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US cyber espionage revelations ‘great for brand China’

Barney Loehnis

Barney Loehnis

The recent exposure of a US spy program of Chinese computers is “great for brand China” and the global expansion of its companies, a China-based digital expert has said.

Barney Loehnis, head of digital strategy and mobile at Ogilvy Asia Pacific, told Mumbrella today that despite America’s aggressive stance over Chinese hacking, “the US is clearly as guilty as China on the issue of cyber listening.”

“America’s criticism of Chinese cyber espionage has been very damaging to brand China, particularly in terms of the consumer perception of China’s internet, gaming and technology brands.”

“But now that has changed,” he said. 

“The Edward Snowden whistleblower exposure is great for brand China, because it puts into perspective what goes on behind people’s backs,” he said.

“Google and Motorola have been used just as much as Huawei to listen in on consumers, it appears.”

“Brands are all about trust. And once that trust is brought into question, the brand begins to unravel,” said Loehnis, who joined Ogilvy to lead its APAC digital operations in 2010.

“Now, brand USA has been deeply damaged. They were painting an image of themselves which was brighter than it should have been in reality.”

However, Loehnis conceded that brand China, and how its brands are globalising, is far from perfect.

“China has got to get grips with food scandals and counterfeiting. Until China can get on top of its supply chains and producers, the whole export of brand China will stall,” he said.

“Xi Jinping [China’s President] wants to create 50 global brands by 2020. He understands that brand is important. But the big issue is brand China and its associations with being cheap and low quality – that what you see is not what you get.”

“This is based on a host of not very educated but totally understandable prejudices among consumers outside of China.”

Loehnis’s comments come the week after Wieden + Kennedy’s Rob Campbell said at a conference in Australia that the Western media tends to portray China negatively, making Chinese out to be “barbarians”.

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