American entrepreneur and marketer Seth Godin defines a brand as “a set of expectations, memories, stories, and relationships.” These qualities drive consumers to choose particular products or services, so it’s little wonder why brand perception is hugely important.
Samsung is one brand that demonstrates its know-how. For the fifth year in a row, the global electronics company has placed first in the 2016 edition of Campaign Asia’s annual study of the top 1,000 brands, a ranking of the region’s consumer memory bank. The study revealed how successful the company’s ad spend and consumer brand recognition has been during the year.
Yet Samsung, along with Nike and Apple, are only a few brands that have successfully—and consistently—established itself as front-of-mind for APAC consumers. So how do these industry juggernauts achieve their branding mastery?
Brand strategist and author Martin Roll believes APAC consumers differ from those in the West by their stronger desire to stay on top of technology trends. “Asian consumers love technology,” he told CMO.com. “They also love to be innovators, be the first to use new gadgets, and individualise.”
Six of the top 10 brands in this year’s Campaign Asia study were consumer electronics companies, which is a reflection of how tech-savvy APAC consumers are. Samsung has nailed market demand by promoting its cutting-edge product features, Roll said, an angle that Apple typically places second to benefits and outcomes. He also said Asian consumers use products and brands to reflect their bourgeois status, which is a growing, regional demographic.
Entertain To Stay Relevant
In their quest to meet growing consumer expectations, top brands now understand that entertainment, technology, and design must have a shared focus, said Anders Sorman-Nilsson, an Australian-Swedish futurist and innovation strategist to industry leaders including Apple and Mercedes-Benz.
“Samsung’s large HD screens keep delighting digital natives [and digital immigrants] across Asia, while ensuring top-grade media and entertainment on their daily commutes in Singapore, Sydney, or Shanghai,” he said.
APAC brands will remain relevant, Sorman-Nilsson added, if they can strike a balance between digital and analogue experiences. “Through innovation and futurism, these brands connect with Asian consumers’ increasingly digitised, rational minds, while simultaneously connecting with analogue and emotional hearts,” he said.
Keep It Real Through Brand Authenticity
APAC consumers find brand authenticity, or a proven track record for delivering a consistent product and message, an extremely attractive quality, Roll said. He pointed to Nike—which first targeted the Chinese market by sponsoring the new pro basketball league in 1995 and funding local school sports—as a good example.
“Nike started early by persistently serving the grassroots in rural parts of China, giving out things and conducting small tournaments,” he said. “People don’t forget.”
In the 1990s and early 2000s, Asia was awash with counterfeit clothing and cheap products, and consumers were asking for better. “Then came Nike, who has been all about quality the whole time,” Roll added. “With the great American aspirational slogan ‘Just do it,’ they told consumers they could be Yao Ming [a national basketball megastar] if they wanted to be.”
Nike’s consistent promotion and delivery of quality products, grassroots marketing, and empowering message made it an emblem for “Western dreams,” which was very attractive to Asian consumers, Roll said. “Despite the rise of Asian pop culture, in the end people want to be part of the global village and believe in Western ideals of freedom and competing to win,” he stated. “Nike brings all of this to the table.”
The Transformative Economy
For companies wanting to replicate top brand success, two major factors are involved, according to Sorman-Nilsson: understanding the transformative economy and offering seamless experiences.
For example, from interactive LED basketball courts in China to a female-specific call to action in India, Nike continues to go beyond product hardware by offering transformation and improvement told through locally customised campaigns.
Regarding seamless experiences, Sorman-Nilsson pointed to the connectivity between Apple products as a prime example, as well as an expectation for technology-passionate consumers in the region. “Brands need to design seamless customer journeys that focus on removing friction from their consumers’ lives,” he said. “Those that can will be tomorrow’s hero brands.”