Being simple in China

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Simplicity is not just a Western concept. It’s actually been rooted in Chinese culture for more than 1,000 years. Over the past decade, however, Chinese brands have not embraced simplicity in terms of how they interact with consumers.

But that is changing.

Among the top-ranked companies in the 2012 China Brand Simplicity Index are three homegrown brands—Baidu, Home Inns and Xiamomi. These companies have embraced the idea that simplicity is a necessity whose value is recognized by people around the world.

There is still a lot of work to be done. For example, Ping An Insurance ranked near the very bottom of the rankings. Clearly this company—and the insurance industry in general—need to create a more compelling customer experience to drive transparency and simplicity.

Recently, however, Ping An launched an advertising campaign centered around the catchphrase “To simplify.” The company is communicating that it understands consumers’ needs by offering “fast and easy car insurance.” Most important, Ping An has simplified its processes so that claims are settled in a fast and efficient manner, which doesn’t happen often in China.

According to two authorized Chinese websites (Xinhuanet and People) that conduct consumer surveys, Ping An is winning consumers for its fast indemnification process and good service. We’ll see how this campaign affects Ping An’s ratings in next year’s GBSI.

The “simplicity wave” is beginning to sweep through other industries in China. Xiaomi, which makes inexpensive smartphones, emphasizes that its phones are easy to use. With more than 300 million registered users, it is constantly improving its site to provide a simpler, more customer-friendly experience.

Chinese brands are starting to recognize that communicating powerful and compelling brand stories will be critical as they emerge both domestically and in markets worldwide. Just as important in achieving brand success is finding ways to make life simpler for their customers.

Cecilia Yu is a strategist for Siegel+Gale’s Shanghai office.

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