Representative survey of the image of German brands in China

  • Business consultancy globeone analyses image of German brands in China and other emerging markets such as Brazil, Russia and India
  • German brands enjoy high awareness and very positive image among consumers in key growth markets
  • Chinese brands are catching up and are already best-in-class in terms of being ‘close to consumer needs’ and ‘good value for money’
  • Great potential to further exploit the strengths of a German brand origin


Beijing, 14 March 2012 – The majority of urban consumers in China is highly aware of a multitude of German brands and holds a strong preference. Most interesting: The higher the income, the stronger the perceived appeal of German brands. Up to 77% of urban Chinese consumers with monthly gross incomes above 4,000 Euro hold a positive attitude towards German brands – especially German premium cars.

These are some of the key findings of an extensive, first-of-its-kind survey conducted by German business consultancy globeone. In total, over 1,000 Chinese consumers from Beijing, Shanghai, Canton, Wuhan and Chengdu have been interviewed. The China results are part of globeone’s comprehensive BRIC Branding Survey with 4,000 consumer-interviews in the 20 most important cities in China, India, Brazil and Russia.

Results in detail

85% of Chinese consumers could spontaneously name one or more German brands. In particular, German automotive producers BMW, Audi, Mercedes-Benz and Volkswagen enjoy a very high level of awareness, with Siemens being the only non-automotive brand in the top five. Further good news: In many categories German brands are perceived much more positively than competitors from the US, Japan or France. Currently, BMW is not only the best known German brand in China (98% awareness) but – together with Mercedes-Benz – also the best liked German brand (both 88% preference).

Overall, interviewed consumers rate German brands particularly high for attributes such as quality, reliability and performance. But also in terms of prestige and sophistication German brands are best in class with every 2nd respondent associating German brands with these attributes.

However, some weaknesses also appear: In general, the recognition of the origin of German brands still holds improvement potential. Mainly brands from the automotive and engine manufacturing sector are named here. In contrast, in other sectors, German branding is either weak or the association of brands with German origin is not recognized by consumers. Enhancements in either of these parameters could expand the preference for German brands in wider categories.

The perception of “German engineering” by emerging consumers in China also reveals room for improving innovative characteristics and for being close to customer needs. Here, only 30% of Chinese believe that German brands are close to the needs of the consumers while approximately 50% believe that Chinese brands fulfill this aspect. In addition, Chinese brand are seen as best-in-class for being ‘good value for money’.

Despite the overall positive image and popular preference for German brands, in many categories they are purchased rather infrequently by Chinese consumers. This is attributed to the perception of relatively high prices and in many cases, to the strong focus of German brands on premium segments only.

“In comparison to other global brand champions many German brands act very conservatively. Especially in communications, the seal ‘Made in Germany’ could be used more effectively as driver for preferences and price acceptance”, says Dr. Niklas Schaffmeister, Group Managing Director of globeone.

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