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Strategic brand management of Swiss MedTech companies in China

A qualitative multiple-case study

Master's Thesis 2015 64 Pages

Business economics - Offline Marketing and Online Marketing

Excerpt

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Research Background
1.2 Problem Statement
1.3 Rationale for Research
1.4 Contribution to Theory and Practice
1.5 Research Objective
1.6 Research Questions
1.7 Research Design
1.8 Limitations
1.9 Thesis Outline

2 Research Context
2.1 General Demographics
2.2 Healthcare in China
2.3 MedTech Market Characteristics
2.4 Distribution System
2.5 Cultural Traits
2.6 Conclusion

3 Literature Review
3.1 Branding Research in Emerging Markets
3.2 Brand Management from a Western Perspective
3.2.1 Distinction of Corporate versus Product Brand
3.2.2 Foundations of Brand Management
3.2.3 Brand Management in B2B Markets
3.3 Going Global with Strategic Brand Management
3.3.1 Country-of-origin Effect
3.3.2 Power of Swiss Origin
3.4 Conceptual Framework

4 Methodology
4.1 Research Design
4.1.1 Research Purpose
4.1.2 Research Approaches
4.1.3 Research Strategy
4.2 Research Methods
4.2.1 Sampling
4.2.2 Data Collection
4.2.3 Data Analysis
4.3 Verification and Generalization
4.4 Ethical Issues and Researcher’s Role

5 Analysis of Empirical Findings
5.1 Strategic Brand Management in Chinese MedTech Industry
5.2 Case Presentation
5.2.1 Case 1: Strategic Brand Management of CoOne
5.2.2 Case 2: Strategic Brand Management of CoTwo
5.2.3 Case 3: Strategic Brand Management of CoThree
5.3 Cross-Case Analysis
5.3.1 Similarities of Cases
5.3.2 Differences of Cases

6 Conclusions
6.1 Discussion
6.1.1 Challenges for Swiss MedTech Companies in China
6.1.2 Crucial Brand Dimensions
6.1.3 Localisation of Brand Strategies
6.1.4 Critical Considerations
6.2 Overall Conclusion
6.3 Recommendations
6.3.1 Recommendations for General Practice
6.3.2 Recommendations for Future Research

7 References

8 Lists and Indexes

Abstract

This study aims to explore how strategic brand management can be conducted to successfully establish a brand in the Chinese market, to which - in seeking growth opportunities - various medium-sized Swiss MedTech companies have expanded in recent years. To date, little consideration has been given in branding literature to this specific research context.

A qualitative exploratory multiple-case study was conducted that followed an abductive research approach. The study focused on three medium-sized Swiss MedTech companies, which expanded into China over the last ten years. Data was collected through secondary data analysis, observations and 14 in-depth, semi-structured interviews with brand or marketing managers, brand experts and industry experts from Switzerland and China, based on a conceptual framework, developed upon Western branding theories. To file propositions, as the study’s final objective, within-case and cross-case comparative thematic analyses were conducted.

The data revealed the prevailing macro-contextual conditions in the Chinese MedTech industry and the major challenges that medium-sized Swiss MedTech companies are facing: namely bribery practise, distribution structure and regulations. The study furthermore explicates the origin as a crucial dimension of a Swiss brand and evaluates to what extend branding strategies should be adjusted to a given environment.

For a purposeful positioning in order to survive in the Chinese competitive marketplace, strategic brand management needs to be taken into consideration. The challenge lays in the optimal trade-off between standardisation and localisation; some measures must, some should, some could but also some shouldn’t be adapted. The developed proposals can be used as a guideline for practitioners and as a basis for future academic research.

Keywords: Strategic Brand Management, medium-sized Swiss MedTech companies, standardisation vs. localisation, COO-effect, Chinese MedTech industry

Acknowledgements

I am very grateful for all the support I received during the last eleven months while researching, interviewing, analysing and composing this Master thesis. I would like to express my gratitude to key individuals who supported me along this project:

- My supervisor, Prof. Dr. Rodolfo Ciucci, for his time, experienced guidance and professional support
- Company managers, industry- and brand experts in Switzerland and China, who took their time to share their experience openly
- Dr. Urs Mattes, who enabled the fieldwork in China through his broad business network
- Luciana Quinto, Mona Meyer, Katia Plantamura, Lihua Wang and Martin Tattersall for reading and commenting on this thesis
- My boyfriend, Adrian Widmer, who stood back and provided the freedom I needed, but also who endorsed me during the whole Master Program enabling a memorable semester abroad in Cambridge.

1 Introduction

This chapter situates this study within a broader context and leads the reader to the specific point of investigation. It starts with introducing the research background, briefly explains the problem statement, examines the research gap and indicates the rationale for this study. Thereon based research objectives and research questions are then stated. The chapter concludes with presenting the research design, limitations for this research and the structure of this thesis.

1.1 Research Background

The Swiss Medical Technology Industry (SMTI) is a prosperous industry. To mention just a few numbers: 1,450 companies, the majority of which are small or medium-sized, employ 52,000 people that generated a turnover of 14 billion CHF in 2013. Or to put this into perspective: 1.1% of the Swiss population generates 2.3% of the Swiss GDP and outperforms therewith all other leading medical technology (MedTech) nations. Based on its attractive characteristics, such as high quality premium technologies, innovative mind sets, comprehensive supplier industry as well as political stability, Switzerland is a global hotspot for MedTech companies. Even through the economic downturn and fluctuating exchange rates, the sector grew rapidly resulting in a 9.7% increase last year, as MedTech companies continuously improved their operational excellence (Medical Cluster, 2014).

However, according to the SMTI Report of Medical Cluster and ConCep+, the SMTI is at “the dawn of a new era” as new challenges arise (Dümmler, Hofrichter and Biedermann, 2014, p.1). In a fast changing industry with increasing competition from local and global market, spiralling healthcare costs resulting in austerity and healthcare reforms, soaring regulatory requirements, shortage of skilled employees and the need for accelerated product innovation cycles, MedTech companies have to adapt new approaches. Whereas small companies that lack a critical size are forced to hold their ground in their niche market with creative approaches, medium-sized companies have to continue seeking geographical expansion for their growth. Large organisations on the contrary focus on partnerships with companies along the value chain in order to offer integrated products and services to secure their (global) market domination (Dümmler, Hofrichter and Biedermann, 2014).

It could be observed that various medium-sized[1] Swiss MedTech companies, beside other emerging markets, expanded into China in the past and that there are more to follow in the coming years. According to the industry survey, China comes after Germany and USA/Canada as the third major destination of investments (Dümmler, Hofrichter and Biedermann, 2014, p.49). The Chinese market offers massive opportunities as growing economic wealth provides more people with access to high quality and high cost medical products. Reinforced through an aging population having increasing chronic care needs and the westernization[2] of medicine, it is estimated that “China’s healthcare profit pool will grow from about $22 billion in 2010 to $113 billion in 2020” (Eliades, Retterath, Hueltenschmidt and Singh, 2012, p.3).

1.2 Problem Statement

As agreed upon various industry experts and consultancies (Dümmler and Hofrichter, 2012; Eliades et al., 2012; Ernst & Young, 2014; Behner, Rotz, Vallerien and Ehrhardt, 2013; Varelis, Chen and Wilso, 2015), the opportunity of growth in the Chinese market comes with various challenges, such as market dynamics, technology changes, intensified regulations and, in particular, increasing competition. On one hand, Swiss medium-sized MedTech companies are not the only foreign players, as other leading European or American multinational companies have also positioned themselves with their strong global brands in the last two decades (Mattes, Gao, Chang and Minder, 2012, p.26). On the other hand, competition from local manufacturers is increasing as they learn fast, improve product quality to meet global standards and use the cost-advantage of local production (Ernst & Young, 2014, p.9).

In general, Swiss brands have an excellent reputation in Asian countries such as China, this also applies to Swiss medical products (Dümmler, Hofrichter and Ruzicic, 2013, p.15). One reason is the Swissness phenomena, which stands for exclusiveness, tradition and quality of Swiss products. In addition to that, Swiss medical products often represent innovative high-tech solutions that are based on academic research and vocational training. Historically, innovation is seen in Switzerland as the core driver for growth and industry experts estimates that the “innovation lead” of Swiss MedTech products is currently still approx. 10 years ahead of the Chinese market (Dümmler, Hofrichter and Biedermann, 2014, p. 37). However, due to latest industry trends, all foreign companies in the Chinese market might face a shrinking innovative edge in the decades to come (Varelis, Chen and Wilso, 2015).

For Swiss medium-sized MedTech companies, operating in the Chinese market, it is therefore of upmost importance to position purposefully in order to survive within this competitive marketplace. As a corporate discipline, strategic brand management is among others, such as internationalisation strategies (e.g. M&A), novel technologies or pioneering business model approaches, one possible way to support this positioning (Kotler and Pfoertsch, 2006; Kapferer, 2012).

It should be noted that the subject of strategic brand management in the emerging market of China has not been extensively researched and that there is a general lack of academic branding literature from an emerging market perspective (Lu Wang and He, 2014, p. 19).

1.3 Rationale for Research

In correspondence of above described changes in the SMTI and expected exploitation of the potential in China’s emerging market, it would be of great interest to exposure that identified research gap.

It would be worth elaborating the given problem description specifically due to the prevailing multitude of unknown answers to open questions, such as whether strategic brand management of medium-sized Swiss MedTech companies should be retained to penetrate the emerging market of China with the existing brand or if branding activities should be adapted to meet local characteristics. And when localised, to what extent and due to which influencing factors. Nevertheless, it would be of critical importance to also analyse the discipline of strategic brand management in a broader context of prevailing macro-contextual factors in the Chinese market.

1.4 Contribution to Theory and Practice

Most research has centred on brand management, as a corporate discipline in the mature market, but little is known about its adaptation when expanding to emerging markets (Lu Wang and He, 2014). Therefore, the emphasis of this thesis lies on the question on how Swiss medium-sized MedTech companies can best use their strategic brand management to position themselves and cultivate their brand in the Chinese market.

With the unique sample of this study, a deeper insight into strategic brand management enables the creation of a guideline, which can be used as a sound and broad reference by medium-sized Swiss MedTech companies for current or future branding activities. Furthermore, this unique sample contributes to the theory in the form of proposals that provide a basis for further exploration of the research gap by academic researchers.

1.5 Research Objective

The goal of this research is to examine current branding activities of Swiss, medium-sized MedTech companies and their macro-contextual environment in China, in order to identify to what extent localisation measures are advantageous to establish a brand successfully in the Chinese MedTech industry. Therewith it is the goal to create a guideline with proposals for purposeful strategic brand management that can be used in practice and build the basis for future research in this or similar research fields.

1.6 Research Questions

In order to provide insights into the research context and identified research gap described above one main and three sub questions have been defined:

How can Swiss medium-sized MedTech companies conduct strategic brand management to establish their brand successfully [3] in the emerging Chinese MedTech industry?

- Sub question 1: What are the challenges related to brand management confronted by Swiss medium-sized MedTech companies in China?
- Sub question 2: Which dimensions of a brand are crucial for a successful establishment in the Chinese MedTech industry?
- Sub question 3: To what extent shall brand strategies of Swiss medium-sized MedTech companies be adjusted to the local macro-contextual conditions?

In the context of this thesis a successful brand positioning is seen when the brand is known by the target audience, the comparative advantage is effective in acquiring new and binding existing customer relationships and when the ROI is higher than the resources spent to compete in the Chinese market.

Considering the main objective of this study, it will be particularly important to find out more about the strategic brand management of the companies under analysis. In discovering the challenges and identifying the crucial brand dimensions and localisation measures implemented to successfully establish the brand, the main research question can be answered. Furthermore, a guideline with proposals for a purposeful strategic brand management, which can be used in practice and build the basis for future research in this or similar research fields, can be created.

1.7 Research Design

This study is an exploratory multiple-case study that is based on a qualitative strategy and follows an abductive approach. The small and dedicated sample consists of three Swiss, medium-sized MedTech companies that expanded into China in the last ten years. Case studies evidence from Switzerland and China was collected based on a developed conceptual framework and analysed cross-case wise to file propositions as the study’s final objective.

1.8 Limitations

For the study at hand it is not the research’s intention to examine how a brand is established from the beginning in terms of a brand building process, but rather to explore how a in the mature market established Swiss brand can be positioned best in the emerging market of China considering standardisation and localisation aspects.

The lack of extensive data and academic branding theories developed in emerging markets can be seen as a limitation for this research. However, the fact that existing research has been dominantly focused on Western developed countries (Lu Wang and He, 2014, p. 1) was taken into consideration for the evaluation of theories and models in the course of the research of this thesis.

