Product Branding – Why it Matters when Buying from China

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Dreaming about creating your own clothing line or launching a new brand of weight loss tea? The full potential of importing from China can only be achieved if it’s combined with a well laid out branding strategy. Branding a “Made in China” product is in general easy, and it barely makes a difference on the bottom line. In this article we explain how this can be done, and why neglecting this can cost you a fortune.

Why branding makes sense for importing businesses

Are you a small business owner? Forget about competing on price with multinationals like Wal Mart and Mediamarkt. Larger volumes equals lower prices, and you won’t get anywhere near those of the mentioned companies. Besides, Wal Mart can afford to make big mistakes. You can’t.

Yet, there are huge numbers of small businesses importing from China and still making good profits? As a matter of fact, quite a lot of products sold by large retailers are imported by small businesses. How come? The answer is branding. A printed logo or a custom designed product packaging communicates a message. It tells a story about a company or a product, which in turn adds value to the business.

But who cares about a brand nobody’s ever heard of? Well, it’s not really like that. After all, global brands like Coca Cola, Apple and BMW started from scratch too. A brand cannot be well known from day one. Thus, arguing that small and relatively unknown brands are useless makes no sense. Besides, consumers in the EU and US are moving away from big brands to a certain degree. Smaller brands are often considered more “authentic” (well, at least among those Berlin Hipsters) and sporting a big Ralph Lauren logo is considered rather tacky. The latter is still cool in China though.

Selling and owning a brand, rather than acting as an opportunistic trader, makes it possible for a small business to reach a decent profit margin. As a matter of fact, I think that pretty much all of our really successful clients focus on brand building.

product-branding

How a product can be branded

I got great news for you. Branding “Made in China” products is actually quite easy and it barely makes a price difference in most cases. However, a product must be branded before it’s shipped from China. Therefore branding is part of the manufacturing process. Branding can also be done in a variety of ways. Below I explain how your China products can be branded:

Logo printing

This one is pretty straight forward. You got a product and you want your logo on it. Most suppliers, in industries as diverse as LED screens to Wristwatches, can offer a buyer logo print on the products. Besides, it’s quite cheap. While prices still vary depending on the logo size, colors and the product itself – the branding cost barely makes a difference on the bottom line. Most products can be branded with a printed logo for less than US$1 per unit.

Product Packaging

Western customers are spoiled. They (well, that’s us) require products to not only fulfill a need, but also to be pretty. The product packaging is usually the first thing a prospective buyer lays his or her eyes on, and we all know how important it is making a good first impression.

A product packaging can be branded in many different ways. The easiest, and usually the most cost efficient option, is to have a logo printed on a standard product packaging (i.e. non-custom design). Customized colors are usually available. It’s also possible to design product packaging on your own. Yet, it’s not as easy as it might sound. Customized product packaging may require tooling, such as costly injection molds. This is always the case when manufacturing custom designed plastic packaging.

Many small businesses import no name products from Chinese wholesalers. This is a scenario when branded product packing makes a lot of sense. It allows the importer to brand a product, without actually interfering with the manufacturing process. Besides, certain products look better without logos (i.e. neck ties).

However, a product packaging design must be compliant with relevant product labeling regulations. Product labeling is often part of product safety directives, such as CE in the European Union, and CPSIA in the United States. Importing products with improper labeling (thus non compliant with the applicable labeling regulations) may result in a forced recall. That’s a serious hit for most small businesses.

But there’s help to get. When you order a Starter Package, we confirm which labeling regulation applies to your product, and specify in details what you must know before designing a product packaging. Click here to read more.

Customized design (OEM)

Nothing makes a product stand out as much as unique design. However, developing a product from scratch takes time and requires a certain degree of product knowledge. Keep in mind that there’s no universal definition of “good quality”. Instead, the importer is required to provide the Chinese manufacturer with very clear product specifications. These include, but are not limited to: dimensions, colors, materials, components, product certification standards and other quality requirements.

How to get product branding right

Things do go wrong when importing from China. Excitement over a new arrival can quickly be replaced by a sense of desperation when you open a box of iPhone cases, and the logos are printed on the wrong position, in the wrong color and in Times New Roman – instead of Calibri. In order to avoid such nightmare scenarios (forget about returning anything to China) you need to provide your supplier with overly clear instructions and product specifications.

