Asian Brands Seek Global Recognition

By Eunice Nze-Peters

Asian companies seem to be waking up to the need for brand awareness as most of them are struggling with the creation of global brands. A new study has shown that Asian brands are increasingly turning to international agency networks for their advertising needs rather than working with local shops.

Some major brands which are leading the Asian charge globally

Some major brands which are leading the Asian charge globally

Pearlfinders, a media monitoring firm first noticed this a few years ago, before its 2015 Global Index report, which is based on interviews with more than 10,000 marketing and sponsorship decision-makers across Europe, US and Asia during the course of the past year.

“Initially, only a few global networks were able to capitalise on this demand, many of the big name players have recently established credible operations across Greater China, Singapore and Malaysia,” Mike Thorne, the Pearlfinder’s Product Director, said.

According to the report, the shift is driven by major recruitment activity, as they are looking to employ multilingual executives to run their brand marketing teams. The report also reveals that a sizable opportunity exists for European and American agencies that are able to demonstrate best-in-class capabilities.

Not many Asian brands have become a household name worldwide; the reason might not be too far from the perception that Asian countries have traditionally been low-cost producers of basic products, one that the Western world sees as substitutes.

However, the continent’s previous competitive edge of being cheap is no longer practical, Asian companies now face the challenge of building globally recognized brands, in order to sustain the growth. From the look of things, it may be years before most of them achieve true global recognition.

Although, many Asian and other emerging market companies have remarkable business successes, but they have not yet leveraged on that success into high brand value outside their home markets.

Citing Lenovo, the world’s second-largest PC maker, as an example, David Roman, the CMO of Lenovo Group said even after its high-profile acquisition of the PC division of International Business Machines Corporation, Lenovo is barely known outside China because the majority of their businesses are conducted within China, “The fact is that many Chinese and other emerging market companies have phenomenal business success, but they have not yet leveraged that success into a high brand value outside their home markets.” Roman said.

Jan-Benedict SteenKamp, professor of marketing at UNC Kenan-Flagler Business School and co-author of the book Brand Breakout: How Emerging Market Brands Will Go Global, stated that since their previous competitive edge-being the cheapest is becoming impossible to sustain, they need to start to add value to the product and this is impossible without branding.

When the image of a country gets associated with the product, it becomes even more complicated. If someone sold a pair of shoes made in Italy, it would have connotations of high quality, whereas a machine made in Italy may actually be inferior to, one made in say, Germany. If products have to compete globally, they can do so only on the power of branding.

For instance, Taiwanese computer marketer Acer Corporation, the world’s seventh largest, is one of the few Asian companies to succeed as a global player. Patrick Lin, director of consumer business said Acer seeks to build a long-term strategy, “It’s necessary never to stop promoting the brand image. But aside from some companies, like Samsung or Toyota, there doesn’t seem to be many other Asian companies doing a really good job of this.” Lin said.

As SteenKamp rightly said, ““Branding is not only about differentiating products; it is about striking an emotional chord with consumers. It is about cultivating identity, attachment, and trust to inspire customer loyalty.”

Creating emotional involvement begins by developing a good product or service that meets a consumer need or delivers value and benefits that they want. There is no chance for a brand to grow if the products and services attached to the brand name are ones that no one wants to buy.

The Facebook brand too is useful and since it connects people with one another, it’s a fundamentally emotional brand. Users had to accept a lack of privacy to be able to use the useful, good product.

Toyota offers a slightly different example of emotional brand involvement. They developed a superb reputation for reliability and quality. Owners of Toyota cars expected them to last 300,000+ miles with minimal problems. Toyota’s reputation became so secure that even after their competitors began offering significantly longer warranties, Toyota still led the industry in perceived reliability.

Despite a series of high-profile recalls and product failures a couple of years ago, consumers continued to buy Toyota cars and advocate for the brand. That’s because they were so emotionally connected to the reliably good products Toyota had been putting out for years. They are not ready to allow a bump in the road (recall) to turn them away from the brand they trusted. Consumers believed Toyota would make it right and return to its previous reliable promise.

The importance of understanding elements of cross-cultural difference in marketing practices for Asian firms entering the global market where competition is fierce and consumer preferences are different cannot be over emphasised.

Like Toyota, companies can develop a reputation that originates from the brand and leads customers to trust all it offers. A firm can also develop an emotional connection with consumers; it only takes time, persistence, and a strong dedication to quality.

Developing a solid brand is very challenging, but it is crucial to attaining recognition if a company must be globally successful. To be successful, a brand must become associated with emotions and experiences, not just products.


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