From Tablets to Toothbrushes, Xiaomi Bets on Brand #makerbusiness
Xiaomi, the Chinese retailer that surpassed revenues of $15 billion in 2017, makes tablets, IoT devices, and now — shoes. The question for a rising retailer like this is often how it makes its mark. Making quality, stylish, or even smart products are not the only keys to a consumer’s mind. In fact, the brand is in part what locks it in.
Xiaomi reminds Towson of the old days of Apple when he used to go see what were the new products on display. But the similarities with Apple don’t stop at that or even at the design of Mi Stores and Xiaomi products (described as “simple, peaceful and humble” by senior director of industrial design of Mi Ecosystem Li Ningning).
According to Towson, Apple’s success was based on the relationship with its fans. This is how Apple turned itself from a consumer electronics brand into a luxury brand whose financials are not so different from Gucci and Prada. As Warren Buffet would put it, brands such as Apple own a piece of the consumer’s mind—they get into our heads and make us think positively about them. Xiaomi is halfway there, Towson believes.
Xiaomi fans or Mi Fans (米粉 which translates literally to “rice noodles” in Chinese) have indeed played an important part in Xiaomi’s growth. Mi Fans in China contribute to the design of Xiaomi’s products and participate in tweaking MIUI, Xiaomi’s smartphone operating system. They also participate in regular nationwide and city-level events.
At Xiaomi, the homepage banner reads “Xiaomi Global Community” — there are words like “ecosystem”, “network”, and “family” throughout the site. This could easily be read as the 89 companies and startups they are involved with, but its also an encouragement of brand and store as identity.
In order for companies to rise above the noise, let alone to the top, it will take more than advertising and great products. But when you do these things in tandem, paired with strategies Xiaomi is executing, customers may start to identify with your company. And if the Oracle of Omaha is right, that’s occupying very valuable real estate.
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