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China Steps up Efforts to Forge World Name Brands

Lenovo Group Limited, China's No. 1 computer manufacturer, has invested tremendously in switching its two-decade-old English brand name "Legend" into the current "Lenovo" in order to attain wider international recognition.

Lenovo launched the switch in late April last year, and regards it as a strategic arrangement for its future development in the overseas market.

The new English brand name "Lenovo", which is composed of two parts, namely "Le" of Legend and "novo", which comes from the ancient Latin for novel, is intended to build an innovative image for the group worldwide, according to the group sources.

"Though our group has been very popular across China, its English brand name 'Legend' has already been registered in various sectors in many countries, which has made it very difficult to promote our brand overseas," said Yang Yuanqing, president as well as chief executive officer of Lenovo.

"We have invested 20 percent more on advertising than before to remove the negative influence brought by the switch so that we can build up a unique and popular English brand name," said Li Lan, the assistant president of Lenovo.

Like its former name, the group has indeed experienced a legend-like development due to unswerving efforts and constant innovation.

In 1984 when it was established, Lenovo had only 11 staff members, with a total fund of some 200,000 yuan (about US$24,000), while today, it has grown into the largest computer manufacturer in China, with its annual sales topping 20 billion Hong Kong dollars (some US$2.56 billion).

Moreover, Lenovo has become the world's fifth desktop computer seller since the second quarter of 2002, group sources said.

According to a recent report released by Beijing Top-Brand Evaluation Co. LTD, the brand value of Lenovo has hit 26.8 billion yuan (US$3.2 billion), taking the lead in China's computer manufacturing industry.

Many other Chinese enterprises have also turned their eyes toward the global market to gain overseas recognition of their brands.

Haier, a booming household appliance maker based in Qingdao in east China's Shandong Province, launched a production base in South Carolina in the United States to enhance its presence in the US market in March 2000.

In March 2002, Haier acquired the Greenwich Bank Building, a landmark construction in Manhattan in New York, as its headquarters in North America.

In August 2003, Haier set up its first advertising bulletin board, also the first one ever for Chinese enterprises, on Ginza Avenue in Tokyo, the most prosperous business zone in the Japanese capital.

According to the latest survey conducted by Euromonitor, one of the most authoritative market survey and analysis institutions worldwide, Haier has become the second largest manufacturer of household appliance in white color in terms of sales value.

The Chinese government has also made great efforts to promote Chinese companies' brand popularity and help them to gain recognition overseas.

The State Administration of Quality Supervision, Inspection and Quarantine (AQSIQ), consumer's quality supervisor in China, promulgated regulations on the appraisal and management of China's state-level top brands in 2001, and initiated setting up the National Commission for Brands Promotion, highlighting the role government ought to play in pushing forward the national branding strategy.

The commission, composed of government officials, industrial leaders, technological experts and journalists, each year will work to appraise new national top brands in strict accordance with related rules and regulations.

"To cultivate top brands is not only the task for the enterprises themselves, but also part of the work of the government," said Lin Zongtang, director of the National Commission for Brands Promotion.

"The creation of top-brand products, especially top-brand product groups, is badly in need of guidance and boosting from the government," Lin said. "I believe we will eventually bring up our own international brands, just as we successfully launched the Shenzhou-5 spaceship."

However, the top-brand enterprises in China still lag far behind their foreign counterparts in management, business volume, technology and global market share, said Xu Kuangdi, vice-chairman of the National Committee of the Chinese People's Political Consultative Conference (CPPCC) and president of the China Federation of Industrial Economics.

While admitting the gap between Chinese brands and world famous ones, many foreign business people are nonetheless showing an optimistic attitude.

"China will create one or two global brands among the world's top ten in the coming decade, thanks to the country's rapid development and its soaring production and marketing capabilities," Jennifer Gordon, chief executive of Australia-based Capital Group, said at a forum on China's branding promotion held recently in Beijing.

"Haier and Lenovo, as well as electronics maker TCL, are all very promising competitors," Gordon, also head of branding and marketing for the Sydney Olympic Organizing Committee, told Xinhua.

According to Gordon, China's hosting of the 2008 Olympics could be a big boost for its top companies and products, and they should make full use of this platform to gain brand name recognition worldwide.

"The perception is that the Chinese are never going to get anywhere because they don't have their own brands. That was true ten years ago, but it's changed dramatically," said Nicholas Lardy,a scholar on China research at the Brookings Institution, one of the major think tanks of America.

(Xinhua News Agency January 6, 2004)

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