Brand Experience In China

As consumer confidence remains low in the Western markets, even the smaller brands are looking elsewhere for their growth opportunities. Economies within India, Brazil and Russia are all growing significantly faster than the UK; however, China remains the prize for the majority of brands seeking any significant boost to their bottom line

Entering the Chinese market

Entering the Chinese market though has never been more perilous, with even the biggest mega-brands making significant cultural and logistical faux pas. Both Burberry and Dolce and Gabbana have fallen victim to tone deaf marketing within the region whilst others struggle to resonate with an increasingly nationalistic Chinese consumer.

China branding strategies

Millennial and Gen Z Chinese account for a not insignificant proportion of spending, particularly within the luxury sector. This combined with a surge in home grown brands vying to unseat the Western megabrands in every sector means that for brands looking to enter this arena, they need to be better informed and adopt specialised strategies to make their mark.

Both the middle class and high net-worth Chinese consumer groups have experienced growth in numbers but also an evolution in spending habits.


They are traveling and are very connected on social media, so they know what is trending globally. Traditionally, they would be attracted to brands with distinct logos, but now it’s all about hunting down brands that are new, unique, and relevant.

Sara Wong – Director of Merchandising, Pedder Group

Brand successes in China

For local Chinese brands, it becomes a case of realising their ambition, borrowing from the successes of creativity and innovation that the Western brands have adopted within their brand experience to elevate them above a highly populated marketplace. There have been positive strides ahead for Chinese brands such as Mu Stop and Ricostru, whilst some jewellery brands such as Chow Tai Fook now rank higher than Hermès or Rolex on the Deloitte annual global luxury goods survey. Online commerce and brand awareness are especially vital within China; however, brands there still need to utilise the benefits that only brand experience in the physical world can provide.

“It’s a digital-first strategy with offline spaces providing a high touch and human interface.”

We’ve seen this happen successfully for brands such as Missguided and Glossier in the Western markets, so whilst it might be easy to assume that the younger Chinese consumer is lost in their devices, the reality remains that a creative, culturally and generationally engaging brand experience will always drive brand loyalty and position a company above their myriad of online competitors.

Kristy Watson, Chief Marketing Officer at Erno Laszlo spoke of industry trends, “It’s a digital-first strategy with offline spaces providing a high touch and human interface.”

Starbucks: brand innovation in China

Shanghai and Beijing have led the way in developing the brand experience across retail and hospitality in recent years, with many Western brands choosing them as destinations for their next disruptive global experience. Starbucks chose Shanghai to unveil their Shanghai, the face of competition from innovative start-ups like Luckin Coffee armed with tech solutions to cater to a convenience orientated local consumer.

So, we can conclude that China has been and will remain a magnet for brand innovation, with a local economy built to sustain real growth both locally and ultimately internationally. If Western brands will truly embrace a more Asia-centric brand position remains to be seen. If APAC brands will realise their true potential to rival the traditional powerhouses, it is only a matter of time with the right creative and strategic resources.

International Retail Design

FormRoom is now in China! Visit us in our Beijing office or contact our China team to discover how we’re designing concepts for brands in the real Chinese world.