The chosen methodology of a qualitative case study research brought along further limitations in the form of subjectivity by the researcher’s interpretations, which had to be considered during all phases of the research process. Moreover, as claimed by Eriksson and Kovalainen (2014, p. 120), a case study should contain a dynamic design and be developed over time. Hence, this thesis is limited as it was timely fixed and conducted in only a few months. Consequently only prevailing contextual factors were considered.

Furthermore, according to the sampling strategy, this thesis only covers medium-sized companies that sought geographical expansion into the emerging market of China. This in turn influences the outcome of this thesis in terms of generalising conclusions for the whole industry, which is not feasible.

Finally, the data collection considered only the organisation’s view and no external stakeholders, such as partners and customers, which leaves room for further research.

1.9 Thesis Outline

The thesis is organised in a linear-analytic structure and comprises six chapters as depicted on the following illustration.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 1: Thesis outline

Source: author

The following chapter concludes the introduction and provides a holistic glance into the specific research context. The subsequent literature review focuses on evaluating the existing literature on brand management from an Eastern emerging market and Western developed market perspective. A conceptual framework developed on the basis of the reviewed literature is also introduced. The fourth chapter provides the methodological approach of this thesis in detail. Then, the subsequent chapter presents the empirical findings in the form of individual case presentations and a cross-case analysis. The last chapter represents the heart of the thesis where findings are discussed, research questions are answered and an overall conclusion and recommendations are presented. Figure 2 below illustrates in more detail how, through the defined research process, a logical chain of evidence is provided in order to answer the research questions.

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Figure 2: Research process with logical chain of evidence

Source: author

2 Research Context

To set the scene for the study, an introduction into the Chinese marketplace for MedTech companies is given in this chapter. Expanding companies “must know that a different clock ticks” in China (Mattes et al., 2012, p.4). In the form of a metaphor, whereas Switzerland is an idyllic village, China is a jungle; entailing serious hazards, but also offering vast opportunities. Therefore, it is of “paramount importance” to comprehend the macro- and micro environment of business in China (Mattes et al., 2012, p.4).

2.1 General Demographics

In terms of scale, China is a giant; with its population of 1.3 billion living in 23 provinces composing an area of 230 times the size of Switzerland (Central Intelligence Agency, 2015).

The Chinese market and landscape is diverse and unbalanced due to uneven economic development over recent years, which resulted a city pyramid (Euromonitor International, 2015). Because of its diverse characteristic China is typically classified (according to an unofficial definition that is also used by government) into five tiers based on factors such as population size, development, infrastructure and cosmopolitan nature. Whereas tier 1 cities such as Shanghai or Beijing represent the “driving forces” and the most developed areas, tier 5 cities are smaller and rural, but contain the majority of citizens (Chen, 2014). China is faced with “demographic and epidemiological transitions” (Freeman and Boynton, 2011, p. 19); the former especially through a growing middle-class in tier 2 cities (Euromonitor International, 2015) and the later through a rapidly aging population having increasing chronic care needs and the westernization of medicine (Eliades et al., 2012).

2.2 Healthcare in China

China’s diverse and large population has a growing need for medical technologies. However, according to industry experts, the Chinese healthcare system is “lagging behind the economic development” as highlighted by the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) epidemic of 2003 showed that the healthcare system cannot deal with medical crises (Mattes et al., 2012, p. 9).

Characteristics of the Chinese healthcare system are presented on figure 3 and explained in more detail in the following sections.

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Figure 3: Chinese healthcare market characteristics

Source: author

China’s healthcare system is roughly structured on three tiers: (1) many small hospitals and medical institutes at the bottom, (2) fewer midsize hospitals in the middle and (3) large hospitals at the top. Additionally, private clinics are established in large cities (tier 1 and tier 2) to handle the increasing amount of wealthy Chinese and foreigners that demand more professional medical care. Tier 3 hospitals are the best in terms of equipment, education and staff. Due to its attractiveness most foreign MedTech companies compete therein. Local manufacturers supply the lower tiered hospitals with cheaper and technologically less advanced products, which cause a large inflow of patient to the top-tier hospitals. Furthermore, the Chinese system is lacking a gatekeeper, such as a general practitioner as seen in many Western countries, which could release this imbalance (Mattes et al., 2012, p. 13).

The role of doctors is crucial, as they act as an advisor and final decision-maker for the patient, based on the patient’s financial resources, as insurance coverage, if available, is restricted. Doctors employed in a non-private hospital have a significantly low salary even though immense workload. This results in the practices of over prescribing drugs and gaining “additional incomes through kick-backs paid by distributors” (Mattes et al., 2012, p. 4).

Tender processes, which have been intentionally introduced to keep the price on a lower level, are apparent throughout China on provincial, city and hospital level for all kinds of medical products. MedTech companies are forced to compete within given tenders to get listed in order to be able to negotiate with the hospital. Tenders often are not transparent and have to be repeated on a regular basis, which presents a serious “roadblock in entering the Chinese medical device market” for foreign companies in particular (Mattes et al., 2012, p. 22). For small or medium-sized companies this represents an “administrative hurdle” because of their insufficient power and fewer as well as weaker relationships with the government (Mattes et al., 2012, p. 12).

Announced healthcare reforms (part of government 5-year plan), a result of the insufficient healthcare situation, concerned upgrading infrastructure and services as well as restructuring insurance schemes to establish a basic coverage for 90% of its population by 2020 (Merritt, 2011). The healthcare insurance reform plan focuses on the issue of low accessibility and high costs, but still less than 25% of the Chinese population, most of them from urban regions, are covered (Mattes et al., 2012). Healthcare is therefore still primarily financed through out-of-pocket contributions of up to 50%, which entails the risk of poverty in the case of vast medical expenses (The Guardian, 2015; Mattes et al., 2012, p. 9).

2.3 MedTech Market Characteristics

Being used to an annually double-digit growth of the Chinese GDP in recent years, for the current (7.1% in 2015) and next years (6.9% for 2017) only a moderate growth is expected. This slowdown is not unexpected and is seen as a result of a targeted series of fiscal, monetary and administrative actions executed by the government in order to gradually reach more stable growth in the long-term. Nevertheless, due to prevailing uncertainties and challenges of the local economy the fear of a nationwide crisis in China still remains (World Bank Group, 2015).

However, based on the above elaborated reasons, the MedTech market has a huge potential and support a forecast of growth for the next years to be around 20% (Hartford, 2013). The Chinese medical device market, expected to reach a size of 45 billion USD by the end of 2015 (Pong, 2015), is separated primarily into two categories: (1) The high-end market (premium-segment), mainly dominated by foreign manufacturers such as General Electrics, Siemens, Philipps and Toshiba with mostly imported products approaching top hospitals in tier 1 cities, and (2) the low-end market, which is in the hands of domestic companies approaching lower-tired hospital in less developed, rural parts of China. Tender processes for foreign and local companies have resulted in price declines and lower margins, although foreign MedTech companies traditionally were able to maintain attractive margins (Mattes et al., 2012, p. 22). Additionally, as competition in the premium-segment is increasing, it is the trend of foreign and also local companies to establish a presence in the new mid-segment to enlarge their market share. Prices in this segment are lower, but rather affordable. Therefore, the opportunities through the amount of potential customers and mid-tier hospitals are reasonable (Mattes et al., 2012).

The Chinese MedTech market is regulated by two agencies: (1) the Chinese Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) the former State Food Drug Administration (SFDA), which is among others responsible for the approval, the certification and the distribution licence, and (2) the Ministry of Commerce, which is in charge of the macroeconomic control and implementation of defined policies (Mattes et al., 2012, p. 21). The MedTech industry is not as mature and, thus, not as regulated as the pharmaceutical industry. However, newly introduced hurdles have led to ever more dense regulation (Kaiser and Mattes, 2015). Moreover, medical products are classified, based on their risk to the human body, into three categories where class III represents the highest level of risk (e.g. Implants). Every category has to fulfil specific CFDA regulations that are not aligned with international practices, which is a serious burden for foreign companies trying to enter the Chinese market (Mattes et al., 2012, p. 21). In the case of Swiss companies even the recently signed free trade agreement[4], which improves export conditions, cannot prevent product certification from getting slower and more expensive due to the intensified regulations (Gnehm, 2015). Another challenge for foreign companies is the labelling of medical devices which is requested to be in Chinese and that also accounts for inserts, manuals and the packaging (Mattes et al., 2012, p. 22).

The Chinese government not only sets the framework, but also intervenes in to the market in the form of protectionist measures, such as the setup of two separate tendering processes for foreign imported and locally manufactured MedTech products (Kaiser and Mattes, 2015) or the directive to hospitals to give preference to local manufacturers when purchasing comparable products (Rein, 2009).

As market access for medium-sized companies is key (Karim, 2009), a last market characteristic is the challenging distribution, as explained in the next section.

2.4 Distribution System

Hospitals are the largest distribution channel (approx. 80%) in the MedTech industry. However, e-commerce is growing since it became an authorised sales channel for medical devices (Tsang, 2014).

Professionals as decision-makers cannot be supplied directly by foreign and local manufacturers due to various reasons. As a vast fragmented and heterogeneous market, it is too complex and too expensive to build an own nationwide distribution network for most companies (Mattes et al., 2012). Furthermore, the SFDA requires foreign companies to have a legal entity such as an own affiliate, a joint venture or a local importer (Kaiser and Mattes, 2015). Finally, prevailing corrupt practices (“red envelop money”) are another primary reason why almost all companies depend on existing distributors networks (Mattes et al., 2012, p.10).

In China corrupt practices are widely understood by the government and the citizens, as it is openly broached in media. With an ongoing anti-corruption initiative the government is trying to counteract these practices. However, it has been unable to overcome them (Mattes et al., 2012, p.6). This reality prevents foreign companies from utilizing this distribution channel freely, thus, suffering from disadvantages, as they have to follow rules, which due to recent bribery scandals in healthcare and other sectors have been established in the context of compliance programs (Jones, 2014).

Some medical products are sold by retail stores (such as pharmacies or specialty shops). However, also there the distributor is involved and in charge of the supply of medical devices (International Business Publications, 2011, p. 145).

2.5 Cultural Traits

Historically there is a vast difference between Western (e.g. Switzerland as part of Germanic Europe) and Eastern (e.g. China as part of Confucian Asia) cultures as studied by various researchers in the last decades (e.g. Hofstede, 2015; House et al., 2004). Measured in several dimensions, cultural traits vary most in terms of power distance, individualism vs. collectivism and indulgence.

Chinese are predisposed by the Confucian philosophy, which is still prevalent in China today, to accept high power distance (understood as vertical hierarchy based on age and seniority) as a fundamental characteristic. The Confucian ideology describes the obligation of every individual to his environment; his family and the nation. The centre piece is a system of education where learning is achieved through a family modelled institution and key principles of hard work and attainment of new skills, which results in a high performance orientation. Additionally, patience, perseverance, thrift and respect are taught, which prepare the individual to respect the given structures in society. This philosophy also reinforces the importance of group identity, conformity and long-term relationships, which are built through trust (House et al., 2004). The latter is known as “Guanxi”, and together with “Mianxi”, the concept of saving face, are traditional cultural traits but still very important (Karim, 2009, p. 205). Furthermore, Chinese long-term orientation has been identified to be a result of Confucian values (Hofstede and Hofstede, 2005, p. 292). This is reflected in terms of their “deeply engraved” saving behaviour, as Chinese save money for educational reasons or crisis situations such as medical costs (Mattes et al., 2012, p. 9).

In recent decades, however, a cultural change has been apparent. The trend to secularisation, stimulated through the younger generations, lead to a process of individualisation and a materialistic orientation, associated with a Western lifestyle, results in more independent and confident personal traits. Nevertheless, in business the traditional values still remain, as “most senior leadership” is “from earlier generations”, but this is a trend that is expected to continue in the future (Huang, 2015, para.7).

Another trend that has been apparent in recent years, is the “dramatic” increase of internet and social media affinity and its usage (Wang, Yu and Wei, 2012, p. 202). The majority of the urban population (64%) and a reasonable amount of the rural population (30%) use social media (Kemp, 2015, p. 3). This has changed consumer decision making and, as a consequence, also how companies promote products and communicate about brands (Wang, Yu and Wei, 2012, p. 202). Although, non-Chinese platforms, such as Facebook, Google+ and Twitter are officially “blocked by the Great Firewall”, users can circumvent it. Still, the three most popular channels are QQ (instant messaging), Qzone (social network) and WeChat, offering more functionalities and, therefore, is quickly catching up the leading two (Kemp, 2015, p. 7); in figures this means 60% of Internet users or 77 million people in the last twelve months. The growing popularity of the chat app, allowing a one-to-one conversation between individuals and companies, presents new opportunities for the latter. However, the way the Chinese population uses social media channels differs and this again requires adaptations to “cultural and societal idiosyncrasies” as well as technological differences (Kemp, 2015, p. 11).

