The rise of a new generation of brand-aware domestic players across Asia has been encouraged by a strengthening of the sense of consumer identity in each nation allied with an increase in national pride – all of which are reflected in product branding and messaging. Thanks to their thorough knowledge of local customs and habits and some serious investment, Asian branding has stepped into the boxing ring and is fighting its corner at a higher level, so Asian consumers actually have more brand influences, from east and west, and, increasingly, a fusion of both.
While growth and profit remain top priorities for all emerging market players, there has been a clear change in mindsets over the past few years. In addition to beating their competitors, emerging market players are increasingly focusing on corporate image and reputation."The Market Expansion Services for emerging market players: driving the cycle of growth in emerging economies" report, published by DKSH and Roland Berger Strategy Consultants
We spoke to some Asian brand owners and international branding experts to ask their insights on how to build and sustain brand value in Asia today.
Tony Fernandes, Group CEO, AirAsia
Tony Fernandes, Group CEO of AirAsia, introduced the first low-cost carrier to Malaysia with the tagline “now everyone can fly” in 2001. It is now a dominant player in South East Asia with routes to over 100 destinations across Asia Pacific.
AirAsia is widely considered to be a pan-Asian brand, but your operations are carefully targeted. How important has it been to adapt your service offerings, branding and marketing to the local markets in which you operate?
We made a lot of bold moves from day one. We ran promotional campaigns that were unheard of, partnered with global brands like Manchester United and never adhered to the status quo. In the early days we commissioned a local artist to come up with comic strips to educate the market on the low-cost carrier or LCC business model. Everyone thought we were crazy at first but it didn’t take long for people to embrace AirAsia and what we had to offer.
What’s the secret of your success?
We are unique in the sense that we are a group of airlines operating under one brand and therein lies our strength. We always strive to provide our guests with a seamless experience across all touch points, from our product offering and service to consistent branding.
David Aaker, Branding expert and Vice Chairman, Prophet
David Aaker, a recognized authority on brands and Vice Chairman of consulting firm Prophet, is the creator of the Aaker ModelTM and has published more than 100 articles and 15 books.
What is your recipe for brand success in Asia?
As the Asian markets mature and as Asian brands look to the global marketplace, they are improving their understanding of and management of brands and brand portfolios. Asian companies that build brands that are responsive to market dynamics will succeed. Those that focus on functionality and operations will be held back.
What are your favorite Asian brands?
I like a lot of brands in Asia and have written blogs on several in particular (aakeronbrands.com). I like the ability of Xiaomi to create a new subcategory with its low priced products driven by customer-influenced design and operational efficiency. I like the culture and branded innovation of Uniqlo. I like the brand vision and higher purpose of Muji as well as the feel of its stores. Finally, I like the ability of Tanita to leverage their brand and live a higher purpose.
Rainy Chan, Regional Vice President, The Peninsula Hotels and General Manager, The Peninsula Hong Kong
Created in 1928, and Hong Kong’s oldest hotel, the legendary “Grande Dame of the Far East” continues to set hotel standards worldwide, offering a blend of the best Eastern and Western hospitality in an atmosphere of unmatched classical grandeur and timeless elegance.
What’s the secret of your success?
The first and most important ingredient for long-standing brand success is to have our Chairman behind the company. As the majority shareholder, he has an amazing long-term vision for the company that empowers and equips us with the ability to build strong, lasting relationships with our customers, staff and partners.
How do you continue to make your hotel stand out from the competition?
I believe that visitors are attracted to the brand because of our company’s heritage of nearly 150 years and the fact that we’ve managed to stay true to our brand values with a tight control on quality. We are very niche, very personal, and very relevant. We stay pure to our brand in terms of investing in our people and products, and we never compromise when it comes to standards. Our discerned guests are not asking for magic, but they look to us for respect and commitment to delivering quality experiences.
Stuart Green, CEO Asia Pacific, Interbrand
Stuart Green is CEO Asia Pacific at Interbrand, the world’s leading brand consultancy. Interbrand started in 1974 when the world still thought of brands as just another word for logo. Over its 40+ years, Interbrand has changed the dialogue, defined the meaning of brand management, and continues to lead the debate on understanding brands as valuable business assets.
How have Asian brands developed over the years?
The first thing I would say is you have to be very careful using the term “Asian” brand, simply because Asia is so culturally varied. If I did make a generic statement, I would say that the progression of brands runs parallel to the development and wealth of the countries and their populations. As people across Asia become more wealthy and the middle class continues to grow, brands have emerged that cater to them. If you look at every market, one of the consistent elements is the emergence of domestic brands that are being created to cater to their own populations’ tastes and preferences, and in turn, in some cases, are starting to become regional and even global brands in their own right.
How can companies build a successful brand in Asia?
Have a deep understanding of the audience. I would say the region is far less homogenized than other regions such as North America or even Europe and the sheer cultural variety, behavioral nuances and unique tastes of people across the markets of Asia make the task far more complex. This is particularly true in sectors that are more “personal,” such as cosmetics, food and beverage (F&B) and hospitality for instance. Many Western brands have learned this the hard way in first assuming that just because they were successful in one market, they will be successful in another. In recent years their expertise and understanding of this fundamental issue has increased dramatically.
What’s your favorite Asian brand?
A feature of many Asian brands is their humble origins – often a single individual starting something small from scratch. Leading players such as Sony, Samsung, Uniqlo, Alibaba, Hyundai, Toyota, the list goes on, have all evolved from very simple beginnings. Some brands continue to utilize these origins as a key component of what their brand stands for. A brand I admire in this respect is AMOREPACIFIC, Korea’s leading cosmetics brand. If you look at their history you see great authenticity and respect to their origins that is still a key feature of AMOREPACIFIC’s brand proposition and growth strategy.