2013: It isn’t business as usual

In Dentsu Asia’s CEO, Dick van Motman’s words: “It isn’t business as usual.” .

Motman and other senior industry leaders spoke to Marketing on the outlook for 2013 and while more global economic turmoil is expected in 2013, all of them reiterated the increasing importance for Asia in the midst of the tumult.

“In a world where the US is re-emerging as a production centre, Europe is facing its version of the ‘last decade a la Japan in the 90’s’ fighting constant EU cohesion pressures/financial viability and emerging markets like China needing to watch its cost competitiveness, it’s fair to say the world remains in (economic) turmoil,” Motman adds.

Moreover, the Asia story is no longer only about only China and India. “Now the ASEAN region has a starring role,” van Motman added.

Sandeep Kohli, vice president of marketing, Southeast Asia and Australasia, Unilever echoed the sentiment saying that regions such as Southeast Asia would continue to rise.

“This means a drive into premiumisation, digitisation and sustainability.”

Key trends for marketers

Premiumisation, particularly for developing and emerging markets, will continue to shape marketing strategies as the rise of the middle class brings with it a requirement for more premium, aspirational products.

“Digitisation (at the top and bottom of the pyramid) is a key trend that all marketers must continue to embrace,” Kohli said. But together with the growth of digital, the need for integrated thinking will become almost indispensable for brands.

“While the goal of integrating marketing activities across all channels is certainly not new, one can expect focus on this to intensify,” Lito German, marketing director, BMW Asia said.

German added that in light of tightening privacy laws in the region, marketers will need to focus on co-creation platforms.

“Customers will be looking more towards one-to-one engagements or even community interactions that pull individuals together. Therefore, marketers might do better to concentrate on exclusive and targeted activities rather than the traditional ‘blanket’ approach,” he said.

E-commerce is another trend which will particularly play a vital role in shaping Asian consumer behaviour.

“This is where the relatively low costs of labour, technology, speed and scale come together. E-commerce enables companies to grow without incurring the same costs (like distribution, warehousing and sometimes even mass media) as before and makes availability of the brand wider, more instant and trackable,” Dentsu’s Van Motman said.

Perhaps the one trend which will dominate all else is mobile as  mobile marketing is set to become mainstream, say industry players.

Matthew Godfrey, president, Young & Rubicam Asia said 2013 would be the year of the rise of mobile marketing, which is yet to take off, despite the high penetration of mobile devices across the region.

“Given mobile’s exponential growth in China, India, the Philippines and Indonesia for example, such markets are primed and ready for mobile marketing to really take hold,” he said.

Rod Strother, director of the Digital and Social Centre of Excellence, Lenovo said that the year would hold key changes for social media.

“First, the industry as a whole will focus more on established platforms because there has been investment made in these areas over the past year and we’re beyond the proof of concept stage. Companies will begin to ask more questions as to how platforms can be better utilized and what they can achieve with these platforms,” he said.

This also means these established platforms will be under pressure to show what value they are providing to businesses.

“Although a new platform seems to be released almost every week, we believe companies will be more selective and will begin to consolidate their presence on platforms as there are not limitless resources to manage multiple platforms,” he added.

Dollars and cents – what about marketing budgets?

For many brands there may be no significant change in budgets but the allocation of it will be adjusted for higher impact marketing activities.

Kohli said Unilever’s marketing budgets would involve further investment into digital in Southeast Asia and globally.

“We will also focus on the ‘how’ as well as the ‘what’ of the current spend. A key priority is to ensure our investment works harder where it can. For example there’s even more clutter in the marketing space, we shall experiment across traditional media to make sure our work is more innovative and more engaging with our consumers. We’ll also increase our investments to continue to our brands with both the consumer and community,” he said.

Van Motman has strong expectations, saying that as winning in Asia becomes more crucial for global companies, this will be reflected in marketing budgets.

“Other contributing factors will be costs of media and talent. And this is where it’s not a just a linear belief of what doesn’t get spend in Europe moves to the East,” he said.

Godfrey said he expects to see budgets channeled into digital.

“Marketing budgets for 2013 will have already been set in Q4 2012, and will have been decided based largely on sales. So the differentiator will be those clients who are hungry for growth and want to increase sales by truly innovating and standing out from the competition.”

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