Undisputable, Chinese prefer foreign goods to local goods due to the origin stereotype that foreign goods from more developed countries are of higher quality, have a more advanced technology and therefore are more reliable and worth the price premium (Zhou and Belk, 2004 cited in Zhuang et al., 2008, p.445). Economic growth has not changed that preference – the mistrust of Chinese for domestically manufactured goods is hurting local manufacturers even if they are improving. This also accounts for medical devices, where patients have a clear preference for foreign, imported products for which they are willing to pay more (Rein, 2009).

The lack of innovation power and inadequate intellectual property protection results in a copycat business culture (Hartford, 2013). Routed in a long tradition of “valuing rote learning over original thought”, copying is deeply rooted in the Chinese culture and not seen as negative (Williams, 2014, p.1). The lack of creativity in the Chinese education system is not the only reason though. Also relevant was the “natural evolution” of the Chinese economy due to foreign innovation that has occurred since the opening up of the Chinese economy in 1978 (Rein, 2014, p. 14).

2.6 Conclusion

To summarize, companies expanding to China must fully comprehend the market characteristics and “cultural nuances” to be able to “navigate the MedTech ecosystem”; knowing opportunities as well as the government’s role and how to deal with evolving healthcare reformations and local competition (Varelis, Chen and Wilso, 2015, para. 5). Consequently, for “stepping” into the Chinese market with the intention to survive in the above-named jungle, “requires a different strategy” (Mattes et al., 2012, p.4).

3 Literature Review

To describe how the study fits into a broader context, this chapter first offers an overview about the existing brand management literature. Then, it presents a conceptual framework developed by the author to evaluate the specific research questions.

3.1 Branding Research in Emerging Markets

Due to changing market dynamics and high competition, brands are crucial as never before. They build trust and work as a point of reference, as a guide in the purchasing decision by reducing the risks of choosing a wrong alternative. Besides that, it provides to the owner significant value, as a higher price can be demanded from customers and other stakeholders (Leek and Christodoulides, 2011, p. 831-832).

As mentioned in the introduction (see chapter 1.3), there are a couple of questions that arise in the scope of brand management after an expansion to an emerging country. Brands and their management have been researched extensively in Business-To-Consumer (B2C) and in Business-To-Business (B2B) markets as well as in mature and global markets (Clifton and Simmons, 2003; Kapferer, 2012; Kotler and Pfoertsch, 2006). However, there is little academic discussion in the literature about theory building and conceptual development of brand management from an emerging market perspective in China (Lu Wang and He, 2014, p. 19). This apparent lack of branding literature, was likewise noticed through a couple of randomly selected Chinese academic papers dealing with brand management (Yang, 2007; Wang, 2011; Shi-Hong, 2008; Li Hua, 2010; Yang, 2008; Liu, 2008). Their research was influenced by pioneering research from the Western developed countries, especially the United States, in terms of branding (e.g. Aaker, Keller, Kotler, Kapferer, De Chernatony) and strategic management in general (e.g. Porter’s five forces, SWOT-Analysis). According to Lu Wang and He (2014, p. 14-15), minor related work to branding in emerging markets has been conducted by a few researchers (Alden, Steenkamp and Batra, 1999; Roth, 1995; Shocker, Srivastava and Ruekert, 1994; Leclerc, Schmitt and Dubé, 1994; Keller, 2003) in the context of global branding research. Even though this investigation provided new implications for the research of standardization versus localization of global brands, it was largely ignored in recent years. But in the meanwhile it was realized that “cultural and socioeconomic dimensions are the important starting point” of brand management research from an emerging markets perspective (Lu Wang and He, 2014, p. 15).

These elaborations made clear that fundamental theories and knowledge in brand management are still constructed on the understanding of western developed countries. Moreover, as stated by Lu Wang and He (2014) “branding in emerging markets doesn’t get deserved attention in branding research community” (p. 15), although it was recognized that they “play a significant role in global economy” nowadays (p. 19).

For the purpose of this thesis, the lack of branding research from Chinese perspective is considered a limitation. To deal with that, vast literature base researched in Anglo-Saxon or European regions was considered. The following sections briefly introduces the relevant concepts related to the research topic and the theoretical framework that builds the basis of this research.

3.2 Brand Management from a Western Perspective

As widely debated in the academic world, the definition of a brand has changed over the last decades and so has its strategic emphasis. From brands as a proof of origin in the “Wild West of the United States”, to the “cognitive psychology” of one unique selling proposition, to the conceptualization of “mental associations”, in the time of web 2.0, brands became emotional bonds with the goal to create communities or even a fan base (Kapfer 2012, p. 11). In the words of the cited author, a brand is “a name that symbolizes a long-term engagement, crusade or commitment to a unique set of values, embedded into products, services and behaviours, which make the organization, person or product stand apart or stand out” (Kapferer, 2012, p. 12).

3.2.1 Distinction of Corporate versus Product Brand

Corporate brands differ from product brands in many ways. Whereas a product brand focus on one specific product or service, a corporate brand stands for the whole company and influences all organisational activities. If only customers are approached with a product brand, the corporate brand targets a broad stakeholder audience with the ultimate goal to build long-lasting and trustful relationships. Originating in a company’s heritage, the identity of a corporate brand consists of employee’s values and beliefs and not only drafted product advertisements. In that sense, the whole executive base and every single employee is responsible for the brand, not just a single product or brand manager (Hatch and Schultz, 2008, p. 9).

3.2.2 Foundations of Brand Management

To describe the brand management discipline, various models and theories have been defined in the last decades (Aaker and Joachimsthaler, 2000; de Chernatony, 1999; Esch, Tomczak, Kernstock and Langner, 2006; Hatch and Schultz, 2001; Kapferer, 2012; Keller, 2013). The research for this thesis was built upon this knowledge.

Aaker (1991, 1996) conducted pioneering research in portraying the brand’s equity, as “a set of assets and liabilities” that are linked to the brand and the organisation (p. 7). The model was influenced by five dimensions; the loyalty, awareness and associations towards the brand as well as perceived quality and other proprietary assets (Aaker, 1996, p. 9). Therewith it described the relation between the different brand equity components and the prospective performance of the brand. Keller (1993, 1997), another expert in branding research, has coined the concept of “customer-based brand equity” (CBBE) which together with Aaker’s research, formed a “backbone for the body of knowledge in brand management” (as cited in Lu Wang and He, 2014, p. 3). In the form of a pyramid the CBBE model depicted four levels containing six building blocks to create a successful brand; all dealing with the inside-out view of a brand such as its identity, meaning, response and relationship (Keller, 1997, as cited in Quinto, 2015, p. 122). In collaboration with Joachimsthaler, Aaker later on further developed the understanding of brand as an equity and emphasized strategic and not only tactic measures with components such as organisation structure and processes, brand architecture, identity and building programs (Aaker and Joachimsthaler, 2000, p. 25). A special focus on brand identity was put by De Chernatony (1999) introducing her model with components such as positioning, culture, personality and relationship (p. 166). With the employees as crucial brand builders and deliverers of the brands identity, the same author brought in corporate culture as a new component and argued for the “need to align” the employee’s values “with the brands desired values” to create a strong brand (de Chernatony, 1999, p. 157). In contrast to the classical brand management models mentioned above, Hatch and Schultz (2001) described three essential elements in the context of corporate branding, namely the vision, the culture and the image of an organisation. According to them, these elements need to be aligned to gain the most out of the brand (p. 130). A similar understanding of branding theories was visible in the German literature. For the evaluation of a corporate brand’s identity, Esch (2006) identified five dimensions - benefit, attributes, tonality, appearance and the brand’s competence - which were depicted as a steering wheel (p. 102).

Although these traditional models are composed slightly different and entail diverse characteristics, all showed a rather internal perspective and dealt mainly with the interplay of brand identity or personality, brand performance and presentation. Even models that considered the cultural aspect, referred to the internal corporate culture that was reflected within the brand (Hatch and Schultz, 2001; de Chernatony, 1999). Only a rudimentary external view was considered by these traditional models in the form of the brand image or brand awareness.

In the course of globalization, external factors were given more weight and the opinion grew that the brand’s perception is far-reaching dependent on contextual factors as depicted in other models (Kapferer, 2012; Van Gelder, 2003). In the global brand proposition model of Van Gelder (2003, p. 8) external factors in the form of conventions (see figure 4), such as visual preferences, cultural characteristics or physiological and social needs influence a brands perception and in turn the brand recognition. These conventions “act as lenses” through which not only consumers, but also stakeholders in general observe the brand (p. 6). With the focus on external factors, brand management can influence a brand’s perception, which according to Van Gelder (2003) holds the meaning for the brand to exist (p. 7).

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Figure 4: Global brand proposition model

Source: author based on Van Gelder, 2003, p. 8

Also Kapferer (2012) emphasized with his view on strategic brand management a component that considers the given environment of a brand as depicted in figure 5. The brand triangle below briefly illustrates with a coarse design brands as “living systems” (p. 151) that are made up of three dimensions: 1) concept, 2) name, and 3) products or services, in order to deal with all issues of brand management (p. 10). The brand concept dimension is seen as “a unique set of attributes, both tangible and intangible” (p. 9). It forms the brand’s identity and the resulting value proposition. The second dimension name not only contains the single aspect of a term, it rather stands for the whole brand presentation entailing visual, verbal and non-verbal elements. The last dimension emphasizes on the brand’s positioning, whereas the phrase “experience at contact point” refers to the fact that brands live within a given environment (p. 10). Altogether these dimensions are the “sources of cumulative brand experience” to create a powerful brand when strategically managed over time (Kapferer, 2012, p. 9). In this respect, a truly global brand is no longer perceived as ideal and external factors have to be taken into consideration (Kapferer, 2012, p. 407).

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Figure 5: The brand system model

Source: Kapferer, 2012, p. 10

Beside some practitioners guides (e.g. Schaffmeister, 2015) and various edited books about all sorts of brand management topics (e.g. Fournier, Breazeale and Avery, 2015; Lu Wang and He, 2014), no dedicated models and theories were developed about the specific topic in recent three years.

3.2.3 Brand Management in B2B Markets

A vast majority of research has focused on the B2C market and models have been mainly applied to myriad product brands such as Coca Cola, McDonalds or Nike to name just a few. In terms of brand loyalty the before mentioned emotional bond (ref. to page 14) between the product and the consumer is evident. Nowadays, researchers and practitioners agree that brands are not only relevant for consumer goods. Branding activities are essential in a B2B context as well, even though decision making processes are traditionally seen as more “rational” in these markets (Kotler and Pfoertsch, 2006, p. 1). This accounts for the given study in the MedTech industry as well. Products or services are in the composition of another product and therewith the target audience is rather a professional or business internal one. In this perspective a B2B brand is often a corporate brand and as such closely linked to the corporate reputation (Kapferer, 2012, p. 81-82).

As previously stated, the most important brand functions in a B2B context are therefore establishment of trust and increased information efficiency in order to attain risk reduction in the long-term business relationship. The following model (see figure 6), developed by Kapferer (2012) depicts some of the characteristics of a B2B market and shows the influence of corporate reputation on its actors. The corporates reputation does influence stakeholders such as employees, suppliers, political environment and distributors. However, in an industrial environment tangible components and the price heavily affect the selection in a tender (Kapferer, 2012, p. 82).

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Figure 6: B2B market characteristics

Source: Kapferer, 2012, p. 82

To the target audience, a brand transfers a meaning, which goes beyond the brands identity attributes. Resulting in a brands expressiveness, the meaning is transferred through multiple channels, explicitly (through marketing activities or communication in media), but also implicitly (trough interactions with employees). In a B2B setting, the challenge is to reach a consistent brand expressiveness over all channels to gain an advantageous multiplier-effect. However, if a brand engages in activities such as brand presentation or employees behaviour that are inconsistent with the brands meaning, the brand and its expressiveness are harmed (Macinnis and Whan Park, 2015, p.242).

A further approach discussed by Kapferer (2012) claims that the B2C market more and more becomes a B2B2C market since for strategic branding decisions and operative marketing activities the whole value chain is considered (e.g. distributors need to be convinced first). But the newly created expression can also be interpreted from a B2B perspective in terms of a market that approaches more the end consumer as final decision maker (p. 136). Especially in the MedTech industry it has to be taken into account by brand management, as patients nowadays are exceedingly informed due and thanks to modern internet technology when it comes to their own health.

In general and independent of the form of the market (B2C, B2B or B2B2C), branding is more than just marketing. It entails the strategic view and is closely linked to the business strategy. Every brand needs a clear positioning that consequently is clearly expressed through a name, identity, products/service and behaviour. To use its most important organizational asset as a strategic device, every business has to invest in a proper brand management whereas it needs the management’s attention (Clifton and Simmons, 2003, p. 7-8).

