Lisa Merriam

Creating Iconic Brands in China

Lisa Merriam, New York brand strategy expert, advises top Chinese marketers on how to efficiently create global brands

Originally published in the Beijing News, October 21, 2006.


Branding may still be a relatively new concept in China, but the nation can be expected to reach a high level of sophistication in a relatively short period of time, branding expert Lisa Merriam told Chinese executives at the Kotler Marketing Forum here yesterday.

Creating Iconic Brands in China

In one of the Forum’s keynote speeches, Ms. Merriam, a New York based brand strategy expert, outlined what it would take for Chinese companies to build profitable global brand icons on par with Coca-Cola or Nike over the next few years. The Kotler Marketing Forum, co-hosted by the World Marketing Association and with Harvard Business Review as one of the strategic partners, has quickly become the annual ‘must-attend’ event for top-level Chinese marketing executives. So high is interest in marketing in China that the Forum this year added a third day at a second location – Shanghai on October 20. Ms. Merriam spoke at both locations.

“With 1.3 billion people, China represents the world’s largest market for brands,” Ms. Merriam said prior to the event. “What is even more exciting is that in the next 10 years or less, China will move from being the world’s biggest producer of products to the world’s biggest purveyor of brands.” She noted that branding is now official government policy. On June 11, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce kicked off its official brand promotion policy in response to the Party Central Committee’s call for “expediting the construction of proprietary brands” in China.

During her presentation, Ms. Merriam advised Chinese business leaders how to create brands with global power in only years, not decades. “China is moving very fast,” she said. “Though branding is in its infancy now, you won’t be able to say that in a few years. Today, branding in China is a name and a logo. It won’t take long for branding to reach the level of sophistication of the rest of the world.”

Using some of the world’s best-known brands as examples, Ms. Merriam showed how Chinese companies could put those lessons to work for their own products. “In Nike’s case, it took 35 years and billions of dollars to make the ‘swoosh’ into the instantly recognizable global symbol it is today,” she noted. “But there is a faster way to establish a brand in the public’s consciousness.”

Ms. Merriam went on to outline four effective techniques to more rapidly attain that objective. These include: start with a rich corporate story and a distinctive symbol, make the symbol “the star,” flood the market with that symbol, and “involve the symbol with every audience you have,” she said.