The problem is that there’s no template that works for all kinds of products and branding options.
However, the fundamentals for a logo print always include the following:

  • Dimensions
  • Color (Pantone or RAL code)
  • Position
  • Type of printing (i.e. engraving or screen print)

Tell your supplier to send at least one branded sample before you pay anything upfront. When the production starts, it cannot be reversed. Any misunderstanding between you and the supplier can easily ruin a whole batch of products.

Branding is more than a logo

While we’re not a branding agency, we’ve spent years participating in the product development process for small to medium sized business. I’d say that we have a few things to say about the topic. There are various ways to stand out on the market and get the consumer’s attention. In my opinion, a well designed logo is only the first step.

Kevin Ackermann, founder of BACA Jewellery Limited in London, provides a good example for others to follow. The jewellery market is incredibly competitive. Launching a jewelry brand certainly won’t make the headlines. Instead of doing what has been done a million times by others (or try to compete with Swarovski), Kevin managed to find a unique angle by combining a classic jewellery collection with a charity program. That is brand building.

Want some more inspiration? You’ll find plenty of interesting success stories at Alibaba’s YouTube Channel. You’ll quickly notice that none of these businesses are faceless wholesalers or opportunistic traders, but small businesses who’ve managed to build strong brands from scratch.

Do you want to launch your own private label or custom designed product?

It can be hard to go from a design drawing to finished product. To help you manage the entire process – from creating a specification, to sampling and quality control – we created a Starter Package:

a. Private Label & OEM Product Manufacturer Lists

b. Product Specification Templates

c. Product Label Samples

d. Tutorials, Video Walkthroughs and Task Lists that guide you step-by-step through the entire process

In addition, you can also book quality inspections, lab testing and shipping directly from the platform. Click here to learn more.

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    42 Responses to “Product Branding – Why it Matters when Buying from China”

    1. Cmacs April 7, 2014 at 1:51 pm #

      Wow! Thank God i stumbled accross dix blog! Xo on point! Thanks for the info. Am thinking of starting a mini importation business.. And your blog posts are really helping! Thanks. Hpe 2 read mre

    2. Fredrik Grönkvist April 7, 2014 at 6:01 pm #

      Thanks! We’re happy to hear that. We publish on a weekly basis and intend to keep doing so. If you have anything you want us to write about, just tell us.

    3. SIDDHARTH July 23, 2014 at 10:50 am #

      Hello,
      This is Siddharth from India, i am exploring ways to start a branded Stationery line in India (Phase I for School going Students up to class 10th).
      The product portfolio would include School bags, lunch boxes, pencil cases, Art & Craft products, utility products like Pencils , sharpeners, erasers, ball point pens etc
      All of these products are already being imported and sold in unorganized market by small business owners, only few big companies like kokuyo camlin, faber-castle, navneet, natraj and few more are organized manufacturers and importers.

      • Fredrik Grönkvist July 23, 2014 at 11:01 am #

        Hello Siddharth,

        I’ll send you an email with more information about how we can help you!

    4. Boris September 1, 2014 at 4:55 pm #

      Fredrik. How would I know what logo dimensions must my sample have before making sample order?

      • Fredrik Grönkvist September 1, 2014 at 8:26 pm #

        Hello Boris,

        Assuming it’s not an OEM design (in which case you are the designer and know the dimensions), I’d advice you to order a factory sample before you go for an ODM sample (factory design with buyer branding). Not only because it makes it easier to confirm logo dimensions, but because logo printing requires tooling, costing US$200 to 300.

        However, If you don’t have this option, you can request the supplier to offer you a design draft or confirm dimensions for you.

        • Boris September 2, 2014 at 8:10 am #

          Hi Fredrik.

          I didn’t know about purchasing tooling. Does that mean I pay for that tooling? I always assume supplier already has it when I see ODM mentioned on his page. In a situation when supplier doesn’t, do I pay for tooling cost which is included in MOQ already or it’s one-time full payment?

          • Fredrik Grönkvist September 2, 2014 at 11:51 am #

            Hello Boris,

            I was referring to tooling related to the custom logo. However, you don’t need to pay for injections molds for making the whole item, or certain components. Usually it’s a one time payment, and not part of the MOQ price.

    5. Joshua December 2, 2014 at 3:08 pm #

      I’m interested in importing a certain product and putting my logo on it with hopes of building my brand. But since anybody can purchase this same product through the supplier if feel like it could water down the uniqueness I’m trying to create- whats the point of building up my brand and if someone comes in behind me selling the same product under a different brand or no brand at all? You’ve talked about trying to create variation in the product. As someone who is new to importing, what advice can you give to accomplish this? Are suppliers apt to changing the size/shape/colors/ of their products? Starting out maybe I should just ignore the fact that this could happen…it’s a big market and people might not notice the duplicate product initially. What do you think?