3.3 Going Global with Strategic Brand Management

Globalisation and technological advancement forced social changes that drive the world and the behaviour of people living in it. In the previous section it was argued that traditional brand management models have not given enough attention to external factors. However, in the context of going global, in fact more specifically when expanding into emerging markets, these factors are crucial in dealing with the “tensions between finding an optimum fit of the brand with local circumstances, and the desire to obtain brand consistency” (Van Gelder, 2003, p.VII).

The advantages of a standardised brand management lie in the power and scope through consistency in brand identity and the uniformity of practices allowing the company to act quickly and efficiently. On the contrary, the disadvantages lie in the ignorance of fundamental differences between countries, such as varying market conditions, consumer needs, regulation and administrative procedures (Keller, 2013, p. 515-516). As stated by the same author, the challenge is about getting the “right balance – to know which elements to customize or adapt and which to standardize” (p. 534) in order to prevent possible “pitfalls” in the foreign environment (p. 521). Consequently, the same author points out a possible approach to position the brand in the foreign market, which is to identify differences in the market environment such as consumer behaviour, distribution structure, competitive environment and regulatory conditions, and then adjust the brand strategy accordingly (Keller, 2013, p. 519). However, according to Kapferer (2012, p. 424), there is not only one solution to find the mentioned balance.

To sum up, the domain of a strategic brand management, as described by Kapferer (2012) and Keller (2013) is how to create value with a proper cross-cultural brand strategy that lays somewhere between the two extreme poles of an integrated global brand and a fully adapted local brand. With finding the right balance between global standardization and local adaptation, it is the goal to establish the brand in the foreign market without harming the original brand and to keep the price premium.

Yet, beside all these considerations within strategic brand management, there is one crucial factor that one must not underestimate. It is the fact that global brands in foreign, especially emerging markets, enhance the brand’s value (Steenkamp, Batra and Alden, 2003). In their research the authors claimed that the “perceived brand globalness” (PBG) was positively associated with perceived quality and prestige of the global brand (Steenkamp, Batra and Alden, p. 61). Moreover, further evidence of the research by Holt, Quelch and Taylor (2004) suggested that globalness influences the brand preferences not only due to higher quality and status, but also through the attributed origin of the global brand as a stereotype of competence (as cited in Kapferer, 2012, p. 416). This country of origin effect a brand in a foreign market entails, is briefly described in the following chapter.

3.3.1 Country-of-origin Effect

The country-of-origin (COO) effect is understood as the “extrinsic cue” a product’s manufacturing country has on the customer’s perception and related purchasing decision (Thuang et al., 2008, p. 443). Extensive research in the field of consumer behaviour in the last decades have led to the clear conclusion that "a products COO can influence consumers evaluative judgement of the product" (Pharr, 2005, p. 34). However, structural changes in international markets begun to doubt the salience of COO information and the consumer’s level of knowledge about the origin of the product. The latter because globalisation of markets has made it more difficult to identify the real country of origin due to different places of design, assembly and manufacturing. Recent research therefore claimed that the brand’s origin rather than the product’s origin has a greater impact on customers’ purchasing decision (Pharr, 2005, p. 41). The brand’s origin is linked to the images and special characteristics attributed to its originating country and often associated in form of stereotypical competencies (Kapferer, 2012, p.416). In this effect, for the brand its origin means a comparative advantage in the sense of a “risk-reducing role” (Kapferer, 2012, p. 56). However, in the past, it has been observed that certain brands are “sending mixed messages” to their target audience by “communicating multiple cultural identities” (Alden, Steenkamp and Batra, 1999, p. 84).

For the underlying thesis the COO effect is an interesting aspect, because especially the combination of a Swiss origin and the Chinese preference towards foreign brands, as also emphasized by Thuang et al. (2008, p. 444), possibly entails a huge potential for Swiss MedTech companies in the emerging market of China, as further elaborated in the next section.

3.3.2 Power of Swiss Origin

In the case of Switzerland, terms such as Swissness, Made in Switzerland or Swiss Quality are used as indicators of source and direct reference of the country of origin. Research on the power of the Swiss origin was conducted in the past; According to the study “Swissness Worldwide 2013”(Feige, Fischer, von Matt and Reinecke, 2013), Switzerland in general has a very positive and clearly differentiated image profile where it stands for high quality of life, a beautiful landscape and values such as reliability and trustworthiness. Swiss products are seen as exclusive, reliable, luxurious and even though the consequential higher price, they are excellently positioned due to the quality and reliability factors that, in the international context, are the most important drivers of consumers perception (Feige et al., 2013, p.12). The preference for Swiss products also accounts for China, as investigated by a previously conducted image study (Pasquier, Weiss Richard and Yersin, 2009). China has predominantly positive associations towards Switzerland and named terms such as watches, mountains, banks, neutrality and chocolate, as proven by both studies. The perception of the price level is not seen as critical from abroad and especially China indicated the upmost willingness to pay a higher price for Swiss products (Feige et al., 2013, p. 12). However, in the sight of China, Switzerland is not in a leading position in terms of innovation and technological advancement compared to other benchmark countries such as the USA and Germany, as indicated by both studies. It has to be considered, that Switzerland due to its absolute size and scope cannot keep up with them (Feige et al., 2013, p. 20). Another reason might be that successful innovative Swiss companies do not explicitly emphasize on the Swiss origin (Feige et al., 2013, p. 14). However, it must be pointed out that the MedTech industry was not explicitly examined in the studies. Nevertheless, it can be said, as concluded by both studies, that the positive assessments reflect the good image of Switzerland. For Swiss brands, its country of origin leads to a competitive advantage and plays therefore a crucial role. However, Swissness as such is a “reason to believe”, but not a unique selling proposition (Feige et al., 2013, p.7).

In consideration of all the factors described above (PBG, COO, Swissness), a localisation of the brand in the emerging market of China needs to be taken thoughtfully.

3.4 Conceptual Framework

Several seminal studies, as described in the literature review, built the foundation for the developed conceptual framework of this thesis. Based on the discussion in the previous sections, figure 7 illustrates how the existing literature from the Western hemisphere can be applied to the thesis research context in the emerging market of China and allows, together with collected data, to draw conclusions for the strategic brand management.

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Figure 7: Conceptual framework – strategic brand management

Source: own illustration based on several models and concepts reviewed in chapter 3.2

The brand triangle defined by Kapferer (2012) represents the heart of the framework, where the brand is understood as a living system in a given environment (upper triangle in figure 7). The brand identity is conceptualized by a brand concept and through its presentation expressed to the respective surrounding. The audience experiences the brand through its presentation and the products at the contact points, as well as is influenced by external conventions, as referred by Van Gelder (2003). The scope of the audience is depicted with another triangle element (lower triangle in figure 7) derived from Kapferer’s (2012) second model describing the B2B market (ref. to section 3.2.3), where both perspectives (B2B and B2C) are represented. The shape symbolizes the strength of actors in terms of decision power, not in terms of stakeholder amount. Through their brand perception they influence the brand system which results in a reflective feedback loop, depicted through arrows, back to the organisation.

The main components of the framework are further described as follows:

- Brand Concept: contains the brand identity values, the brands architecture and the brand strategy, which is mutually aligned with the organisation strategy. It covers themes such as the organisation’s structure, culture, stakeholders and activities. Furthermore, this dimension defines to what extent the Swissness factor is used by the organisation.
- Brand Presentation: includes all kind of brand activities to demonstrate the brand towards the audience such as brand promotion, communication and presentation. It also contains identifying attributes such as the name, logo, visuals and colours.
- Product at contact point: considers themes such as stakeholders’ behaviour and perceptions, the product’s market segment and product type but also dedicated market characteristics, distribution structure and the competitive environment. Moreover, the dimension defines to what extent the brand is localised and adapted to the contact points.
- External conventions: covers factors that are prevailing in the respective surrounding for example the stakeholder’s culture and attitude towards foreign goods or the legal situation containing regulations and registrations. In addition, prevalent business practices are included in this dimension.

This conceptual framework supported the process of defining an appropriate methodological approach to explore the applied brand management strategies of Swiss MedTech companies, considering the challenges and opportunities in China and therewith to answer the research questions in the best possible way. This methodological approach is described in detail in the next chapter.

4 Methodology

This chapter explains the methodology used in this thesis. It starts with sketching the research design, followed by the explanation of the research methods. Finally also information on verification and generalisation, ethical issues and limitations are presented.

As announced in the introduction, to contribute to the filling of the research gap (ref. to chapter 1.2) as well as to achieve the research objectives (ref. to chapter 1.5), this study shall provide answers to the sub questions (ref. to chapter 1.6) and therewith support this thesis’s main research question:

How can Swiss medium-sized MedTech companies conduct strategic brand management to establish their brand successfully [5] in the emerging Chinese MedTech industry?

4.1 Research Design

As described in the following sections, the research design is based on the purpose of the research, the research approach and a respective strategy. This then sets the direction for the sampling strategy, data collection and data analysis.

Starting with the underlying philosophical orientation, this study is based on an interpretivist philosophy as it aims to understand and interpret findings about human’s decision making in a business context. The research philosophy refers to the researchers’ assumption about the world and underpins the research strategy and research method that is used (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2012, p. 128).

4.1.1 Research Purpose

The defined research objectives (ref. to chapter 1.5) ask for an exploratory research, where an in-depth understanding of the studied context is gained to address the open-ended research question (Schmitt, 2014, p. 63-64). As the intent of this study was to best possible explore the setting of the research question in the given context, an instrumental multiple-case study was conducted where various cases allowed an in-depth analysis and comparison between different cases at the same time.

4.1.2 Research Approaches

This study follows an empirical approach in the belief, that with the chosen research strategy as an appropriate way to measure reality, all research questions are addressed accordingly (Given, 2008, p. 5). It considers main documents that have been published about the topic and demonstrates current knowledge. Common research on branding has been conducted extensively in the last decades, as seen in the literature review, whereas literature in an international context was often based on quantitative studies (Keller, 2003; Pharr, 2005; Steenkamp, Batra and Alden, 2003; Roth, 1995). For this thesis, however, a qualitative research methodology is used to gain new findings in the field of brand management. Qualitative research usually emphasizes words rather than numbers in a “natural setting, attempting to make sense of, or interpret” a given phenomenon (Denzin & Lincoln, 1994 cited in Schmitt, 2014). As such it is an interpretative, naturalistic approach to the subject in matter. The qualitative multi-method approach is used within this study to gain insights on various perspectives from company manager, industry experts and external brand experts (in Switzerland and China). This study follows an abductive research logic, defined by Peirce (as cited in Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2014, p. 23), as to be the logic of exploratory data analysis with combining deductive (evaluating hypotheses) and inductive (justifying them with empirical data) research steps.

4.1.3 Research Strategy

Given the study’s focus and corresponding open-ended research question (as specified in section 1.6), it was most applicable to use a case study research methodology as described by Yin (2014) to investigate behavioural events in a business context. An exploratory multiple-case study design that sought to provide in-depth understanding of the studied context as well as insights into different embedded cases, was chosen. Based on multiple sources of evidence, both primary and secondary research data, the multiple-case study was strengthened.

4.2 Research Methods

The research procedure was built on three phases as proposed by Yin (2014, p. 60); namely (1) defining and designing the research context, (2) preparing, collecting and analysing individual case data and (3) analysing and concluding cross-case findings (ref to figure 8).

This thesis was conducted over a period of 10 months from February until December 2015 for detailed Gantt chart). It contained the whole research process; from reviewing literature and contextual information, creating conceptual framework, collecting primary and secondary data, analysing results until finalizing the study with filing recommendations for the target audience.

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Figure 8: Case study procedure

Source: Yin, 2014, p. 60

According to Yin (2014), the case selection and the definition of specific measures are important steps in the research process as it builds the basis of all further research steps. The developed conceptual framework (ref. to chapter 3.4), which was setup according to brand management literature from a Western perspective studied in the literature review, served as initial action named “develop theory” of the process. The framework entailed specific measures that were described in a case study protocol and built the frame for the whole research. Another important aspect of the procedure to point out is the dashed feedback-loop. Cases were conducted in parallel, which allowed adjustments of the case study protocol during and between the different research stages.

4.2.1 Sampling

The SMTI and its companies built the sample’s population, known as a group sharing a common set of characteristics as described by (Zikmund, Babin and Griffin, 2013). Such characteristics have been defined as to best fulfil the specified research objectives. Based on the given context and the availability of resources, a purposive, criterion-based sampling strategy was used. This is defined by the fact that members of the sample are chosen with a “purpose” to represent a type of the population in relation to key criteria (Ritchie, Lewis, Nicholls and Ormsto, 2014). Such criteria for the sample have been specified as follows to best answer the research questions:

- The company must be a manufacturer of MedTech products in Switzerland with a Swiss origin.
- The company must be a medium-sized[6] company.
- The company must have expanded to the emerging market of China in the past ten years.
- The medical products should be seen as innovative and high quality. Manufacturers of exchangeable mass products were therefore excluded.

