28 Feb 2018
British businesses should leverage their top reputation in Chinese market, argues LBS associate professor John Mullins
Home-grown entrepreneurs and retailers should focus on leveraging the appeal of ‘Brand Britain’ in China beyond the New Year spending spree period.
John Mullins, Associate Professor of Management Practice at London Business School, argues that the United Kingdom’s commercial community has established itself as a reputable and reliable figure in the international arena.
It’s clear that consumers are still eager to pay for the best, most trusted brands, he says.
“However, there are a rising number of aspirational consumers within the world’s emerging middle class who want to choose brands that have a clear purpose, set of values and meaning.
“With its history, cultural significance and reputation for quality consumer goods, the UK regularly scores very well in international ‘nation brand’ league tables. Consistently scoring well in tourism, culture, people, exports and governance the UK is a well-rounded marque which is consistently well received by consumers.”
That positive perception is particularly strong among Chinese consumers and presents an enviable opportunity for British businesses.
A recent UK Royal Mail survey found that with the online arena, more than half (55%) of shoppers in China bought items from British brands in a three month period. Shoppers spent an average of £104 per month.
“There is a real appetite for ‘Brand Britain’ with its goods regarded as being well made and genuine,” says Dr Mullins.
“Survey after survey appears to indicate that Chinese buyers want to be certain about their purchases and obtaining a genuine article with a trusted and well-respected provenance. The UK shines in this respect.”
That’s a lot of reasons for UK businesses, emerging and established, to focus their attention on selling their products to the Chinese market even after the New Year period has ended.
“As Jack Ma, the founder of Alibaba, once said, ‘in other countries, e-commerce is a way to shop; in China, it is a lifestyle’.
“McKinsey reports that 76 percent of China’s urban population will be considered middle class by 2022, but there is already a huge consumer community in China which presents numerous opportunities to promote the UK brand to an already very receptive market,” Dr Mullins says.
In his book, The New Business Road Test (Pearson, 2003; 5th edition 2018), Dr Mullins argues that whether launching a start-up, an investor or a gambler, one way to mitigate the long odds is to ensure an attractive market segment has been identified.
“An attractive market segment where the customers, according to evidence gathered, are almost certain to buy what you’ll offer,” Dr Mullins says.
“Much of my work explores what needs to go into the successful preparation and running of new businesses, and how to identify and shape entrepreneurial opportunities. It’s invariably a fast-paced world, which makes the UK plc brand proposition so very interesting.
“The UK is a powerful, composite nation brand which has matured over many hundreds of years. Its multifaceted nature means that it bristles with both appeal to would-be consumers, and opportunity to entrepreneurs.”