Raise awareness of domestic brands

Updated: 2012-07-19 13:41

By Hong Liang (China Daily)

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I recently bought a Japanese camera, which, despite its high price, doesn't come with accessories such as a lens hood. The hood, the adapter ring you need to screw on the hood and whatever filters I might want to use all need to be purchased separately. The manufacturer charges nearly 1,000 yuan ($157) for the set. This is a lot of money for what are necessary accessories, and a clever marketing ploy that enables the company to make extra money out of those consumers that will forgo cheaper options that work just as well, in order to have the brand's name on the hood.

Not too long ago, a friend in Beijing called me to complain that the very expensive handbag she bought from a European manufacturer's own outlet in the city began to discolor after just a few months of use. The fading was particularly obvious on the handles, and a sales person at that outlet promptly told my friend that the problem was not the material but her sweaty hands.

Predictably, my friend was furious. Her hands aren't any sweatier than anyone else's hands.

Since she asked me for advice, I told her to throw the bag away to save herself from any further agony and go buy a cheaper no-name bag that will probably be just as good even if it doesn't carry the world-famous logo of a luxury brand.

My experience with the camera hood and my friend's with her bag made me ponder why anyone is willing to put up with the exorbitant prices, the condescending attitude of the sales people and almost non-existent after-sales service of so-called premium brands. There has been no shortage of complaints from disgruntled customers of luxury brands in letters to newspapers and on the Internet. What seems to gall them most is the arrogance of the vendors when the quality of their products is questioned.

The domestic news media has carried numerous reports on the unreasonable barriers set up by the vendors of luxury goods to block the return of defective products by customers on the mainland. According to those reports most manufacturers of luxury goods do not provide a repair service and maintain no customer complaint hotlines.

Customers seeking redress from the stores that sold the defective products frequently encounter hostility and obstructions with the sales people always trying to find a way to lay the blame on the customers. The so-called pride of ownership of luxury branded products is fading fast because, on the mainland, the logos and trademarks are more and more viewed as the badge of avarice.

Of course, people are free to spend their own money on whatever they want, including over-priced luxury items. But local governments should organize and fund the promotion of the many high quality consumer goods manufactured at local factories in the domestic marketplace.

Many local manufacturing enterprises are small and lack the resources or knowledge to brand and promote their products. Consumers do not have the awareness of their products that the big international brand have been able to generate through decades of expensive advertising. Most of these small companies survive by doing contract manufacturing work for overseas companies.

This is a pity because these companies produce plenty of high quality goods at reasonable prices. If these products can be promoted in the market place and vendors provide a customer-oriented after-sales service, surely most consumers would choose to buy these products rather than pay the huge premiums charged by the established brands.