With the chosen sampling strategy it was the goal to provide a “cumulative narrative”, where each case would “add something new to the understanding” of the phenomena (Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2014, p. 122). This study’s sampling was based on a careful case selection to best fulfil the required sampling logic. Four MedTech companies that all fulfilled the required criteria have been identified based on an evaluation of the membership list of the MedTech cluster and approached as briefly described below. Whereas three committed themselves to be part of the study, one company rejected its participation during an early study phase. A replacement was not needed, due to the given setting provided by other three participating companies. Furthermore, to complement the research, brand and industry experts of the Swiss and Chinese MedTech industry have been sought and considered for the study at stake. Table 1 briefly presents the details about the companies and participants without violating the given principle of anonymity. Due to confidentiality reasons the companies and participants subsequently are identified with an identification code.

Table 1: Profile of sample companies and participants

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Source: author

The participants were initially identified through the supervisors and researchers own network, contacted by email and briefly informed with a leaflet or a research summary about the background of the study. As all participants responded in a timely manner, a reminder in the form of a phone call was not required. To establish a trustful relationship, a confidentiality agreement was arranged and signed, which provided strict anonymity and privacy for all subsequent activities in the research process.

4.2.2 Data Collection

The collection of case study evidence consisted of three sources as described by Yin (2014, p. 102): interviews, documents and observations. It contained both empirical data collected by the researcher (primary data) and already existing material (secondary data) (Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2014, p. 77). To investigate the topic from different perspectives with the overall goal of reaching a deep understanding of the topic, different data collection methods were used and different sources in terms of places as well as participants were considered. The data collection process was composed of different phases (ref to table x), as briefly described in chronological order below:

- Phase 1 was seen as a pre-evaluation phase where industry experts familiar with the Chinese MedTech industry were interviewed and various existing MedTech consultancy reports (see table x) were obtained to collect contextual information for the preparation of the subsequent following case study’s data collection.
- Phase 2 consisted of the collection of empirical primary data and secondary source material in Switzerland for each case study to gain first case study evidence with a focus on branding from the companies HQ perspective. Also, data from Swiss MedTech industry experts (collected by Quinto, 2015) were used as secondary data.
- Phase 3 finally contained the data collection in China, both empirical primary data and secondary source material, to conclude the case study evidence with a focus on branding from the affiliate’s point of view. Furthermore, it contained the consultation of Chinese brand experts to collect information about branding literature and branding practices in China.

During and between each phases, reflective evaluations have been concluded and adjustments for subsequent steps done, to comply with the before mentioned feedback loop.

Table 2: Detailed information data collection

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Source: author
* Note: Data has been provided by Quinto (2015) in agreement of the participants

Primary Data Collection

A pilot interview has been conducted prior to the fieldwork in Switzerland as well as in China to find out, whether the used methodology, the structure of the interview and the wording of the questions were leading to the desired outcome. The interview guideline was adjusted accordingly afterwards.

The main fieldwork in the shape of semi-structured interviews has been conducted personally and mainly face-to-face allowing an insight into the brand management practices of the participating Swiss MedTech companies in Switzerland and China. The format of semi-structured interview was advantageous for investigations with a fairly clear focus where the predefined specific measures have been addressed, since the interview guide contained mostly open-ended questions. Still the participants had a great deal of leeway in how to reply and therewith was allowed to emphasize on topics that are important from their point of view (Bryman and Bell, 2011). The interviews were held in the language most familiar to interviewer and participant: either German, Swiss German or English. The average interview duration was approx. 80 minutes, whereas all lasted for one hour in minimum. The interviews have been recorded as approved by the participants with two devices to secure the data in case of an incident. The audio files of the interviews were all transcribed in a timely manner with the assistance of the software f4 and translated to English for the subsequent analysis.

An underlying interview guideline was prepared for each participant group and slightly adjusted for each participant to discover the various branding practices and contextual perspectives to answer the research questions. Study explanation and introductory questions were used to set the scene whereas inquiries for further contacts and possible observation locations completed the interview. In the form of a slide presentation, a reduced guideline, accessible on the IPad during the interview was used as a backup plan to prevent missing a question during the interview discussion.

The predefined specific measures were depicted in the form of a mind map and used twofold during the data collection; first for the participant’s preparation and second for the researcher’s structured noticing during the interview.

Depending on the case study’s research setting and where applicable minor observations have been conducted. Classified as unstructured and non-obtrusive participant observation in a natural setting (Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2014, p. 86), it consisted of observing brand appearance in a real market situation at the point of sale in China. Although seen as method to collect empirical data, in this respect the conducted observations are likewise understood as supportive data to complement collected interview data.

Secondary Data Collection

A number of seminal and highly cited books build the basis for the secondary data research about branding literature. Additionally, journal articles have been considered due to their validity as peer-reviewed source and the offering of latest research knowledge. Moreover, practicable consulting reports provided a holistic view on the research context and summarized key points at the same time. The data search was performed in English and German. Furthermore, to broaden the literature review, also Chinese literature was considered, which was collected from CNKI, a Chinese research database.

Data has been stored in Mendeley, a state-of-the-art PDF organiser commonly used in academic research, with a build-in referencing function for in-text citations and the creation of a reference list in the required Harvard style.

Furthermore, source material in the form of company brochures and presentations, branding booklets, product brochures and drawings was collected before and during the fieldwork. However, no brand strategy or brand concept was provided in either case study. This justifies the usage of the collected secondary source material only as supportive data to complement the understanding of the own collected data, rather than material that has an own share as case study evidence.

Further challenges that occurred during primary and secondary data collection were briefly described in the following section.

Challenges

As indicated before, in phase 1 the interviews were conducted by Skype. Due to the deficient video quality of the digital connection to China, a switch to an audio connection was required after a certain while, what prevented observing the body language of the interviewees.

The data quality of the interviews is furthermore affected by both the interviewer and the interviewee bias (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2012, p. 381). Being aware of this, the former was best tried to prevent with the objective to let participants freely express their views without imposing the own opinion on them. On the other side, the participant’s bias refers to the possibility that an interviewee might hide specific data as it might be too sensitive (Saunders, Lewis and Thornhill, 2012, p. 381). In reference to some sensitive topics within the research context, it can only be assumed that this was the case in some interviews for this study. However, reflecting about the interviews and the feedback received from the participants, they seemed to feel comfortable and proud to share their experiences. Generally, all participants left the impression of showing a genuine interest in the topic and general support for this study.

4.2.3 Data Analysis

The examination of the transcripts from the interviews was based on the qualitative data analysis (QDA), a research technique to interpret textual data. According to Seidel (1998), the QDA process is characterised by its circular nature and consists of three parts, namely (1) noticing, (2) collecting and (3) reflecting. A coding-scheme was created according to the developed conceptual framework (top-down) and in a second step complemented with the collected primary data (bottom-up) and applied on the transcripts for the aim of categorisation. During the coding phase, detected insights and emerging ideas were noticed in the form of memos, as suggested by Friese (2012) and later on used for a “quick scan”(Miles and Huberman, 1994, p. 242), as a first analysis method.

Then, the general analytic strategy was to proceed with a within-case analysis as described by Miles and Huberman (1994) for each case in order to file an individual case report. A “conceptually clustered matrix” (Miles and Huberman, 1994, p. 127) was created including every single case, structured according to the specified measures from the conceptual framework and filled with summary information, interpretations and relevant quotations.With such a data display, the analytic power and readability of the case evidence was increased. As a result, patterns for the subsequent cross-case synthesis were identified.

Using the advantages of multiple cases was the motivation for concluding a further analysis, a cross-case analysis. Firstly, the identification of similarities and differences across the three individual cases, also based on the conceptually clustered matrix, facilitated to conclude more general explanations. For the second part, a “case-ordered display”, as described by Miles and Huberman (1994, p. 187), again in the form of a matrix was compiled. Consistently structured according the specific measures from the conceptual framework (vertically), it listed the three research sub questions core areas (challenge, dimension, and localisation) for each case horizontally. Then, based on the previously created within-case analysis, the occurrence of every core area was rated (high, medium, low) and correspondingly coloured within each case. This contrast-table enabled a deeper understanding of interrelations and reasoning between the cases according to the key dimensions of the conceptual framework and to find answers to the research sub questions.

Specifically for the management of primary data, the qualitative data analysis and research software ATLAS.TI was used. Furthermore, Excel was used for creating the matrices for the within- and cross-case analysis. With all before described analysis steps, building of a logical chain of evidence was possible and facilitated to find the answers to the research questions.

4.3 Verification and Generalization

Issues of verification had to be considered throughout the entire research process in order to ensure credibility of the findings. One overriding principle in case study research, as described by Yin (2014), is to consider multiple sources of evidence. That also goes along with the principle of triangulation, as described by Bryman and Bell (2011). Enhanced verification was assured with multiple cases as chosen in this study’s research design. Furthermore the data collection consisted of different methods, various sources in terms of locations and several participants’ roles.

Reliability, referred as to the concern whether a study can be repeated (Ritchie et al., 2014, p. 355), was given in this setting of a qualitative research with transferability through an accurate description of the research process, because due to the changing nature of the environment and the subjectivity of the data collected, a replication of this qualitative study is limited.

In terms of generalisation, case study research cannot be taken for statistical generalisation to hold for a certain population. However, in the sense of an analytical generalisation, case studies findings might be generalized to theoretical propositions (Yin, 2014, p. 21). Additionally in a qualitative context, generalisation is rather assured with transferability of research findings (Ritchie et al., 2014, p. 358), as elaborated above.

4.4 Ethical Issues and Researcher’s Role

An important aspect in qualitative research is the consideration of ethical principles, which in business research, “concern the whole process, starting from the relationship between the researcher and the research objects and ending up with writing up and publishing the report” (Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2014, p. 65).

The major principles that were kept in mind along the whole process were the participants privacy as well as anonymity, the adherence to informed consent and the honest interpretation of data (Richards, 2002; Eriksson and Kovalainen, 2014) . With signing a confidentiality agreement the researcher was obliged to preserve the interviewees’ and respective companies’ anonymity by all means, though was not able to disclose about the companies in great detail. Various activities prevented the lack of informed consent (e.g. leaflet, research summary, asking for permission to record interview etc.). Furthermore, the participation was voluntary and the opportunity to withdraw from the study provided at any time.

According to Schmitt (2014, p. 84) defining the researcher’s role is important in qualitative research. The researcher’s interest in conducting this study derived from various modules with a cross-cultural aspect attended during the Master’s degree program as well as the former business experience in the MedTech industry. Despite these given touchpoints, the role taken was the one of a neutral outsider, which entailed being aware of the fact that the own experiences and bias had to be put back in order to be open to the participants perspective. Not being familiar with the Chinese business context allowed a neutral position and catered for having no underlying prejudices for the first two data collection phases.

5 Analysis of Empirical Findings

This chapter presents the relevant information that emerged from the data collected and analysed. The first part presents an introduction into the current setting of the research topic given by industry and brand experts of the Chinese MedTech market. The second part offers a brief presentation of all three individual cases, structured according to the dimensions defined in the conceptual framework. The chapter reaches its fever pitch with an analysis in the shape of a cross-case comparison outlining similarities and differences of the individual cases to elaborate themes and topics. These will be further discussed in the final chapter of this thesis.

5.1 Strategic Brand Management in Chinese MedTech Industry

China is reasonably seen as an emerging market, as it is still not as developed as other countries. There are various contextual factors that hinder the development analogue to other Western countries (p11, I.181). For example, in the MedTech industry, one reason is the lack of innovation due to the missing cooperation among hospitals, universities and MedTech companies, as a consequence of the culturally rooted lack of mutual trust (p11, I.324-326). Officially, the Chinese government aims to build an affordable healthcare system, unlike many Western countries that have exploding healthcare costs (p12, I.58-60). To achieve this objective, regulations are set and changes defined in theory, but not implemented in practice. They, thus, don’t lead to the anticipated improvements (p8, I.335-337).

For Swiss medium-sized MedTech companies it is difficult to do business in China, as various experts confirm (p11, l.19-23; p12, l.8-9; p13, l.185-188). The biggest challenges for them lay in getting the regulatory approval, finding distributors and participating in tender processes (p8, I.4-6, p12, I.6-9). Finding the “right” distributors is crucial; they have a mature network, know the target audience, where to access them and how to promote the brand (p13, I.40-46).

Prevailing bribery practices hinder free acting, due to tangled liaisons as everyone has “skeletons in the closet” (p8, I.81-82). Professionals, mainly not sufficiently educated, use decision-power for their own benefit (p11, I.305-321). Industry experts expect the anti-corruption measure to relocate the problem only temporarily as the unethical business practice is widespread and deeply rooted (p12, I.92). However, foreign companies have to follow their own defined compliance rules (p11, I.221-222) and are, therefore, disadvantaged compared to Chinese companies. The Chinese population, now more informed and travelled than ever before, is mostly aware of the corrupt and dishonest system and, therefore, don’t trust the government (p11, I.78-81).

