SHANGHAI — Alimama, the marketing technology platform of Alibaba Group, is partnering with brand consultancy Prophet to develop a new brand-building model that aims to help companies elevate their efforts beyond low-margin consumers in China.

The 'Brand META Model' aims to help companies build brand equity as Chinese consumers become increasingly wealthy and empowered, demanding more sophisticated and engaging customer experiences from companies.

Despite those trends, Alimama and Prophet believe that too many local companies are focused on building scale – creating a product, distributing it as quickly and as widely as possible and driving awareness with consumers. This, they say, has resulted in product proliferation, commoditisation and marketplace clutter, and has "left consumers with a bewildering array of parity options".

MNC brands, meanwhile, "continue to adhere to a rigid and traditional model of strategy, planning and execution that has limited their ability to become relevant in China and ultimately impacted their growth and profitablity."

Accordingly, the META model will help companies identify and maintain their core brand principles and positioning; evolve their strategies to account for crucial factors like micro-segments and the role influencers play; and transform their approach to take advantage of the data and "real time, omnichannel interactions that are unique to China’s digital ecosystem."

“In the digital era, Alimama believes that marketing is a valuable investment that helps accumulate consumer insights which will become important assets for brands," said Christina Lu, GM of the uni-marketing and strategy center at Alibaba Group. "With over 500 million active users on our e-commerce platforms, we enable brands to understand different facets of consumer preferences, which will be instrumental to effective consumer engagement and brand building.

To develop the model Prophet conducted interviews with China digital experts, including veteran marketer Tom Doctoroff, in order to obtain a deeper understanding of the impact digital has in the China market. Prophet also conducted research with executives of leading brands in various categories, both international and local, to learn about the insights, experiences and mistakes from those who have successfully embraced brand building in China’s digital age.

Prophet senior partner Jay Milliken unveiled the model during a keynote address at the Alimama Marketing Conference in Hangzhou last week.

“The breakthrough idea that changed marketing over two decades ago is that brands are strategic assets," said Prophet vice chairman David Aaker. "They are platforms that create ongoing value for an organisation. As more and more companies look to find growth in the exciting China market, the competition is more intense than ever. Brand asset with consumers is going to be a key determinant in who establishes themselves in China and who enjoys the growth that market makes possible."