Whether you’re a die-hard “made in America” person or you’re more interested in getting the best price, most Americans agree that when it comes to products, Chinese-made isn’t first choice. A 2005 survey by Synovate found that only one in eight Americans think highly of Chinese-made products. In contrast, 78 percent of Americans rated American-made products as “high quality.”
Naturally, it doesn’t really stop Americans from purchasing products that were made in China. Unfortunately for Chinese companies, despite the fact that China produces 70 percent of the worlds’ mobile phones and 60 percent of its shoes, 94 percent of Americans can’t name a single Chinese brand.
Is it quality? American superiority? Branding issues? Or just good old-fashioned xenophobia? It might be a mixture of all four that result in American skepticism and an uphill battle for Chinese brands.
As far as marketing goes, Chinese products have been one PR headache after another. Whether it’s a total recall of defective and sometimes dangerous goods or counterfeit items being marketed and sold as the real deal (70 percent of all seized counterfeit goods are Chinese imports), China doesn’t always have the most positive record for quality control.
To be frank, Americans are spoiled by American companies when it comes to quality: If something’s not right or a customer is dissatisfied, more often than not the company or brand will bend over backward to make it right. The attitude toward Chinese products, however, is that you get what you paid for and if you have a problem, it’s too bad.
Whether or not it’s a warranted prejudice doesn’t matter for many Americans. If they’ve been burned by Chinese products in the past, they’re less likely to purchase from Chinese manufacturers again.
Lack of Market Research
You can’t just blame the Average American for being skeptical of Chinese products and brands. A lack of market research by Chinese companies can mean the flop of even high-quality products. One scenario involved the Chinese sportswear company, Li-Ning. Meant to be competition for Nike and Adidas, Li-Ning even contracted Dwayne Wade as a celebrity spokesperson. But the company has lost money three years in a row, due to circumstances that could have been predicted via research before going to market, such as:
- When it comes to sportswear, Americans are extremely brand loyal. Often seen as an extension of their personality, wearing Nike versus Adidas or Under Armour is a point of pride for consumers, and they don’t make a change lightly.
- Americans associate Chinese products with lower quality, and are not willing to pay premium prices for Chinese-made and branded products.
- In order to sell to Americans, Chinese products typically must be lower cost, which can result in a lack of profits.
Without proper research and a deeper look into American attitudes, brands like Li-Ning don’t stand a chance when placed on the same shelf as American-made premium products. One would expect a Chinese-made sneaker to be sold at WalMart–not Foot Locker.
It’s not for us to say whether Americans will ever accept Chinese-products as being the same quality and value as American- or European-made products. Still, Chinese brands can rest assured that it’s less a case of xenophobia and more a branding and market research battle to fight in order to become a force in American economy.