Coinciding with the 88th anniversary of the founding of the Chinese Manufacturer Association (CMA), an introduction of the milestone of the Hong Kong Brand Development Council (BDC) and an interview with three former and current Chairmen of BDC have been published in “Hong Kong Entrepreneurs”.
Uniting the business community to accelerate brand development
As processing-based manufacturing is slowly fading, brand development has become a new pathway for businesses to transform and sustain competitiveness. The BDC was officially established in 2005, it guides businesses embarking their journey of brand building.
Mr Paul Yin, Permanent Honorary President of CMA was the Inaugural Chairman of the BDC. He recalled that Hong Kong businesses tried to explore the mainland market back in the early 2000s but suffered tremendous challenges. “At that time, many Hong Kong products had not established their brands, and it was difficult to tap into the mainland market without good brand recognition.” He believed that to promote the development of Hong Kong’s brands, it was necessary to muster the strength of the whole business community in an organised and systematic manner. Therefore, he recommended that CMA set up a special institution to promote brand development.
However, the preparatory work for the BDC was not easy, as Yin recalled: “At first, we were not allowed to use the word ’Council’ as Companies Registry believed that it would mislead people about whether BDC was a government department.” Through successive lobbies, Yin successfully gained support from the former Permanent Secretary for Commerce, Industry and Technology Denise Yue to use its current name. As the first chairman, Paul was dedicated to strengthening public recognition of the BDC. In 2006, he led a high-level delegation to Beijing to meet with the head of the Ministry of Commerce, which was also the first close contact between Hong Kong and mainland brand promotion agencies.
Leading Hong Kong businesses to the mainland market
Assisting local industry in opening up to the mainland market has always been a key mission of the BDC. Simon Wong, who served as the BDC Chairman from 2015 to 2020, indicated that SMEs are often limited by labour force and financial resources in brand development. “Without the support of business associations, it is difficult for SMEs to stand out from the highly competitive mainland market.”
The BDC has continued to lead Hong Kong businesses to participate in roadshows and exhibitions in various mainland cities. Since 2012, the BDC has organised the Hong Kong Brand Festival to introduce Hong Kong brands to Xiamen, Chongqing, Harbin, Tianjin, Dalian and Beijing consumers. Wong explained, “The Hong Kong Brand Festival is not only an exhibition but also includes activities such as market research and business matchmaking meetings. It provides a platform for businesses to directly contact local consumers and potential partners and enhance their understanding of Hong Kong products.”
Digital transformation for the “new normal”
Under the sponsorship of the Trade and Industrial Organisation Support Fund of Trade and Industry Department, the BDC is implementing“Organising ‘Hong Kong‧IN‧Brand Greater Bay’ serial activities to promote Hong Kong brands’ collective image” Project. Through presenting a variety of deliverables including Hong Kong Brand i-Directory (HKiD), Brand Image Gallery, Interactive Experience Activities, Company Case study, Consumer Survey, Business Tour, Corporate Training Workshop and Experience Sharing Seminar, the Project assists Hong Kong companies to discover the rapidly-changing consumption culture in the Greater Bay Area and endeavors to uplift the collective image and market influences of Hong Kong brands.
However, COVID-19 created new challenges for businesses to develop into the mainland market. Dr Edward Chan, current Chairman of the BDC, expressed that the pandemic has changed the behaviour of consumers, with e-commerce becoming the most popular consumption channel. “Many Hong Kong businesses are not familiar with the popular livestreaming marketing model in the Mainland. Some have not even set up sales channels on social commerce platforms.”
Thus, the BDC is preparing a pilot project in livestreaming e-commerce in the GBA to promote Hong Kong brands to consumers in the GBA. Chan believed that crises are often accompanied by opportunities. “In the past, a large investment was required to enter the mainland market, open physical stores and establish promotion and sales teams. Through e-commerce, businesses can perform brand promotion and sales more effectively with less investment.” As long as Hong Kong businesses embrace upgrades and transformation, they will be able to seize business opportunities and contribute to building a “Brand Greater Bay”.
In 1999, the first Hong Kong Top 10 Brand Awards event was held at the HKBPE, forming the starting point for CMA to promote brand development. In addition to the Hong Kong Top Brand Awards, over the past 20 years, the BDC has also held the Hong Kong Top Service Brand Awards, Hong Kong Emerging Brand Awards and Hong Kong Emerging Service Brand Awards and Hong Kong Distinguished Brand Leader Award. With rigorous, fair and professional judging criteria, the Brand Awards have been well recognised by the government and industry, becoming a symbol of trust for consumers.