Chinese firms that traditionally have focused on contract manufacturing and competing on price need to give more attention to brand building and corporate image, according to a prominent Hong Kong designer.
``Right now, if you talk about pricing, you have died, immediately,'' said Angus Wong, founder of Angus Wong Design Ltd. and a frequent speaker on how small firms can enhance their images. ``It's very tough right now. They have to change their business strategy.''
Wong was interviewed after speaking March 8 at the Guangdong, Hong Kong and Macau Packaging Industry Summit in Guangzhou. The event was part of the Sino-Pack 2007 trade show.
China's dominant image in the world right now is for ``mass production, cheap production,'' while neighbors Japan and South Korea are thought of for creative, technologically oriented brands like Toyota, Sony and Samsung, he said.
He contends Chinese firms need to think more about building their corporate brands as part of the effort to switch to higher-value manufacturing, but he said it could take a decade for Chinese industry to catch up in brand development. Still, even small manufacturers can take interim steps, he said.
A Hong Kong-based manufacturer of industrial chemicals for the printing industry had a very traditional mind-set and was not comfortable selling itself, Wong said. But with help, the firm was able to rework its image, launch into new markets and search for investors, said Wong, who has given webcast presentations about brand development on the Hong Kong Trade Development Council Web site and spoken at Hong Kong Productivity Council events.
He has worked with Western firms such as Apple Computer and Motorola, as well as with Asian companies.
Even after putting money into developing an image, he said, some small firms underestimate the importance of maintaining that effort.
They won't hire a marketing officer to follow up and adjust the plans based on how the market responds, or they don't train front-line staff adequately on those goals, said Wong, who is an executive committee member of the Hong Kong Designers Association.
``Chinese corporations understand brands are very important for them, but ... I don't think they understand how to make use of a brand correctly,'' he said.