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Brands Asia loves: 4 tactics for global brands to navigate Asian marketplaces

Brands Asia loves: 4 tactics for global brands to navigate Asian marketplaces

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As a brand strategist, we are in constant discussions with global clients about brand localisation. Local markets tend to struggle with global brand propositions, while global brands need to safeguard their brand values and personalities consistently across all markets.

Here, I would like to offer some observations about successful brand personalities and behaviours in Asia as inspiration for global brands navigating in the region.

The Asia backdrop

Using BAV’s terminology of brand knowledge and esteem, we can understand the attributes brands need to ensure success in the Asian marketplace. To be truly successful in this region, brands need to ensure strong and clear differentiation and relevance because these are the deciding factors for what makes a brand gain strong engagement and success with
the audiences. But how should brands navigate in Asia?

Over the years as an experienced brand marketing observer in Asia, I have noticed a consistent preference for certain brand archetypes in Asia. And these brands tend to perform better with Asian audiences. While Asian values in general cultivate collectivism, social harmony, loyalty and respect towards authoritarian figures, brands they love expect opposing values because these brands are extensions of oneself. They favour brands which are badges of recognition, associations, and a subtle way to stand for something. Brands with certain personalities/archetypes become voices for these

But what are the brand archetypes that work well in Asia? And why should global brands
observe them?

Archetype #1: Brands with a cause or purpose as part of their business

These brands are perceived as constantly up to something, always in motion and never satisfied or content with the status quo. Typically, these are brands that are considered purposeful and accessible. They democratise access to services or products.

They are often fighting for a cause or mission. CSR is traditionally seen as an internal corporate communications agenda, but there are many opportunities for brands themselves to play by this rule to drive serious participation, engagement, and love for the better good. Asian consumers want to be part of something bigger.

They want brands that walk the talk at the heart of what the brands stand for. This is a great opportunity for brands to offer a platform that consumers can participate in and be a part of. Notable brands in this space: Neiwai, Uniqlo and IKEA.

Archetype #2: Brands with loads of charisma

These brands are social magnets – they are fun, quirky, playful, relaxed, trendy and cool. Interestingly, we see many serious or aged categories/brands using this tactic to attract and engage new or younger audiences. This method helps brands reposition themselves by creating a more approachable brand environment so consumers can get to know them

Notable brands in this space: Wuling, Don Don Donki, Yeo’s.

Archetype #3: Brands taking a leadership posture

These brands are bold, brave, opinionated, disruptive and market innovators. Traditionally, most successful tech brands play by this rule, however, we are also seeing more sports apparel and lifestyle-oriented brands taking this stance. In the world of sameness and harmony, Asians love a slight streak of rebellion and being able to break away from social
norms in order to stand out. These types of brands offer permission and opportunity for self-expression.

Notable brands in this space: Grab, Apple, adidas, Nike, Coke, and Nio.

Archetype #4: Brands that are highly exclusive (only for those in the know)

In Asia, there is a strong aspiration to own exclusive or rare possessions. Brands that are prestigious, glamorous and with high resale value become very desirable. This is why certain luxury brands or limited editions work extremely well in Asia. These brands validate their success to attain the unattainable. The counter-reaction to this is “quiet luxury” in which the fewer people know, the more desirable something becomes.

Notable brands in this space: Exotc travel destinations, high-end luxury fashion or property development.

In conclusion, these four archetypes are inspirations and observations derived from BAV about brands in Asia. They work as inspiration and thought starters for global brands seeking to navigate Asian marketplaces.

This article was written by Saw Gin Toh, head of strategy, VMLY&R Singapore.

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