Following the widely reported news and subsequent recall of baby formula, pet food, and children’s toys due to contamination, the Chinese Ministry of Commerce has taken proactive steps to address consumer fears about Chinese-made goods. The Ministry recently released a 30-second television commercial to air internationally as part of an effort to rebrand the “Made in China” label.
Brandchannel's Barry Silverstein wrote about the television commercial last week, and since then consumer reaction from across the globe has been, well, compelling. Consider, for example, these comments from our readers:
"Perhaps the recent executions of some of the executives responsible for China's more prominent quality scandals will motivate Chinese manufacturers to make better products. But does that really mean we should do business with them? China's brand promise should read 'We may be one of the world's most oppressive communist dictatorships, but we try not to act like it.'"
"No matter how China's government attempts to brand their companies in a positive light, they are still an oppressive regime. It makes me think twice about buying things made in China, not just because I think the quality is less."
"They're just polishing a turd. Advertising will never fix communism."
The commercial depicts commonplace items in American homes -- running shoes, portable music players, and clothing -- all bearing the “Made in China” tag with an appended clause such as “With American Sports Technology,” “With Technology from Silicon Valley,” and “By French Designers.” The ad reinforces a message of cooperation and collaboration with the tagline, “Made in China. Made with the world.”
The 30-second ad fails to address consumer safety issues -- those that plague shoppers' minds and give them pause. According to the Chinese Ministry, the ads intent is to objectively portray Chinese goods. Yet the extent the ad goes to in demonstrating how pervasive Chinese industry is in everyday life might be its downside.
Jay Wang, professor of strategic communications at USC, believes the Chinese Ministry is incapable of allaying consumer perception.
"[I]n this particular case we are addressing a formal complex issue. There are multiple layers of the 'Made in China' label, all the way from it's a poor quality, cheap price, to more political issues of job losses for American workers. So a 30-second spot is not going to be enough to address all of these issues.”
Instead Wang offers a prescription that places pressure on producers and encourages an open dialogue of the issues with an emphasis on “collaboration [and] integration.” Wang points out that it's not only American consumers who distrust the practices in place in Chinese factories; such concerns are now a domestic issue in China, too.
"[T]he pressure comes from the Chinese consumers because they have higher expectations, more demanding. And in return the producers are more likely to be more responsible in their business practices."
Can China persuade consumers that its sourcing, processing, and distribution channels are safe and improving? Or has China's history of lapses forever tarnished the “Made in China” brand?