In the context of strategic brand management, now business in tier1 and tier2 cities start to become aware of branding through popular, Western consumer brands and consulting companies, which examine them (p13, I.93-101). However, there is a diverse situation as some companies do and mainly small, owner-managed companies rather don’t invest in the management of their brands (p13, I.106-113). Basically there are not vast differences in branding practices of China as an emerging market to the Western developed market; they follow the approved practices of mature markets. Nevertheless, according to Chinese brand experts, Chinese companies are more demanding on the results; they are often impatient in doing the holistic process of branding, as practised in the Western world, including a proper profiling of the brand (identity, positioning, values, story). They want to have a visual logo quickly to start making money, rather than a holistic strategic process (p13, I.114-120; p14, l.21-23). Relevant for branding in a B2B context, as stated by Chinese brand experts, is the partnership and the maintenance of the brand – namely evolving the brand (p13, I.204-209).

Furthermore, the origin of a brand is crucial. The general impression about a Swiss brand in MedTech is to be solid and trustful (p13, I.287-294). However, not all people are aware of the difference between Swiss and German, as pointed out by one expert (p13, I.296-298), both enjoying a very high reputation (p14, I.221-224). Some Chinese companies cheat with pretending to have a foreign origin (p14, l.104-107). Not to be neglected is the advantage of Swiss premium brands. A vast majority of Chinese people still think that a “high price” does mean “high quality” which then must be a “good product” (p13, I.310-311).

As stated by Chinese brand experts, localisation measures need to be taken wisely. With a too strong adaptation, the foreign “premium touch” is lost. As suggested by one brand expert, keeping the brands foreign identity is valid, rather the business model or the behaviour has to be adapted (p13, I.335-340). According to various experts (Mo, 2013; Seizer, 2012), it is a must to define and register a meaningful Chinese brand name. It is certainly crucial for the brands performance in B2C, because only a small minority can read and understand the Western phonetic alphabet (p2, I.350-351). However, it is increasingly seen as important in B2B as well and therefore MedTech companies should think about a good Chinese name from the start on, as stated by one interviewed industry experts (p11, I.163-172). It is also important to consider local habits and preferences (p14, I.34-40) and, consequently, adjust brand presentation and communication (p14, I.42-45). For example, although blue is not a typical Chinese colour like red, orange, yellow or gold, it is a neutral colour and can be used in the MedTech context. However, black is a rather dull colour, in China referenced to funerals and, thus, not appreciated (p14, I.156-162). It must be considered, that in China, like in Europe, advertising for some medical products is not allowed (p11, I.177).

To conclude, macro-contextual factors don’t influence branding technically, but “from a business point of view it delays everything” and always needs more resources (p13, I.322-326).

5.2 Case Presentation

Hereby the three individual cases are briefly presented, following a structure analogue to the main strategic brand management dimensions[7], as defined in the conceptual framework (ref. to chapter 3.4).

5.2.1 Case 1: Strategic Brand Management of CoOne

For more than 50 years CoOne has developed from a small, family-run company in Switzerland to a global niche player providing specific advanced medical products. Their success story is built on research-based, safe and efficient products that consistently set new standards. In the last decades they established a strong brand in the specific niche market worldwide and up to now occupy a leading position therein.

Still headquartered in Switzerland, the Chinese market was approached with an own affiliate eight years ago after an unsuccessful trial with an importer (p2, I.4-5). According to CoOne it was an expansion with full power and full risk, as they setup offices in four tier 1 cities (p2, I.96-100). By now the Chinese affiliate is well-established and led by a consistent management team. However, branding activities are centralised and need to follow quite mature and tough brand guidelines, but localisation measures, as presented further below, are in the responsibility of the affiliate. The collaboration between the HQ and the affiliate is characterise by an “outstanding” and trustful relationship, which is needed when doing business in China, as exemplified through the following statement: collaboration is comparable with a crisis situation, where the “front fighters get munition from the HQ and if not it gets hopeless very quickly” (p2, I.102-104). In addition, CoOne emphasizes the fact that its business strategy and brand strategy need mutual support (p1, I.74-75).

Brand Concept

The focus lays on the corporate brand, as product brands are not explicitly “pushed” and this accounts for China likewise (p1, I.96-98). The core value is trustworthiness, as the brand intends to stand for a trust-advisor. Pioneering and knowledge-based are further values that shall underline the brand’s identity to match the stakeholder’s expectation towards the premium and high-quality products (p2, I.127-136). Brand identity values are lived throughout the company at every touchpoint to keep the brand promise, as shown through the organisation’s culture (p2, I.118-122).

It is the objective to transform the customers attitude towards the brand from a medical concern to a lifestyle view (p1, I.58-60) through the brand and to become “top-of-mind”[8] (p1, I.41). Correspondingly, the brand strategy is constructed to control the message, manage various stakeholders and steer their behaviour at all touchpoints (p1, I.26-37). Additionally, it is set up to reach a pull-effect from the patient as professionals are heavily influenced by the competitive industry.

As the main products are produced in Switzerland, the Swiss origin was emphasized after the expansion to China from the start on (p2, I.87). The COO-effect is used by CoOne to claim the premium status and to represent the typical values associated with Swissness such as reliability, precision and high quality but also in fair, honest and direct business practices (p2, I.91).

Brand Presentation

The brand’s presentation at the point of contact is characterised by a consistent product presentation and prominent placement in the product stand (p2, I.156-158). The Swiss flag is used on the product packaging where applicable. The logo and visuals are not localised, though (p2, I.113-114). A Chinese name with a neutral meaning exists for the corporate and product brands (p2, I.342-347). However, not everything is translated into Chinese so that it is still recognised as foreign brand (p1, I.171-176).

Branding activities encompass all common areas; information, promotion, communication and education. High emphasis is put on informing the public and professional audience supported by their clinical studies and state-of-the-art knowledge base (p2, l.33-35). A speciality of CoOne is that they can profit from their brand’s leading position in other countries and use it as a reference to confirm their credibility (p2, I.57-59). CoOne conducts product communication that is globally aligned, as defined by law (p1, I.145-151). However, marketing communication is localised; a flexible setting allows lifestyle-language and adjustments to the local mannerism (e.g. usage of cartoons) in advertising (p2, I.362-366). For promotion, common channels such as symposia and fairs with invited key experts and material, such as flyers and brochures are used (p1, I.158-159). Various social media platforms are used in a B2B but also in a B2C context and furthermore, a new mobile phone application provided (p2, I.198-208). Additionally, education is provided extensively to transfer research knowledge to internal (employees, distributors) and external stakeholders (professionals, vendors, patients) (p2, I.304-340).

Setting in China

The main competitor is not a manufacturer of the same products, but rather a substitute industry that follows another philosophy. Their success in recent decades poses a major challenge for CoOne to strive for success in the Chinese medical market (p1, I.52-54).

CoOne is a clear premium brand and positioned also in China in a niche market (p1, I. 5-54). An early focus on the online distribution channel put them in a leading position (p2, I.117-120). Because decision-makers in hospitals are heavily influenced by the competitive product type philosophy, CoOne established its brand in the retail business as a third distribution channel (beside the e-commerce and existing hospital network) and, therewith, targets end-patients directly (p1, I.20-24).

Furthermore, due to a missing dedicated specialist in the Chinese healthcare system (p2, I.24), CoOne set up specialty units in the hospitals to treat customers effectively and with it created another channel for its promotion and education (p2, I.410-414). With a consistent separation of distribution and communication, which is under their full control, CoOne prevents the dilution of the brand message and, therewith, assures a consistent brand experience at all touchpoints (p2, I.216-219). These arrangements can be seen as further localisation measures.

5.2.2 Case 2: Strategic Brand Management of CoTwo

CoTwo has been passionate about developing medical devices since 1946. With “Swiss Engineering”, precision technology and their commitment to individual service, they grew in the last decades to a medium-sized firm operating globally in over 70 countries. Now belonging to a multination corporate group, they profit from a given setting and can further develop their brand in new markets.

Three years ago, CoTwo started to approach the Chinese market with an own affiliate located in Shanghai, as their former importer experienced increasing lack of success. Using the sister brand enabled CoTwo to pursue a more instrumental market entry (p4, I.54-58). The affiliate is relatively autonomous as branding is rather decentralised (p3, I.68-69). Although high-level guidelines are specified, the affiliate is still in charge of localisation measures (p3, I.24-27). As only a small group of 3 local employees is responsible to serve the whole Chinese market (p6, I.44-46), they enjoy ongoing support of the sister brand. And, most notably, a designated brand coach and a country coordinator are at their disposal, facilitating regular contact with the HQ (p3, I.64-65).

Brand Concept

Within the corporate group, CoTwo still represent a stand-alone brand (p6, I.163:164). For CoTwo a couple of internal product brands still exist, as they have been promoted historically. However, nowadays the focus is put on their own corporate brand to strengthen the efforts for the benefit of the whole organisation in Switzerland and in China (p3, I.308-313).

While the brand strategy is pragmatically aligned with the business strategy (p3, I.50-53), CoTwo pursues a clear differentiation to the sister brand (p4, I.28-30), but is not in the “driver-seat”, due to the given group structure setting (p4, I.10-12). Nevertheless, with their distinctive and periodically reflected brand strategy, which is also aligned to the government’s 5-year plan, they want to reach a good image, primal trust and crisis resistant reputation (p3, I.346-348). Considering their resources this is rather achieved in a “gradual step-by-step process” (p5, I.32-37). Their ultimate goal would be to change people’s negative perception towards the medial device (p4, I.128-130).

The brands identity values – passionate, authentic and cooperative – are supplemented by four themes: technological competency, Swiss, individual and value-added service (p4, I.106-109), all predefined by the HQ. However, in China the values Swiss and value-added (high-quality but for an affordable price) are clearly emphasized (p5, I.208-210). Swissness is a very important differentiating factor and a “blind trust advantage”, as experienced by CoTwo and, therefore, explicitly used in the brands presentation (p6, I.70-71).

Brand Presentation

In order to find acceptance in China, the brand has a Chinese name with a specific positive meaning, again showing the Swiss origin (p6, I.100-102). Distinctively original Swiss visuals are used (p6, I.75:76) and the slogan is not adjusted, either (p6, I.111).

Branding activities encompass all common areas: information, promotion, communication and education. In the form of a common online portal and a mobile application for professionals and distributors, all kind of information is provided (brand/product/technology/industry news, end-user stories and campaigns) (p5, I.93-94). Furthermore, technical publications within journals are newly used to inform the professional audience and prove their technical advancement at the same time (p5, I.388-391). Promotion is done through established key hospitals, fairs and local congresses using key expert’s voice as referral, all within available resources (p4, I.327-329, p5, I.236-237). E-mail marketing, social media and commercial activities entail the possibility to communicate directly to customers (B2B or B2C) (p3, I.230-232). Education is used where primarily technical expertise is transmitted in product trainings (p5, I.268:269), but also the brand’s reputation is formed therewith (p6, I.190-205).

Setting in China

As patients are not knowable about the medical device, they rather trust the professional’s recommendation (p5, I.207-211). However, in general the challenge is the population’s negative perception towards the medical product (p4, I.128-130), stimulated by primitive products of local players (p5, I.115-118; p5, I.196-199). There is a strong competitive setting in the quite transparent, but saturated market, because potential customers that can afford premium product are limited (p4, I.261-263). Due to this and the rather late expansion of CoTwo, their brand is not yet known by their target audiences (p6, I.16-18).

The Swiss origin and the provided value-added service (after-sales and forever support) are seen as comparative advantages (p5, I.30-31). However, because CoTwo only operates in the B2B segment, they are dependent on the given distribution structure to supply hospitals and specialty stores for two reasons: (1) to deal with the scale of the country, and (2) to profit from the distributors existing relationship network (p5, I.215-219). Due to the distributor’s power and independency, the partnership is defined in a contract, which also tries to prevent the dilution of the brand message (p6, I.319).

5.2.3 Case 3: Strategic Brand Management of CoThree

CoThree is a traditional enterprise, still family-owned, with a history of more than 50 years. The company grew over the last decades to become a successful specialist for medical technology with subsidiaries all over the world. Manufactured in Switzerland, the products are known for being well-established, customer-friendly and innovative. The business strategy holds a long-term orientation to keep Switzerland as the manufacturing location (p7, I.89-95).

CoThree expanded with its actual brand and product portfolio to the Chinese market in 2010 as the last company in its industry segment (p8, I.51-52). Located in Shanghai, the affiliate employs a workforce of 6 employees, which are responsible for the whole Chinese market (p8, I.158-159). Branding is centralised and, as such, heavily predefined and controlled by the marketing and communication department of the HQ (p7, I.102-107). However, the support of the HQ in terms of branding inquiries is restricted since no one is explicitly in charge of branding (p8, I.237-239). The corporate brand is “omnipresent” at the forefront and owes the main brand promise, but key products are still treated as product brands (p7, I.223-224). The same holds true for the Chinese market (p8, I.399-401).

