Home textiles

1 Introduction

Home textiles is a kind of soft decoration in a home, including bedding, curtains, towels, kitchen cloth, sofa fabric and cushion etc (Zhang, 2005). It plays an important role in creating and beautifying a home environment.

1.1 Growth of Chinese home textiles market

The China's economy has been grown rapidly for over 20 years (Euromonitor, 2010). People's deposits are increasing every year improving customers' purchasing power (Yao, 2010). They spend more and more money to purchase home textile products in order to advance their living environment and standards. Thus, the home textiles market is fast growing in recent years and is account for RMB 500 billion market share in 2009, recorded a 20% compound annual growth rate (CAGR) from 2000 to 2008, and with a forecast of 10-15% CAGR for next 5 years (Liu, 2010). It is also believed that home textile will be one of the fast growing markets to whole textile industry in China in next 10 years (Zhongtou, 2009). In addition, Chinese companies realise that brands can create more profit than manufacture and become more confident for their products and management to build brands (Yang, 2010; Gilmore 2003). Therefore, many textile and garment companies especially original equipment manufacturers (OEM) that have quality and various products consider that it is a good opportunity to extend their business into the home textiles field and enter the brand wars in the Chinese market (Zhu, 2007).

Furthermore, the development of home textiles in China is still at the beginning stage compared with American, England and other developed countries. Generally, according to consumption habits in developed countries, consumption of home textiles, clothing and industrial textiles account for one-third respectively, while current consumption of clothing textiles in China accounts for about 65% of the total, only 23% of home textile. In addition, expenditure for home textiles is less than 1% of the whole living consumption per capita in China (Tian, 2009). The gap of consumption pattern for home textile between domestic and foreign shows the future trend of development -- Home textiles in China has a huge space for development.

1.2 Behind the attractive home textile market

According to Qiru Securities Institute analysis, China now has more than 20000 home textiles enterprises, and the number is growing every year (Tian, 2009). The competition is incredible fierce. The market is facing an adjustment of structure. At the end it is estimated that only 20-30 companies which have advantages of brand, technology and scale in their market segments can make good profits. It is just similar to what happened in the household applianceindustry 20 years ago in China (Tian, 2009). Moreover, low-end home textiles are overproduction. It cannot meet consumers' needs as the change of the society and the increasing awareness of cultural and health (Zhongtou, 2009).

The average life expectancy of Chinese brands is only 7.5 years. Most of brands died during growth because of the lack of branding (Yang, 2010). Currently, the home textile industry shows many problems including vague brand positioning, the lack of creativity and innovation etc (Hu, 2009). Thus, branding for home textiles is increasingly valued in China, and some current literatures illustrate the ways to build up successful brands form market perspective. However, not much research attention has been given to the field of effective use of design helping branding for home textiles in China.

Therefore, this paper focuses on systematically analyzing and searching opportunities to improve home textile brands in China. It investigates customer's needs and studies successful brand and design strategies to create a design-led brand framework for succeeding in the Chinese home textile market.

2 Key Question, Aim and Objectives

2.1 Key question

How can design be used effectively to help build successful home textile brands in China?

This research concentrates on creating a design-led brand framework for home textile brands in China.

In which aspects can design help and promote branding?

What are motivations and barriers of building home textiles brands in China?

What are Chinese consumers' characteristic and real needs?

How does cultural issue affect pattern of people consumption?

What are the situations and development trends of home textile brands and market in China?

How can design be applied effectively to promote branding?

What key elements can be found from related successes or failures experiences to assist home textile branding?

What design-led model can improve home textile brands in China?

In order to gain an in-depth understanding of these issues, and at the end formulate a valuable answer for the key question, a thorough literatures review, case studies and several qualitative and quantitative primary researches will be implemented in this research.

2.2 Aim

The aim of the research is to develop a design-led brand strategy for home textile brands in the Chinese market.

2.3 Objectives

For achieving the aim, five objectives have been set up:

1. To review theories and literature on building design-led brands.

A literature review needs to be conducted in order to frame the foundations of this research. It investigates the principals and concepts of building design-led brands, and gathers valuable information to set an analysis base for the further study.

2. To investigate the feature and status quo of the home textile market, branding and consumers in China.

The feature and status quo of the home textile market, branding and consumers are important, in some extend determining and influencing what model will suit and promote home textile brands in China. The relationship of culture and consumer behaviour will also be investigated for identifying some cultural particularities of Chinese consumers.

