I came across an article posted on the Insead business school blog that asked the question, “Where are all the Global Asian Brands?” The author, Brand strategist Martin Roll argued that ‘emerging market companies have grabbed market share by doing things faster and cheaper.’ He also said that those Asian companies now need to build brands to stay competitive. I can’t argue with that either.
In the article he says that most Asian firms believe that branding is about logos and advertising and that Asian firms must create value for customers if they are going to survive and thrive in the new world order. Again, I can’t argue with this and he goes on to state that there is a lack of strong brands in Asia.
He says this is for four main reasons
1) A transactional approach to business rather than one based on relationships
2) The prevalence of small businesses in SE Asia that prefer short term wins over long term returns
3) Weak legislation and enforcement to protect Intellectual property
4) The traditional, family based, hierarchical structure of businesses in Asia that doesn’t appreciate the importance of intangible assets.
I agree that boards, or certainly CEOs should guide brands and I agree that many Asian brands are poorly managed, especially on the soft skills side.
I believe however that this is mainly because demand has outstripped supply and as a result branding has not been a priority. Yes there are structural issues in many Asian firms and they will be found out however, many Asian firms are quite nimble and I am confident they are beginning to change, especially as more Western brands look to Asia as their own markets stagnate.
Now I don’t want to be accused of being pedantic and I don’t know what is Martin’s definition of an Asian brand but there are nevertheless plenty of global Asian brands from the aviation, automotive, transportation, Oil and Gas, entertainment, travel, banking, property, technology and other sectors.
Think of all the countries that are brands and their national airlines. The numerous LCCs, Proton, Haier, Sony, Petronas, Star cruises, YTL, Alibaba, Temasak, DBS, Maybank, SingTel, Tiger beer, Brands, Sampoerna, Lenovo, Jardines, Zalora, Chang Beer, Red Bull.
What is more important in my mind is that these companies became global brands in an economy that no longer exists. Where the political, social, cultural and communications ecosystem was very different to what it is today.
The danger Asian firms face is not one of inertia or fear it is one of using the wrong tools and techniques to try and build their brands. To challenge the established Asian brands and compete with cash rich Western firms and their massive marketing budgets, Asia’s challenger brands such as ZTE, TCL, CIMB, Hisense, Xiaomi, Ogawa, Jobstreet, Oppo, U Hotels and many more will need to be more focussed on delivering economic, experiential and emotional value.
If they try and compete, dollar for dollar with those established Asian firms and aggressive Western brands they will fail. Asian firms must be nimble, agile and ready to adopt new technologies and encourage their customers to be part of the brand’s DNA. Only then will we continue to see more global Asian brands.