When Hollywood meets Chinese brands

13:51, July 27, 2011      

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The use of product placements for four Chinese products in the film "Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon," which premiered in China at midnight on July 21, has become a hot topic worldwide.

This is the first time that four Chinese brands have simultaneously appeared in an American blockbuster film. Chinese elements have frequently appeared in Hollywood films in the past, such as references to traditional Chinese philosophy in "Kung Fu Panda," the use of China's Zhangjiajie National Forest Park as a prototype of Avatar's Hallelujah Mountain and the appearance of Chengdu's landscape in "Kung Fu Panda 2."

However, the elements were limited to martial arts, landscape and Chinese traditions in the eyes of Westerners. The Chinese elements have evolved into Chinese brands in the Transformers film series, showing a far-reaching change.

Placing Chinese brands in Hollywood blockbuster films that represent mainstream Western values means a giant step forward taken by China's manufacturing industry in their efforts to expand to the international market.

The step is rooted in Chinese brands' strong desires and persistent efforts to win global recognition. Although "Made in China" have been popular across the world over the past two decades, they come with a low-end, cheap image.

Although Chinese enterprises are increasingly strong, they cannot get rid of the image as subcontracting manufacturers for other brands. Using their own brands to expand the international market and influence the world is a dream of many Chinese entrepreneurs. To fulfill their dream, they have constantly improved product quality, forged brands and built up enterprise images. Some Chinese enterprises have begun utilizing mainstream foreign media to boost their international recognition.

Facts have proven that blending Chinese brands into a foreign language environment and circumstances and using the means of discourse that foreigners are familiar with to promote Chinese brands will most easily produce good effects. It is just a classic case that placing Chinese brands in "Transformers 3: Dark of the Moon" has attracted the attention of well-known overseas media agencies.

Some say that it is not a big deal and as long as you have money, you can do it. However, that is not a fact. All the Chinese enterprises that have met difficulties during their process of "going global" know that even if an enterprise has sufficient money, it still cannot step in markets of Europe or America sometimes, especially high-end markets. If an enterprise has money but does not have a brand; has a brand but does not have influence, or has influence but does not have a good image, it will still be refused without doubt. The fact that four Chinese brands have been inserted into the movie "Transformers 3" can indicate to some extent that international markets are gradually accepting Chinese brands.

The acceptance is closely connected with the fact that China's economic aggregate has climbed up to the second place in the world, is closely connected with the efforts that Chinese enterprises made to "go global" and "step in," is closely connected with the remarkable performance of China's economy during the international financial crisis and is even more closely connected with the great potential of the future Chinese market.

China has been active in overseas mergers and acquisitions in recent years, including Lenovo's acquisition of IBM's PC unit and Zhejiang Geely's acquisition of Swedish carmaker Volvo. As Western countries are becoming increasingly dependent on Chinese goods, they cannot help exclaiming, "The Chinese are coming." Facing the rise of China, Western countries have gradually shifted their attitudes from rejection, lack of trust and jealousness to acceptance, appreciation and cooperation. There has been a growing worldwide consensus that cooperation with China ensures a bright future.

However, it is easy to see that the most eye-catching products in the movie remain Western-made high-end luxury goods and sophisticated weapons, while China-made products for daily use, such as clothing, televisions and personal computers are just replaceable "decorations." This is a typical example of the world division of labor.

In order to narrow the gap and achieve greater influence and better reputation, Chinese companies should make greater efforts to improve the quality of their products. The Chinese government also should follow international norms and take advantage of mainstream communication channels to better introduce China to the world and to improve the image of Chinese brands.

By Zhang Yixuan from People's Daily Overseas Edition, translated by People's Daily Online

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