Post contribution by Craig Briggs- Brandimage
There are many cliches that exist in people’s minds in the corporate world about other parts of the world. The little we might know of far away lands come from sources that are either superficial in detail or merely steeped in historical generalities. Take Shanghai for instance. Most people think it’s somewhere in China, which is correct. But do you have any idea where? It is located on the same latitude as Georgia. The size of the city of Shanghai is staggering. New York City is slightly over 300 square miles with a population of slightly over 8 million people. Shanghai is well over 2,200 square miles with a population well over 16 million. Every single aspect of its educational, governmental and industry infrastructure is growing. People are becoming more educated, living longer, earning more money, buying more things. Shanghai is one city of 31 other provinces and regions.
Economically, the city and surrounding regions of South East China are on a similar upward growth path. Even during these very difficult times of sluggish economic growth and declining markets, China’s upward momentum is continuing while other economies are either stagnant or in decline. Amazingly, few of us know very little about the city and most of the rest of that region.
I gave a speech to The Chinese Manufacturers’ Association of Hong Kong a few weeks ago. The organization represents thousands and thousands of manufacturing companies throughout this thriving and growing South East China region. 99.9% of the companies you’ve never heard of, yet they are the global manufacturing backbone for a staggering vast array of electronics, durable products, equipment, plastic components, and structural packages for some of the most powerful brands in the world. They are the OEM manufacturer to the world. They hold the power of production for brands worth billions and billions of dollars in sales to companies all over the United States and Europe. As we all know, in the dynamic and cerebral world of high-stakes marketing and world-class innovation, we don’t think of manufacturing and production as the group to lead the charge.
We’ve grow accustom to telling a manufacturer what to make, why, when and even how. They aren’t part of consumer insights, brand and marketplace strategy, consumer interaction and research, the design process, retail and merchandising design, or most executive-level decision making. This is the mindset in most parts of the world and within most of the largest and most powerful branded product and CPG corporations in the world. When you take these outdated yet prevalent ways of thinking, and put them into the context of an area most people can’t find on a map, yet alone visit and spend time with people talking about what they do and want to be doing, you create a cliché of gigantic proportions. So, who cares? What’s the big deal? My brands are invincible, powerful and forever. How could this ever affect me? My friends at the CMA of HK fully understand their place in the pecking order. They also know that as the global economy dips, so does the demand of their services. They are in the growth hot-spot of the world; the center of opportunity; the bastion of unfathomable change – and they are doing everything for everyone else.
The prevailing thought is why continue to do things they way they have always been done? What if manufacturers dreamt of growth in a new and different way? What if they innovated in the area of partnering? In doing so, they would change the rules of the game. What I hear is that is exactly what many, many, many manufacturers are thinking about throughout South Eastern China.
Instead of being the known as “Made in China”, they are seriously investigating the much more profitable game-changing notion of being known as “Branded in China”. What if a substantially large amount of manufacturers decided to make their own brands? What if they partnered with global design agencies and pumped new products and packages into the marketplace? Consider the sheer size of their marketplace. Now consider the enormity of branded competition that would flood out of the region and country and become a new and innovative part of the global marketplace and economy. The largest influx of new products and packages ever seen would be totally new and fresh, relevant and made to be what it should be for consumers, without being hindered to evolve existing brands or be constrained by an outdated or amortized manufacturing and production facility. From a design standpoint, can anyone think of a brand that comes form China? Name one single brand. What if every single United States and European brand had a new competitor from a place that was thriving economically, had unlimited physical growth and the output was controlled by the very people who actually produce it?