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April 12, 2019

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It’s about customer, not company

Shanghai should cultivate local brands and offer more customer-centered, innovative products, an industry conference held by Shanghai Daily heard yesterday.

“Heritage and Innovation: Chinese Brands in Global Landscape” attracted industry insiders from many multinational corporations and consultancies.

Chen Qiwei, general manager of the Shanghai United Media Group, said adapting to changes and making constant innovations are key drivers for companies’ sustainable growth.

As Chinese enterprises increasingly go global, they should upgrade their brands in a comprehensive way to enhance their competitiveness in international markets.

From pens to cosmetics to musical instruments, time-honored Shanghai brands that have survived the tumultuous 20th century live on today and never seem to fall out of favor.

“Time-honored” is an official title awarded by the Ministry of Commerce to enterprises that existed before 1956, sell products, techniques or services passed down through generations and have distinct cultural characteristics.

Hero fountain pens and ink, a brand born in the 1930s, is witness to social and economic growth. 

Another brand, Warrior shoes (since 1927), China’s first home-grown athletic shoes at an affordable price made with thin, flexible soles and a light canvas body, have tramped through the ages. 

Other brands include soap maker Bee & Flower, Phoenix bicycle, Baixin stationery, men’s wear Baromon and Wang Bao He hairy crab.

Pu Shaohua, chairman of Bright Dairy and Food, said at the conference: “The company has built a strong and reliable brand over the past few decades by pursuing high-quality development and providing fresh dairy products.”

To better meet the changing tastes of customers, the Shanghai-based time-honored firm transformed its product innovation model from manufacturer-led to client-centered.

It also launched the country’s first high-end U Best fresh milk in 2006 by adopting leading technologies, which was well received by the consumers.

“Strategic transformation is essential for the brands to keep taking the lead,” said Zhou Lan, director of the market system construction department of the city’s Commission of Commerce.

She said the city’s nearly century-old Warrior is an “excellent example” of brand transformation.
With three strategic transformations since 2000, the traditional shoes manufacturer has revived its glory by integrating its brand culture with latest fashion elements and technologies.

Warrior shoes have been showcased at the New York Fashion Week and become a fashionable brand for the young generation.

Xiao Dan, head of integrated communications at lighting company Signify, shared that the practices for building and promoting a company’s image have evolved from “what we deliver” to a higher value-driven thinking.

She said their company now defines itself more as one that “cares about people.”

As for Shanghai’s ambition to promote its four brands, namely manufacturing, service, shopping and culture, Guo Min, editor-in-chief of Kantar, a world’s leading research, data and insight firm, said local government should spend more effort on building brands in addition to making high-quality goods.

As the birthplace of China’s modern national industry, Shanghai has given birth to China’s first factories for gourmet powder, light bulbs, toothpaste, batteries, towels, cloth dyeing, enamel ware, clock, art paint and as well as the nation’s first pharmaceutical plant.

Shanghai is home to 180 of the nation’s total of 1,128 time-honored brands.


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