      • Fredrik Grönkvist December 2, 2014 at 6:05 pm #

        Hello Joshua,

        Chinese suppliers manufacture according to buyer specifications and have no incentive to not accept changes to an existing products – items that are rarely their own original design to begin with.

    6. Samuel January 20, 2015 at 10:01 am #

      Hello,

      I work for a marketing firm in Nigeria. We have a client here that want to celebrate their 50 years anniversary, so am looking at designing some branding items for them.

      I need a branding company that manufacture and design branding items that can supply me with what to sell to my client for this their 50 years anniversary party.

      Please give me some companies that i relate with in china on these project.

    7. unknown October 20, 2015 at 3:01 pm #

      Hi Fredrik

      Please Assist , I am also very similar to Joshua although I need to find out how to get started and costing’s .

    8. Rebecca December 27, 2015 at 1:48 am #

      Thank you for the information, it is very helpful. My mom is an artist, we are wanting to make mounted prints of her work and possibly other products. How would I find manufacturers that could do this for me and also would I have to travel to make sure the product is done right? Thank you very much for any information that you can give me.

    9. Mike December 30, 2015 at 4:02 am #

      Hi Fredrik
      I have a unique invention that I am in process of obtaining utility and design patents as well as trademarks in US.
      This invention is universally unique and has tremendous potential thus I cannot divulge
      specifics at this time.
      My question is whether it is worth pursuing Intellectual Property protection across the globe since it is costly and more importantly time consuming to say the least.
      I ask this because I envision manufacturing in Europe or Asia (China) as well as US but I hear too many rumors about unscrupulous manufacturers in China who will undermine your brand and marketing plans by producing / exporting knock-off products.
      I have confidence in having the product manufactured in China by a a well-vested manufacturer but it is the ‘other guys’ that I wish to have legal protection from.

      Apologies for the long note … look forward to your reply.

      Mike

    10. ali January 29, 2016 at 3:05 pm #

      Hi Fredrick,

      I am planning on starting a e-shop selling designed clothes/printed/ casual clothes which I want to purchase and add my label/brand to them then eventually starting my own clothing line.

      can you help in respect of manufacturers etc

      • Yvonne Thomas May 18, 2016 at 4:25 pm #

        Produce your goods elsewhere ! Terrible human rights abuses in this country and treatment of animals especially dogs sickening. Produce by paying more make less profit and make high quality high spec clothes for the better off. We should all pay more for clothes. How do you think China keeps it’s costs down. Sweatshops, child labour in poor conditions! That is how

    11. Dwight February 10, 2016 at 5:25 am #

      Looks like Fredrick has jumped ship, so I send this in hope that he is still aboard? I wish to product brand, but that’s the least of my concerns. I live in S. Korea and can’t for the life of me decide if I should have products shipped to S. Korea wherein I hold the inventory, or have them shipped to a fulfillment center in the USA (said product has a mostly western clientele) and have the fulfillment center hold inventory, ship, etc. I suppose for product quality concerns, S Korea would be the correct choice; but I’m concerned about the lengthy shipping time from S. Korea to the West. Anyone out there is welcome respond to my quandry

      • Fredrik Grönkvist February 15, 2016 at 3:36 am #

        Hi Dwight,

        If you intend to sell to US customers, you should not ship from Korea, as that may result in your customers being forced to pay customs and other import taxes.

    12. Wayne van der Walt February 11, 2016 at 12:17 pm #

      Hi Frederik

      Have you written any articles on importing pens (Writing instruments) from China?

    13. Lamla April 8, 2016 at 8:47 am #

      Hi Fredrik

      I am thinking of importing cellphones from china and rebranding them and sell them in South Africa. Can u help with Manufactures of smartphones in china. realible one.

    14. Yvonne Thomas May 18, 2016 at 4:20 pm #

      I want to avoid buying anything made in China or using any ingredients from China. No not because I am a snob but because I disapprove of the way they are killing dogs. Look up the Yulin dog festival. The dogs are cruelly treated before they are battered to death with sticks. Dog meat is considered a delicacy by some in this Country. They are thrown around or several are crammed into a metal cage, no water so hot and in pain cause they are pushed up against the cage. The video I saw of one being battered made me feel ill. I had to stop watching. So as difficult as it is I want to buy all non Chinese products from now on.If it costs twice as much I don’t care !