3. To analyse existing successes and failures in home textiles in China and other countries.

Some of the selected cases of home textile branding in China and other countries will be studied to identify the primary elements used to develop the strategies and to compare them, in search of common success and failure experiences.

4. To identify and develop the primary design and brand factors for a brand strategy of home textiles.

After getting an overall insight of the market, brands and consumers in China and studying the strategies from the existing cases, some critical design and brand factors will be identified and developed for home textile branding.

5. To create a brand framework for successful home textile brands in China.

The purpose of this research is to create an applicable brand framework which can help home textile brands to use design effectively and succeed in the Chinese market. The brand framework will be set up through investigating and analysing all the information gathered in the foregoing stages, and will be able to assist and direct home textile brands from the first step of the branding process.

3 Research Methodology

3.1 Design of Research

The research methodology comprises preparation, understanding, analysing and developing four stages.

In the first stage, the foundations of the research have been set through a wide literature review, some specific case studies and interviews. And a pragmatic plan for the project was drawn up.

It studied the theories and concepts of building design-led brands through existing literature, and investigated background of home textile industry and brands in the Chinese market for identifying opportunities and barriers.

During the stage 2, the primary and secondary research were conducted to get in-depth understanding about context, market, consumers, culture and branding issues for home textiles in China.

It gains insight from experts and customers through a questionnaire survey and interviews with academic, brand consultant, brand and design managers.

Ethnography and think-aloud techniques are for understanding the attitude of consumers and culture issues.

In the stage 3, some existing successes and failures cases of home textiles in China and other countries will be evaluated, and combine with the analysed results from the last two stages to identify the key elements of design and branding.

The last stage, based on the gathered information and data, develop a brand framework for home textile brands to promote effective use of design and succeed in the Chinese market.

3.2 Research Methods

3.2.1 Literature Review

The literature review is interspersed throughout the whole process of the research. It includes a historical background, a profile of current context for home textile brands in the Chinese market, an analysis of relevant theories and concepts of design-led branding, and indicates a gap from previous work.

A full range of relevant materials will be investigated, including books, journal articles, reports, theses and dissertations from other master or doctoral students, conference proceedings and online sources.

3.2.2 Case studies

It is considered that the case studies are the best method for investigating contemporary phenomenon from some actual events (Yin, 2009)

The case studies in the first stage are for revealing opportunities to improve home textile branding in China.

The case studies in the third stage will compare and contrast existing successes and failures in China and the UK to discover vital strategies of design and branding.

3.2.3 Questionnaire Survey

The purposes of conducting questionnaire survey are:

1. To understand consumers' purchase behaviour

2. To analyse how customers appraise the design of home textiles in China

3. To comprehend how design affects consumer purchase behaviour in the process of the brand communication.

The research was carried out in China. On the basis of aims, questionnaire was designed with four general and nine specific questions, focusing on products, design and branding (Appendix 1). A total of 106 local residents responded to the questionnaire through both email and street interview, which consists of 69 females and 37 males.

3.2.4 Interviews

“Individual interviews are ideal for learning exactly how each person feels and thinks about a topic or design, without concern for the influence of others (Laurel, 2003 p25).” Moreover, interviews with relevant experts are a quick way to find out key issues that others may already analyse and evaluate (Laurel, 2003). In this study the conversation was taken by three stages for different objectives:

First stage:

Identify opportunities to improve home textile brands in China. It followed a loose outline, and took maximum 20 minutes each person.

Second stage:

Tightly scripted guide of the interview has been designed in order to obtain in-depth and meaningful results about design and branding strategies for home textiles in China. The duration of these interviews ranges from 20 to 40 munities.

Third stage:

Discuss the key brand and design strategies and improvements. (Appendix 2)

Interviewees include professor, brand consultant, president as well as senior marketing and design executives.