Brand Concept

In comparison to Switzerland, where the brand has the power to influence the decision-maker (p7, I.22-23), in China it is not established and, therefore, less powerful in transferring the message to the target audience (in this case to professionals) (p7, I.138-140). As branding is not a top priority in establishing CoThree in the Chinese market, a brand strategy is not explicitly defined. Rather, the global brand strategy is assigned to all countries with no major adjustments (p8, I.220-221). Correspondingly, for China no branding objectives are specified; undertaken only in the context of global and local marketing activities. Seen as the affiliates current strategy is the finding of distributors.

The brands identity is represented by the following values: long-term oriented, conservative but innovative, high-quality and Swiss technology (p7, I.93-94). Although it is of Swiss origin, the brand is not linked to it, as clarified in more detail in the next section.

Brand Presentation

The Swiss origin is not referenced or illustrated through the brands visual appearance. Through its logo, the brand is connected to the European area, used strategically by CoThree in order not to be associated with a high price, which poses a disadvantage in mature markets (p7, I.172-178). However, the understanding of Europe is extremely diverse in China and the geographical term the brand name contains, is seen as disadvantage by the Chinese affiliate (p8, I.179-188). But according to the HQ, the affiliate is free to express the Swiss origin verbally (p7, I.180-185).

The brand has a Chinese name without any particular meaning – just associated with the founder’s family name (p8, I.372). The owner is an important brand ambassador in mature markets, as the brands identity is lived through him. However, he has not established valuable relationships in China (p8, I.405-408).

Also for CoThree, branding activities encompass all common areas: information, promotion, communication and education. An own special edition journal, a newsletter and a Chinese website are provided by the Chinese affiliate in particular for the Chinese market (p8, l.115-116; p8, l.238-239). Nevertheless, the content and visual appearance is still controlled by the HQ due to compliance reasons (p8, I.223-225). As usual in the industry, promotion at congresses and fairs in the form of stands, flyers and brochures is done. More special are company visits in Switzerland, which were organised for key persons (p8, I.255-256). To communicate with target audiences, existing channels were enhanced with social media and blog articles (p8, I.91:98). Education is conducted extensively in various formats such as presentations, video, live operations or stages in a key hospital or in Switzerland and has shown its efficiency (p8, I.285-288). In the company’s view, “branding associated with education is better remembered than with promotion”, in adherence to the importance of education in the Chinese culture (p8, I.281-282).

Setting in China

As a last player that entered the Chinese market, found competition is tough. Hence, the primary goal is to acquire distributors – in the case of CoThree with approaching unsatisfied distributors (p8, I.54-57). As it is forbidden to approach the patient directly, target audiences are professionals, which are mainly accessible through distributors. Indirect supply over distributors makes it more complicated (p8, I.22-24). CoThree has only limited control about what is communicated by the distributor; sporadic monitoring is the only way to prevent brand dilution (p8, I.139). Also in case of CoThree, Chinese patients are not as mature and, thus, fully trust the professional, who is the clear decision-maker (p8, I.314). Moreover, as the medical device is not a consumer product, branding that is directed to the patient is not important (p7, I.19-21). Its competitive advantage is the manufacturing of a specific material that local companies are not able to replicate (p8, I.378-381). As an imported product in the high-end segment, a premium price can be demanded, but a certain limit is set through the tender process (p8, I.337-341).

5.3 Cross-Case Analysis

As a result of the comparison of the described individual cases, similarities and differences are presented and briefly explained in the following paragraphs.

5.3.1 Similarities of Cases

A couple of similar factors have been given through the predefined sampling criteria. As a first and foremost primary condition, in terms of their size, all three have only limited resources to establish themselves in the Chinese market compared to big MNC including other large-sized Swiss MedTechs. Neither of them make use of local production on Chinese ground; they all together focus on a technically advanced and well-grounded manufacturing and import their innovative, high-quality products into China. Consequently all three case companies approach the premium segment, which is limited but entails a reasonable size. The established affiliates in China are dependent on the Swiss HQ in all three cases. Nevertheless, they all differ in the degree of given leeway as well as support and the prevailing relationship, namely the cross-culture cooperation, as disclosed further below.

Due to their Swiss roots, all three companies can make use of the COO-effect. Supported through the preference for foreign products by the Chinese and further enhanced by the outstanding reputation of Switzerland and Swiss brands, this can represent a clear comparative advantage. However, not every company examined in the multiple-case study profit fully from this advantage, as shown later on. On the contrary, the brand architecture is standardised; the companies focus on the corporate brand and this accounts for both settings; in their home market in Switzerland but also in the expanded market in China.

On the whole, similar branding activities, broadly categorised as promotion and education, were pursued by the three sample companies. Here again, the scope of activities is based on available resources and defined priorities. Main promotion consists of traditional congresses and events for the professional target audience, as customary in the industry, often using key experts as referral and demonstration products, flyers, brochures as visual material. Newly they also focus on the online community with Chinese social media channels. However, its actual effect is clearly dependent on the product type and on the target audience’s engagement with the medical device. All three sample companies emphasize on the importance of educating their target audience. Even though a varying perspective distinction (internal, external) and the use of different configuration, the common goals they all want to achieve are; transferring knowledge, professionalise handling, strengthening the relationship and implicitly shaping the brand’s reputation.

In every case, a professional brand presentation is used to adhere to the premium touch. However, when going into more detail, localisation measures of the brands presentation varied, as seen in the preceding case presentation section and summarized again below (ref. to section 5.3.2). As the original colour theme of the brand was advantageous in case of CoOne and CoTwo and at least neutral for CoThree, no adaptation was conducted there. However, all sample companies defined and registered a specific Chinese name for their brand, entailing a positive or at least a neutral meaning.

A premium price can be demanded by all three companies in the acting segment, since their medical devices have to be paid by the end-patient mainly through out-of-pocket contribution. However, as the companies are involved in tendering processes a certain price limit is given. In general, prevailing external factors such as the Chinese culture, regulations, distribution structure, tender process, competitive environment, business practices and the healthcare system are equally difficult to handle for all three companies. Nonetheless, there are specific differences in handling these external factors, as described in the next section.

5.3.2 Differences of Cases

As a precondition for using the brand as an equity, it has to be established successfully in the market. That is only possible if there was time to build the brand and this in turn requires an early expansion, which in turn is given through the corporate history and strategy. This only accounts for CoOne – CoTwo and CoThree are still at an introductory stage. The brand development stage correspondingly has an immense influence on the brand objectives set, the brand strategy chosen and actually affecting strategic brand management as a whole. This understanding helps to put some of the following evaluations into the right context.

In terms of a strategic emphasise, CoOne uses the established brand for the brand’s transformation and the setup of a further division. On the other side, CoTwo relies on gradual steps to establish the brand, whereas CoThree has no explicitly defined brand strategy for the Chinese market, both due to limited resources. These resource issues are a consequence of the implemented organisation structure (centralised vs. decentralised) and the prevailing relationship (trust vs. control vs. support). For CoThree, support in terms of branding is restricted, whereas CoOne and CoTwo can rely on support by the HQ, in the form of allocated financial and/or personal resources. This is also apparent in localisation measures. Apart from the specific Chinese brand name, CoThree pursues only minor localisation in brands expression. CoTwo chose to focus on brand values, within the given framework, that ideally fit the Chinese market, to focus on the COO-effect and to choose a meaningful Chinese brand name. CoOne went even further and also adapted promotion campaigns and how to approach the market, as further shown below.

As emphasized in the previous section (ref. to section 5.3.1), COO, although being viewed as advantageous, is not used consistently by all sample companies. Whereas CoOne and CoTwo officially focus on Swissness visually, CoThree only can point out the Swiss origin verbally, as defined by the HQ. On the contrary, CoThree can make use of its owner, as a dedicated ambassador, to show the brands credibility and trustworthiness, which is not optimal employed in China, though. Given comparative advantages are used by CoOne – another reason, why they succeeded in establishing their brand in the Chinese market. CoTwo and CoThree on the contrary, don’t use their full potential yet, what might be due to their brands development stage and the limited focus on an explicit brand strategy.

Several conditions differ between the sample companies specific target market. The engagement and maturity of end-patients, for example, is heavily dependent on the product type and the perception towards the medical device. Here CoOne has an edge over the other two sample companies, because of a special allowance to use traditional advertising for informing professionals and end-patients equally. Although all sample companies operate in the same industry, the product type and consequently the target segments and audience vary. Broadly speaking, CoOne acts in B2B and B2C, CoTwo in B2B and only minor in B2C whereas CoThree strictly operates in B2B.

To prevent brand dilution within the given distribution structure, different approaches are followed by the three companies: in the form of a separate communication (CoOne), statutory conditions in a contract (CoTwo) or through regular visits (CoThree). As only established foreign brands are copied by local manufacturers, CoOne is the only company of the sample that needs to deal with that issue accordingly, namely to prevent harm of reputation through copycat products.

As seen in the case presentation, all sample companies are aware of the cultural differences. However, in the context of branding, they consider this knowledge differently. CoOne explicitly adapts its branding activities according to the Chinese cultural preferences and makes use of the culture change in China. CoThree emphasizes on traditional cultural values and correspondingly focus on education as branding tool (in alignment with Confucian values) and on building strong relationship (guanxi) to key stakeholders, such as the government. In contrast, CoTwo rather agrees on the strong awareness of Chinese people for foreign brands, not on a clear statement of the importance of guanxi, which is changing these days. To handle the cultural factor, CoTwo relies on local management to deal with cultural issues in the daily business accordingly.

The various themes and topics that have been elaborated within the cross-case analysis will be further discussed in the next chapter .

6 Conclusions

This chapter discusses the key findings from the cross-case analysis, critical views and contrary perspectives in order to provide a reflected reasoning. Based on a narrative storyline, the research sub questions facilitate as milestones on the way to answer the study’s main research question in the overall conclusion section. The recommendation chapter then consists of the knowledge contribution of this thesis to the general practice and theory in the form of propositions. Finally, also future research directions are suggested.

6.1 Discussion

As introduced at the beginning of this thesis, strategic brand management is one possible way to support the positioning of a company in a foreign market. The central question that arises is HOW to conduct strategic brand management. This entails subjacent questions regarding challenges, brand dimensions and localisation measures, which are answered next.

6.1.1 Challenges for Swiss MedTech Companies in China

What are challenges related to brand management confronted by Swiss medium-sized MedTech companies in China?

Using the jungle metaphor for the huge Chinese market – due to its massive scope, size and diversity – there are various challenges awaiting. A major difficulty is to deal with the prevailing bribery practices in the given distribution system, as explained in the Findings section (ref. to chapter 5.1). Taking this as a part of the business culture, medium-sized Swiss MedTech companies are requested to deal with it accordingly and to operate in a grey zone. Although the end-patients won’t judge the corruptive practice until they are directly affected, it is a harm of the brand in the rest of the world, if foreign companies infringe against their compliance rules. Hence, medium-sized Swiss MedTech companies need to be aware of the potential damage on their reputation in a global context. Furthermore, for the strategic brand management, the prevailing market distortion – not the best brand receives the tender, but the one that pays the most – represents a disadvantage.

A second challenge for foreign MedTech companies is the prevailing distribution structure itself. However, it entails not only negative aspects, but also positive ones. Considering their network in terms of scope and influence, a MedTech company can profit from distribution partners. The threat of brand dilution needs to be prevented and various approaches, as elaborated in the Findings section exist. Nevertheless, the implementation again is a matter of available resources and the organisational setting.

- Proposition 1: Find the right distribution partners to build relationships (“guanxi”) and prevent brand dilution through strict agreements in terms of communication.

Although representing severe hurdles, regulations, such as product registrations, are legitimated to a certain point, because medical devices can harm patients substantially. However, non-equitable is the fact that local manufacturers don’t need to fulfil the same rules and that regulations are changed unilaterally. Consequently, valuable resources used to cope with these prerequisites cannot be used for activities related to brand management.

These and a couple of other external challenges, such as the healthcare system, tender processes or cultural traits, given through the prevailing macro-contextual setting, are serious challenges for Swiss MedTech companies. However, every foreign company has to deal with these. As the sample companies have shown, it is rather decisive with which mind-set – positive or negative – these are assessed.

- Proposition 2: Find a way to deal with prevailing market characteristics having a positive attitude towards the external challenges.

Also, internal challenges concerning the relationship between the HQ and the affiliate exist, as seen in the Findings section. Due to the large distance and the different culture, it is a matter of trust, control and support, be it financially or personally. Considering the size of the sample companies, there are not massive financial resources. Therefore, at least personal support and understanding of the affiliate’s situation in the foreign cultural context is advisable.

