I came across a recent blog post by David Aaker on the Harvard Business Review online site that seems very relevant to many indigenous Asia-Pacific restaurant chains. He points out that brand management is a big challenge in China and cites several key reasons. First, because of China’s rapid economic development there is simply a greater focus on the short-term and business is seen in more transactional terms. Second, there is no historical Proctor & Gamble like company from which sprang the whole USA brand management system in the first place. Third, there has not been any real need for Chinese companies to build brands in the domestic market since consumer behavior was underdeveloped and more utilitarian in nature. In other words, Chinese consumers were happy to have any inexpensive lipstick, TV or refrigerator and the brand was not that important, but this is no longer the case. Finally, many Chinese firms are just going outside the country now and will understand the need for better branding when they compete with other global firms.
I see weak branding in so many restaurant chains in China but it is a similar case in many emerging markets in the region. Surprisingly the Philippines has many well-developed restaurant brands which might be due to the number of graphic artists produced by local art colleges. Japan of course is the leader in retail branding in the region and Korea is improving compared to 10 years ago but still not at the USA or Europe level.
Many of these chains have the opportunity to compete in their home market with global players and eventually there are opportunities to expand overseas. Life will be much easier if they focus on their brand management and raise it up to a global standard.