China Mobile once again tops Interbrand's Best China Brands report, which is an interesting mix of technology and bank brands. In fact 50 percent of the top 20 brands are banks. Baidu, #11 this year, has made headlines this week for trying to bridge the tech and financial services sectors.
Reuters reports, "Baidu said it would launch its Baidu Finance Center on October 28, offering a product together with China Asset Management Co. aimed at producing an annual yield of 8 percent for depositors." The move is the latest in a trend of Chinese tech companies seeking licenses to build financial services platforms, including Tencent, #4 on Best China Brands 2013.
Tencent is a top riser, moving from #11 in 2012 to #4 this year and saw an amazing 84 percent increase in brand value. Another tech brand seeing a dramatic increase in brand value is Lenovo, which moves from #15 in 2012 to #13 and had a 64 percent brand value increase.
Home electronics brand Haier also rose on the report from #30 in 2012 to #28 with a 14 percent increase in brand value. As Leslie Butterfield, Interbrand's Global CSO, noted in his Best Global Brands 2013 article, China's New Brand Leaders, "Despite slow growth in the home appliance industry, Haier’s 2012 performance surpassed the whole market. Its secret? Haier actively promotes a spirit
of innovation and entrepreneurship among employees."
While the tech sector saw big increases in brand value and banks continue to dominate, insurance brands continued to face challenges. Taking big hits last year with declines in the rankings, this year China Life saw an 18 percent decrease in brand value and drops three spots from last year to become #7 this year. Ping An, which began as an insurance company, but has diversified into financial services and aims to become, according to its website, "a global leading financial services group by leveraging its insurance, banking and investment businesses" held steady, retaining its #6 spot.
Writing of Ping An's success, Butterfield observes, "Recognizing that consumers are struggling with complex financial products, the Ping An brand promises to make managing finances easier. The company’s ability to clarify its brand promise and speaking to real human needs is the reason Ping An continues to thrive, even when the rest of the insurance industry is struggling."
Two brands returning to the report this year are 999 and Shineway. Damage from product safety scandals saw pharmaceutical brand 999 and food group Shineway depart the list in 2012, but 999 comes back in at #40 and Shineway at #45.
The landscape for China's brands is rapidly evolving in the post-digital globally connected world. China Mobile continues to reign on Best China Brands, but this week the brand posted disappointing quarterly results, leading to a slip in its shares. Adapting, innovating and brand-building will be key to succeeding. In the case of China Mobile, as Rick Munarriz wrote in China Mobile Could Really Use the iPhone yesterday for The Motley Fool, "China Mobile remains the lone holdout among the country's three largest wireless carriers in not offering Apple's iPhone." He adds, "...whether or not that ultimately begins on Nov. 11 as reported -- will be a win-win at a time when China Mobile needs the growth and Apple would love the validation."
As Leslie Butterfield advised, "From embracing brand-building and imbuing brands with a human touch to advancing sustainable business, Chinese companies that harness the power of their brands will survive the tests of adversity and increasingly make their mark on the world as the 21st century unfolds.
Amy Edel-Vaughn is Interbrand's Community Manager.