Forget Western Brand Cynicism -- China Loves Our Brands

The best thing about research is that there is so often a little nugget you can take from it, even if it wasn't the headline. The fact that we Brits are only slightly less cynical that than the Swedes -- who are the most cynical country in the world when it comes to trusting brands -- is not a huge surprise. The finding that we tend to trust domestic brands more than other countries is also not a major surprise.

The UK is a highly evolved economy packed with marketing messages everywhere we look, and we're naturally a cautious lot -- we take advertiser claims at face value.

This means it's also no surprise to see a top five list of most trusted brands featuring, in order, John Lewis, M&S, The Body Shop, BBC and Boots. I do wonder, however, if people realised that one of those companies is now owned by a French multinational and another is headquartered in Switzerland. Anyway, they are brands that are traditionally seen as British, and so they are trusted more.

What stood out to me from the research that just over a third of Chinese people -- at 36%, compared to 7% of Brits -- say they believe brands to be "open and honest." That makes the Chinese the most trusting consumers on the planet with the Indonesians just behind them. To give a sense of balance, American consumers are somewhere in the middle of Chinese enthusiasm and British cynicism.

Now, here's where a bit of knowledge from talking to exporters comes in. Believe me, I have put in the miles on this one. Everybody exporting to China says the same thing over and over again. The Chinese are very trusting of brands, but not necessarily their own. They want Western labels on goods because -- the irony is -- they don't actually trust their domestic brands as much as they do our's.

I know this may sound odd, but it's perfectly reasonable when you consider the food health scares they have had, particularly around milk. It's also very reasonable to assume that a growing middle class wants to flaunt their wealth on goods from what are seen as more luxurious or trendier suppliers from Europe and America.

Put simply, the lesson of today's research should actually be far more positive. Don't let British cynicism around brands get you down -- the Chinese, and Indonesians, love Western brands. They know they have to adhere to stronger standards than many of their own brands and the name alone tells neighbours that they have money and taste. Every cloudy research finding usually has a silver lining, somewhere else. This is it.

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