Interviewees

Position

Company

Stages

Wang Fengying

General Manager

Lanling Home textiles (China) Co., Ltd

1

Yuan Hongsheng

Chairman

Jiangsu Goldsun Clothing Industry Co., Ltd

1

Liang Wenjun

Interior Designer

Mi Ning Interior Design Studio

1

Wu Haiyan

Professor

China Academic of Art

2

Zhao Xia

Vice Director

China Textile Information Centre

2,3

Chen Jinxin

Vice General Manager

High Fashion Silk (Zhejiang) Co., Ltd

1,2,3

He Wenfeng

Design manager

Jiangsu Goldsun Clothing Industry Co., Ltd

1,2,3

Mu Feng

Vice Director

China Brand Development and Research Center

3.2.5 Think-aloud protocol

Think aloud method is to observe a user in a certain scenario and encourage them to "think-aloud", saying their thinking and wondering at each moment. It can rapidly gather high-quality feedback from people (Someren, Barnard, Sandberg, 1994).

A definite procedure has been specified in order to better implement the research and accomplish its target (Appendix 3). The observer encourages consumers to tell their thinking during the purchase, from visiting different shops to buying products; and inspires them to involve into the design providing some suggestion. Furthermore, some questions have been prepared in advance to remind the observer the primary aspects of the research, including shop location, surrounding environment, display, brand name and logo, product design etc.

3.2.6 Ethnography

Ethnography, as a research approach, plays an increasingly important role to design, business and other fields, It focuses on studying human behaviour to understand the way people go through and the meaning of what they perform (Laurel, 2003).

In this research, the ethnography has been applied to obtain in-depth observation of people's behaviour, beliefs and preferences by filming them in a real environment, followed by interviews with the observed people for understanding some details and their feeling to home textile products (Appendix 4), which can assist designers to make sense of users cognitive pattern and develop rich details to products (Laurel, 2003).

The use of different research methods in the each stages will result in mutual complementarities and validated outcomes, and which benefits both targeted customers and home textile brands.

4 Analysis of Findings

4.1 The Role of Design in Branding

Since twentieth century branding has become central to companies (Aaker, 1991), the value to business of having differentiated brand is indisputable (Clifton et al., 2003).

Design has emerged as a critical differentiator for many brands to achieve a differentiated status in the minds of customers ().

As products and services are increasingly serving as emotional expressions for consumers, design has (Steinbock, 2005)

design is considered as a differentiator to contribute to the whole process of branding - “When design strategy aims to create a better brand, improving product, packaging, or service performance, it increases the financial value by boosting sales, exports, and customer-perceived value.” (Borja de Mozota, 2003 p)

A brand is more than just a product.

Branding is not only about ubiquity, visibility and function, but about ‘emotionally bonding' with a target group of customers. And a major part of that process lies in the design.

The effective use of design is a crucial contributor to the effectiveness of business activities and to overall corporate success. (Bruce, Cooper, 1997)

Design and branding: design is a link in the chain of a brand, or a means of expressing brand values to its different publics. (Borja de Mozota, 2003)

Design, therefore, is a process of creation and decision making. It is not a substitute for other activities. Rather, it supports other activities and partners creatively with the field of marketing, endeavouring to strengthen and broaden its techniques and capabilities. (Borja de Mozota, 2003)

Designer can play a bigger role as brand integrators.

4.2 Understanding the Context and Market

Who is your market?

How is it segmented?

Which market segment(s) has the business identified as primary? Which are secondary?

What are the demographic and technographic characteristics of users in these segments?

What are the existing or expected usage patterns of these users?

How are the needs of these segments currently being met?

Which competitors are also vying for these segments and how are they currently attempting to meet their needs?

4.3 Result from Case Studies

11

4.4 Result of Interviews

11

4.5 Result from Survey with Consumers

11

5 Discussion

Lady Kitty Chisholm described some important elements when people develop their future. Although the topic is not focus on brand or business issues, the principles of planning future

6 Recommendation and Conclusions

Lady Kitty Chisholm described some important elements when people develop their future. Although the topic is not focus on brand or business issues, the principles of planning future

References

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Somerern M.W. Barnard Y.F. Sandberg J.A.C., (1994) ‘The think aloud method: A practical guide to modelling cognitive processes' London: Academic Press
Yin R.K (2009) ‘Case study research: Design and Methods' 5edn London: Sage Publications, Inc.

Borja de Mozota, B. (2003) ‘Design Management: Using Design to Build Brand Value and Corporate Innovation.' New York: Allworth
Aaker D. (1991) ‘Managing Brand Equity' New York: The Free Press

Clifton R, Simmons J. (2003) ‘Brands and Branding' London: Profile Books Ltd

Appendix

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