- Proposition 3: Provide the needed resources (for strategic brand management), both financially and personally, and balance out trust and control to support the affiliate best possible.

6.1.2 Crucial Brand Dimensions

Which dimensions of a brand are crucial for a successful establishment in the Chinese MedTech industry?

One can argue that all dimensions of a brand, as shown in the conceptual framework, are important for a successful positioning of the brand in the Chinese MedTech industry. But, as examined in this study, there are some crucial dimensions and factors, which were presented as follows:

Firstly, for a medium-sized Swiss MedTech company it is the brands identity; technologically advanced, innovative and high-quality characteristics together with the Swiss origin are clearly advantageous. The latter is particularly crucial since the preference of foreign and the good reputation of Switzerland and Swiss products are indisputable in China. However, the country of origin benefit must be used consistently (visually and orally) to show an honest brand expressiveness, as indicated by the cases evidence. Conversely, the importance to emphasise on the Swiss origin is accessed differently by the Swiss HQ and the Chinese affiliate. Whereas the characteristics of Swissness from a Chinese or emerging market perspective is seen as advantageous, from a Swiss or Western perspective for a global market it is rather seen as a disadvantage.

- Proposition 4: Use the Swiss origin consistently as a key comparative advantage for the Chinese market.

Secondly, the brand architecture respectively the emphasis on the corporate brand is crucial in the Chinese market in order to bundle all forces that are needed to target the broad stakeholder audience as well as to build long-lasting and trustful relationships. As proposed by Kapferer (2012, p. 121) to “capitalize on very few strategic brands” is one of the key principles for strategic brand management.

- Proposition 5: Focus on the corporate brand in order to bundle all forces needed to compete in the market place.

Thirdly, crucial are also some brand activities, as shown by the case findings (ref. to chapter 5.3.1). In general, the more stakeholders and influencers are approached, the more efficient a brand can be established, though again considering given resources. Education, used as brand activity is indisputably important in the Chinese MedTech industry. Although, by now all foreign and some local companies are using education as branding activity, still justified through the well receiving Confucian values and the lack of professional education, it is important to keep pace and invest even further. However, there remains the question of sustainability, which education or training entails, as a repetitive activity in general, but also due to the high staff fluctuation rate (Thompson, 2015; SBA Stone Forest, 2015).

- Proposition 6: Use education as branding activity to shape the corporate reputation and to strengthen the relationship to all stakeholders internally and externally.

In addition, incorporating and localising social media activities is important, considering the extraordinary trend in China, even for B2B markets, such as the MedTech market. Using the encouragement of online communities is another key principle for the new strategic brand management (Kapferer, 2012, p. 121).

- Proposition 7: Incorporate social media (in a localised manner) as branding activity to approach the target audience.

Finally, a last crucial factor in the dimension of brand presentation, according to the empirical findings (ref. to chapter 5.1), is the Chinese brand name. The brand name needs a good translation with a positive or at least a neutral meaning, because only a minority of the Chinese population can understand the Western phonetic. This is not only crucial for B2C; nowadays it is also important in B2B segments.

- Proposition 8: Choose a Chinese brand name that conveys a positive or neutral meaning.

6.1.3 Localisation of Brand Strategies

To what extent shall brand strategies of Swiss medium-sized MedTech companies be adjusted to the local macro-contextual conditions?

Case findings have shown that the positioning of the brand in the Chinese MedTech market is a trade-off between the full use of a global brand, entailing all advantages of standardisation, and the adaptation to local conditions. According to most recent literature (ref. to chapter 3.3), this is exactly the domain of strategic brand management. As examined with the three sample companies, a finely nuanced proceeding is needed. From the perspective of this study’s sample companies, localisation measures shall achieve the greatest possible impact with the given resources. Even if it is only a medium-sized company with limited resources, strategic brand management in China is a matter of priority within the company.

Based on the empirical findings, localisation measures can be categorised as must (brand name, distribution structure, social media), should (education, communication), could (visual presentation), but also must not (price, origin) implementation proposals.

- Proposition 9: Consider localisation measures seriously, but keep in mind that a trade-off is needed in order not to lose the foreign touch. As a guidance on the tightrope walk, localisation measures can be categorised into must, should, could and should not.

However, through the different characteristics of the cases, the findings have also shown that possibilities in strategic brand management depend on the segment the MedTech company operates in (B2B and/or B2C) and the complexity the medical product has.

To conclude, localisation is a balancing act; although important to consider, it is crucial not to squander the benefits of a foreign brand, in case the brand is localised too much.

6.1.4 Critical Considerations

The preceding discussion has dealt with detailed issues assuming that the brand is an important asset that a company has to manage deliberately. But how relevant is the brand in the Chinese MedTech industry, a rather B2B market?

Based on the three cases examined in this study, one can conclude that it depends, among others, on the type of the medical product and the correspondingly approached market segment. If a company can operate in a B2C or B2B2C market with a consumer product (like CoOne), it can approach the end-patient directly. Then, the brand, in the form of a trust indicator, is relevant to influence the end-patient as decision-maker. However, if this is not allowed or not feasible, given through the complexity or exertion of the medical product, professionals need to be approached (as seen for CoTwo and CoThree). Consequently, the brand might lose relevance as professional’s decisions are based on other influencing factors, such as monetary rewards.

Also, in the discussion above, branding was seen as strategic imperative. But considering all prevailing macro-contextual factors and priorities mentioned by the case companies, how relevant is strategic brand management for medium-sized Swiss companies in the Chinese market?

Strikingly speaking, one possible argument is as follows: In case a brand is known and established in the market, it is relevant in order to use its power as a comparative advantage. Therefore, strategic brand management is needed to explicitly maintain the brand with a defined strategy and also to prevent copycats. Otherwise, when a brand is not yet known or established in the market, strategic brand management is not a priority, as there are other hurdles to overcome in order to enter the market. This means that financial and personal resources are needed for other more critical organisational activities.

However, this cannot be viewed in isolation. Branding is a part of establishing a company, as for example for registering products or finding distributors a brand is needed. It also depends on how strategic brand management or a brand strategy is defined. According to the empirical findings, only CoOne has an explicitly defined brand strategy. Rather important is that activities that have an effect on the brand are aligned with the corporate strategy, the brands implicit identity and the local context. Finally, this is still a reasoning for a strategic consideration of all organisational activities undertaken in a foreign market, like the Chinese MedTech industry.

6.2 Overall Conclusion

All previous elaborations have shown, that there is no black and white about how strategic brand management of medium-sized Swiss MedTech companies in the Chinese market should be conducted. Or in the words of Keller (2013); “Branding is not rocket science, in fact it is an art and a science – there is always a creativity and originality component involved” (p. 19). In the course of this thesis, branding practices of three sample companies have been examined to present a possible approach on how, in the specific case of medium-sized Swiss companies, strategic brand management in the Chinese MedTech industry can be performed.

The study’s results have also shown that Western research approaches can be applied in the specific field of Chinese MedTech industry. However, a special focus has to be put on external conditions (also challenges and threats), which influence the brand concept directly (brand name, education) or indirectly (distribution, regulation, business practices). In China, it is, therefore, a rather “outside-in” than the “inside-out” perspective strategic brand management holds in Western, mature countries. To conclude the abductive approach, the developed conceptual framework would need to emphasize on this contrary perspective.

Overall, it can be said that compared to Switzerland, China is in many aspects a different world. Consequentially, it can be concluded that for a purposefully positioning in order to survive in the Chinese competitive marketplace, strategic brand management needs to be taken into consideration. The challenge lays in the optimum trade-off between standardisation and localisation; some measures must, some should, some could but also some shouldn’t be adapted. As a balancing act, it is crucial not to miss the advantages of a foreign brand, in case the brand is localised too much. This points out the importance of using the COO-effect in this very specific context. The Swiss origin is a clear comparative advantage and should, thus, be treated carefully. However, all this is reasonable only if resources – financial and personal – are fully provided by the HQ, which in turn is predefined by the corporate brand strategy and corporate strategy in general.

In this spirit, the answer to the main research question is given, based on the explored empirical data from the sample companies in the form of practical propositions, as summarized again in the next chapter.

6.3 Recommendations

This thesis contributes to the creation of knowledge especially in terms of a practical guideline to be used by practitioners, which is presented in the first section of this chapter. From a theoretical perspective it represents a standpoint that can be extended and built on in future research, as the second section then suggests.

6.3.1 Recommendations for General Practice

Swiss medium-sized MedTech companies can conduct strategic brand management to establish their brand in the Chinese market through following the guidelines of the established propositions, listed collectively on the next page:

Table 3: List of propositions for strategic brand management

illustration not visible in this excerpt

Source: author

However, even if all propositions are fulfilled, guarantee for immediate and definite success of the company cannot be taken for granted, as strategic brand management is only one discipline within the corporate business and it is influenced by other factors that cannot be steered.

On this note, these proposals represent suggestions to advance the strategic brand management. As described earlier, the assessment of a successful brand positioning is relative and for a medium-sized Swiss MedTech company can also mean to achieve appealing a small, but dedicated target audience and fostering new or established business relationships within a specific niche.

6.3.2 Recommendations for Future Research

This study fills a very specific research gap in examining Swiss, medium-sized MedTech companies competing in the emerging market of China. Therefore, the results cannot be directly applied to other industries or countries. However, to strengthen the conceptual framework and increase the findings, further case studies fulfilling equal or similar sampling criteria could be examined.

Seeing that large international competitors from other foreign countries, such as USA, Germany, Japan, Australia or Canada are competing successfully in the same premium segment in the Chinese MedTech industry, further research of their branding activities would shed more light on how an optimal strategic brand management shall be conducted.

In addition, although the COO-effect in general and Swissness in specific have already been investigated (from a Swiss perspective) extensively in the past, it would be interesting to track the trend of the COO-effect in China, given the fact that Chinese manufacturers misleadingly use the Swiss origin for their copycat products and therewith harm the Swissness effect virtually.

As this study used a multiple-case design that followed an abductive research approach, it does not represent fundamental branding research from an emerging market perspective. Within qualitative research this would only be feasible with a fully inductive approach examining (also) local manufacturers. In this respect, the in the literature review stated gap of missing research from an emerging market perspective is still prevailing and future research as such strongly encouraged.

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8 Lists and Indexes

Abbreviations

illustration not visible in this excerpt

List of Figures

Figure 1: Thesis outline

Figure 2: Research process with logical chain of evidence

Figure 3: Chinese healthcare market characteristics

Figure 4: Global brand proposition model

Figure 5: The brand system model

Figure 6: B2B market characteristics

Figure 7: Conceptual framework – strategic brand management

Figure 8: Case study procedure

List of Tables

Table 1: Profile of sample companies and participants

Table 2: Detailed information data collection

Table 3: List of propositions for strategic brand management

[...]


[1] Medium-sized companies: 300 – 2000 employees as defined by the National Development and Reform Commission – NDRC (as cited in Mirmulstein and Ramalho, 2010, p. 34).

[2] Westernisation describes the social process of converting to the customs and practices of a Western civilization (Vocabulary.com, 2015)

[3] What counts as “successfully”, as a relative evaluation, is measured and judged differently depending on the specific situation. In general, “successfully” is defined according to common dictionaries as having attained honours, positions or achieved wealth and social status (Oxford Dictionary, 2015; Dictionary.com, 2015). Applied on brand management, it can be measured with financial figures such as the brand’s equity, the return on investment (ROI) or rather with emotional factors such as publicity or endorsement.

[4] Free Trade Agreement, entry into force: 01.07.2014, bilateral Switzerland – China (State Secretariat for Economic Affairs SECO, 2014)

[5] What counts as “successfully”, as a relative evaluation, is measured and judged differently depending on the specific situation. In general, “successfully” is defined according to common dictionaries as having attained honours, positions or achieved wealth and social status (Oxford Dictionary, 2015; Dictionary.com, 2015). Applied on brand management, it can be measured with financial figures such as the brand’s equity, the return on investment (ROI) or rather with emotional factors such as publicity or endorsement.

[6] Medium-sized companies: 300 – 2000 employees as defined by the National Development and Reform Commission – NDRC (as cited in Mirmulstein and Ramalho, 2010, p. 34).

[7] The dimension “product at contact point” and all external factors are combined in the section “Setting in China”.

[8] Is defined as the image, name or attribute "that comes to mind immediately", i.e. a brand that consumers recall first (The Economic Times, 2015).

Details

Pages
64
Year
2015
ISBN (Book)
9783668141001
File size
1.1 MB
Language
English
Catalog Number
v315336
Institution / College
University of Applied Sciences Northwestern Switzerland
Grade
Tags
Strategic Brand Management medium-sized Swiss MedTech companies standardisation vs. localisation COO-effect Chinese MedTech industry

Author

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Title: Strategic brand management of Swiss MedTech companies in China