      • ChinaImportal May 23, 2016 at 5:36 am #

        Well, dog meat is only consumed by a minority in China (even though it could be a fairly large minority). That said, the Dog festival was heavily criticised by a large part of the population.

        If you are serious about not buying China made products, you will not upgrade your phone, TV, computer or car (containing Chinese electrical components) for a long time

    15. Riquel N May 23, 2016 at 1:09 am #

      This was very helpful! It explains that you must have the product Branded Before it is imported.. Does this mean I cannot have the product imported and then Branded in the U.S?? It is very hard to contact the direct company of the product i want to Brand, But is easily accessible thru 3rd party sites.. Please help..

    16. Melissa June 20, 2016 at 1:23 pm #

      Hi there,

      Thank you for all of this helpful information. Would you be able to provide information on how to locate and contact reputable Chinese manufacturers? Also, are language barriers common between the US and China?

      Thanks@

      • ChinaImportal June 27, 2016 at 4:34 am #

        Hi Melissa,

        We can contact you by email.

        Yes, the US and China are very different – both in terms of language and communication habits.

    17. Kate July 8, 2016 at 7:33 pm #

      Hi I’m interested in branding products I receive from China I need branded packaging, labels and bags, can anyone point me in the right direction please

    18. Abigail August 10, 2016 at 9:21 pm #

      Hi, I am in the process of setting up an online maternity wear business in the UK and would like a couple of recommendations for wholesale/manufactures in China. Rather than selling other brands I would like to put my trademark on the garments so ideally I would like to work closely with a factory to produce my own brand. Please can you give me some advice and trusted contacts? Many thanks

    19. Taletha November 14, 2016 at 11:38 am #

      Hi Frederick….
      I resell eyewear imported from China as w3ll as buyers here in the US. How do I go about having my pouches, be it cloth or clear plastic, branded with my logo, as well as placing my brand on the arm, when applicable, of the glasses?

    20. Chinwe November 26, 2016 at 3:03 am #

      Hi, I’m presently looking to get my hair cosmetic product manufactured in China. It’s targeted at an African market. The only problem is the “Made in China” branding is a big set back. Is there a way I can get the product manufactured in China but have it branded as made in somewhere else?

      • ChinaImportal November 28, 2016 at 2:58 am #

        Hi Chinwe,

        Made in China (country of origin) labeling is mandatory in the US, which is why many suppliers print it on the package.

        It is not, for example, mandatory in the EU. In Africa, it comes down to the regulations of the specific country. You need to look this up.

        That said, it is not wise to brand it as made in another country. That is most certainly illegal. At best, you can take the label off.

    21. Kenyatta February 2, 2017 at 2:34 pm #

      hi,

      Im looking to start a small business selling branded products that will include the company’s logo and design printed onto it. I would also like for these items to be packaged and include a barcode so that i can distribute it professionally.

      How much would a job like this nature cost?

    22. Brandon March 10, 2017 at 3:14 pm #

      Hello!

      Thank you for all your information and replies to everyone and willingness to help!

      I have a very simple product I’d like to sell – it’s a fabric pouch with a specific phrase on it. I’m having a difficult time finding information on such a thing – but when I came across this page I have hope!

      Can I purchase these pouches in bulk and then have the “phrase” embroidered onto it and resell it? I’m so new to all of this.

      Any information you can give me would be so greatly appreciated!

      Thank you!

      Brandon

      • ChinaImportal March 12, 2017 at 11:32 am #

        Hi Brandon,

        You can get this branded by a pouch factory. Just send them the logo file and other label details.

    23. Amanda March 12, 2017 at 8:49 pm #

      If you give your branding to a Chinese manufacturer, what stops them from selling the products in your packaging to other customers?

    24. Lacey April 26, 2017 at 10:29 pm #

      hi,

      I’m looking to start a small business selling a branded product that will include the company’s logo and design printed onto it. I would also like for these items to be packaged and include a barcode so that i can distribute it professionally.

      Can the China manufacturer also do this?

    25. Santana November 9, 2017 at 9:29 pm #

      I’m looking to start an online business selling a few beauty products. How do I go about finding manufacturers in China that do branding and also will change their product to my liking?

    26. Helen December 4, 2018 at 8:37 pm #

      Hi, I want to start a cosmetics business, how do I get a manufacturing company in China and the cost

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