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Business executives struggle to identify Chinese brands

13 Oct 2014

London Business School survey finds executives are playing catch up

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Almost half of business executives struggle to identify leading Chinese brands despite the fact that the world has witnessed a dramatic shift in its economic centre of gravity and many of our favourite products are manufactured in China.

A survey of more than 1,000 business executives by London Business School’s China Business Forum found that 45% were unable to correctly identify what Hisense, a leading consumer electronics brand, produces. 41% said they didn’t know what the company produced. 5% thought that the company made fragrances or confectionery.

Nirmalya Kumar, visiting Professor of Marketing, London Business School and author of Brand Breakout: How Emerging Market Brands Will Go Global, said: “While western consumers are surrounded by products made in China, Chinese brands are invisible. China hopes Haler and Lenovo are leading the transformation to global brands from China just as Toyota and Sony did for Japan or Samsung and Hyundai did for South Korea.”

Executives it seems are playing catch up. More than half (58%) said that learning Mandarin was increasingly important for their career prospects. More than a quarter (28%) of respondents said that they would prioritise a posting in Shanghai over postings in London, New York and Hong Kong to advance their careers.

Lara Berkowitz, Executive Director, Career Services, London Business School, said: “We continue to ramp up our business development efforts in China and based on conversations with employers in the region, we also hear they are keen to find international talent who can speak Mandarin. In response to this, we have created an Asia Career Fair in collaboration with other top European business schools.”

Respondents who came from USA and Canada, Latin America, Europe, Africa, Asia, the Middle East and United Kingdom, were also asked what the greatest barrier to business growth in China in their view. More than a third (37%) said that inconsistent enforcement of commercial law and regulations was the biggest barrier. 20% said tighter control of multinational companies was the biggest problem.

Linda Yueh, Adjunct Professor of Economics, London Business School, said: “China's business environment remains challenging. But, as the government aims to promote more competition to help raise economic growth, laws and regulations will increasingly be emphasised and that should help both Chinese and foreign companies compete in the world's second largest market.”

Overall, however, the outlook is optimistic. 78% of executives believe conditions for business in China are better than they were five years ago.

These and other issues were debated at the China Business Forum’s annual conference, which took place on campus, on 18 October.

The forum took place before the second joint European business schools’ Asia Careers Fair, which will also be held here on 1 November. The fair, which will see recruiters including L’Oréal, Johnson&Johnson, CICC, Shell and Microsoft meeting with students on campus, is organised in association with: INSEAD, HEC, IESE, RSM and Erasmus University.