Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Revolutionary Capitalism One Beer at a Time

Magazine article Marketing

Mark Ritson on Branding: Revolutionary Capitalism One Beer at a Time

Article excerpt

According to that notable macro-economist Frank Zappa, you aren't a real country unless you have a beer and an airline. It also helps if you have a decent football team and some nuclear weapons, he added, but at the very least you needed a beer.

Perhaps Western thinkers have exaggerated the influence of Mao on China and in doing so overlooked the influence of Zappa. For it is indeed a beer brand, Tsingtao,that will usher in the new era of Chinese capitalism.

Tsingtao is more than merely a good beer to accompany your spicy dumplings.

It is quite simply the most important brand on the planet because it is the only great Chinese brand.

China and branding are the sexiest concepts in modern business. At the moment, however, the two have almost nothing to do with each other. The growth in China's economic power, its developing infrastructure and the rise of its production capabilities are now widely known.

However, among the hyperbole, mind-boggling market sizes and extrapolation effects, there is a glaring weakness in the nation's business model. For all their economic scale and prodigious production, the Chinese have not got a clue about marketing; 50 years of communism is not the best preparation for brand-building.

While the Chinese are making and consuming an increasing proportion of the world's consumer goods, they are doing so using other countries' brands.

As assiduous students of Western capitalism, the Chinese know that their current role as a manufacturing resource for other countries, or as the weaker partner in trade deals in which Western brands patronise them with a share of the spoils, is not the way forward.

Economically, the Chinese are well aware that it is the brander who ultimately reaps the profits. Culturally, the Chinese are uncomfortable playing second fiddle in the branding orchestra. China is a proud country filled with ambitious people. If you work in the country, the first big cultural learning that hits you is that the cultural stereotype of the respectful, diminutive Asian businessperson is totally inconsistent with the modern Chinese entrepreneur. They came to the 21st century to win, and they are not shy of stating the fact.

The importance of Tsingtao in this context cannot be overstated. …

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