The most valuable Chinese brands hit a new high in 2017, boosted by sectors that benefit from serving China’s growing middle class, says report

The combined worth of the 100 most valuable Chinese brands expanded to hit a new high in 2017, boosted by rapid growth in the technology, travel and education sectors, according to a report published on Monday.

As a whole, the brands grew 6 per cent to a total value of US$$557.1 billion despite the mainland’s economic slowdown, said the report compiled by Kantar Millward Brown, a consumer insights research agency under the world’s largest advertising firm WPP.

Technology giant Tencent Holdings remained China’s most valuable brand, growing by 29 per cent to US$106 billion thanks to the popularity of social media platform WeChat, according to the 2017 BrandZ Top 100 Most Valuable Chinese Brands.

E-commerce behemoth Alibaba Group, which owns the South China Morning Post, takes second place with a brand value of US$58 billion, up 22 per cent from a year earlier. It was closely followed by telecoms firm China Mobile with a brand value of US$57.9 billion, inching up 1 per cent year on year.

The rankings are based on the companies’ financial performance, as well as opinions gathered from interviews with more than 400,000 Chinese consumers.

The sectors that enjoyed the fastest growth benefited from serving China’s urban middle class, the report said, adding that brands that clearly meet a defined consumer need will thrive.

“The brand power – which tests consumer inclination to select a given brand – of Chinese brands continues to grow and for the first time has started to surpass that of multinational rival brands,” said Deepender Rana, chief executive officer, Greater China, at Kantar Insights. “We expect this trend to accelerate in future years as Chinese companies realise they need to build differentiated brands to command a premium in a competitive market, where penetration-led growth is plateauing off in many categories.”

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As China pivots to a consumption-led economy, the most impressive performances have been posted by brands providing products and services for the growing middle classes, according to the report.

Education and travel were the fastest-growing sectors.

Xueersi and New Oriental led brand value growth in the education sector, rising 58 per cent and 43 per cent respectively, as both ride on a boom in after-school tutoring, test preparation and English language studies.

In comparison, sectors that still depend on the traditional economy, such as banking, insurance and oil and gas, have declined 6 per cent in value though they are still large contributors overall due to their large scale.

Industrial and Commercial Bank of China, China Construction Bank, and Agricultural Bank of China, three of the nation’s “big four” state-owned lenders, made it into the top 10 despite their brand values declining between 7 and 9 per cent.

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