chinese people, but wellness, new experiences and higher-order emotional needs have risen in importance – especially in the pandemic era. These changing dynamics are clearly reflected in the shift in power at the sharp end of the BrandZ China ranking.

A swift and seismic shift

In 2011, banks, telecoms and energy brands – often with the ‘China’ endorsement in their names – dominated the Top 10, with China Mobile at no.1 alongside six other state-owned enterprises (SOEs). Five subsequently dropped out, to be replaced by consumer brands in retail and technology-related categories: Alibaba and JD, alcohol brand Moutai, Huawei, and lifestyle platform Meituan. Alibaba, which became China’s most valuable brand in 2019, didn’t even appear in the 2011 ranking!

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