China’s long-established brands, or “laozihao” in Chinese, have begun to revitalize their previous honor with the assistance of policy support, e-commerce platforms and innovative ideas, as many of them have been struggling amid a rapidly changing domestic market.
There are currently 1,128 time-honored brands that have obtained official recognition from the Ministry of Commerce (MOC) of China, and the companies date back about 160 years on average. They engaged in 22 sectors including food, catering, handicraft and textile.
The time-honored brands represent a kind of reunion and companionship, said Zhang Chuan, producer of a documentary over the old brands, illustrating that for citizens in northern China’s Shanxi Province, it is almost a tradition to have sauced pork from LiuWei Zhai restaurant on their table in each festival and holiday.
On the table of Beijing residents, there would be Liubiju Pickles and Daoxiangcun Pastry, which are both traditional brands, he added.
Despite of their century-old history, reliable techniques and good reputation, many of the time-honored brands face a survival crisis since they have limited popularity, run in small-scale workshops and barely keep afloat.
In today’s world where the production and operation models have undergone dramatic changes, these old brands have been sticking to their traditions and trying hard to protect their brand image.
A shoemaker in Neiliansheng, a handmade cloth shoe brand created in 1853, needs about five days to finish a pair of shoes. To make a Hu Brush, one of the prestigious writing brush types in traditional Chinese writing and painting art, the workers in the Daiyuexuan, a famous old brand, have to pick up those qualified hair one by one in the lamplight.
About one year is required by the embroiderer to hand-make an exquisite cheongsam sold at the time-honored Ruifuxiang silk and fabrics shop.
These old brands represent not only the traditional craftsmanship and ingenuity, but also Chinese people’s business philosophy to keep with, or even run ahead of the times, said Zhang, in a belief that the core of these brands is Chinese people’s business spirit.
Given the pressure and challenges the long-established brands face amid the rapidly-evolving business models and fierce competition, Chinese authorities have offered policy support to bring them new life, to preserve and improve traditional techniques, and to strengthen brand protection.
The country, at the beginning of 2017, listed the protection of those “laozihao” into a program on inheriting traditional Chinese culture. In February of the same year, the MOC and 15 other central authorities published a guideline to encourage the old brands to carry out reforms and innovations.
By bold and decisive transformation like opening stores on e-commerce platforms and launching online and offline marketing campaigns, some “laozihao” have found ways to restore their former glory.
Nearly 150 Chinese time-honored brands set their booths at a fair in the Palace Museum during the Spring Festival for the first time. The fair kicked off on January 28, and visitors can be free to visit with the entrance ticket of the Palace Museum.
After Daoxiangcun, the renowned bakery in Beijing, launched a new gift package of pastry to woo customers by cooperating with the Palace Museum, the product gained considerable popularity because of its delicate design.
Last August, Neiliansheng opened a store in Sanlitun shopping district of Beijing, making it the first century-old brand that set up a branch in this dynamic and stylish street. It is believed to signify old brands’ potential to regain vitality.
“Some old brands quit the market in 1990s and the beginning of the 21st century, but most of them survived thanks to their bravery and innovation spirits,” Zhang explained, adding that their non-stop efforts to innovate are one of the most valuable treasures they pass down from generation to generation.
Residents are queuing up to buy roast ducks in front of a store of Quanjude, China’s oldest duck restaurant chain, in Beijing on January 26, 2019, days before the Spring Festival arrived. (Photo from CFP)