India and Indonesia are the largest democracies in Asia, with young populations, confident consumers and impressive growth rates. Looking to these markets for strategic input will be increasingly important for Europeans in the years to come.
The recent BrandZ reports from India and Indonesia illuminate many important aspects of APAC brands. Millward Brown has conducted BrandZ research globally for over 17 years, interviewing three million people about more than 100,000 brands.
For European CMOs, three lessons from India and Indonesia are particularly useful to absorb: how to embrace contradictions, build brand trust through genuine engagement, and create mobile innovations where the digital and physical meet.
The second highest climber in BrandZ India is Lakmé, a personal care brand that is part of a growing trend of indulgence. The brand is, however, also rooted in traditional Indian culture--its name is a derivation of the Hindu goddess Lakshimi. Straddling the extremes of present-day beauty ideals and ancient tradition, Lakmé is perfectly comfortable in both worlds.
In both Indonesia and India, embracing dualities is often a necessity. Parts of both cultures are deeply concerned with preserving traditions, while a rising middle class wants to consume everything new and exciting. Instead of ignoring or fighting these divisions to create singular brand messages, Asian marketers embrace contradictions.
One key to Lakmé’s success has been innovative marketing tactics that modernise its brand heritage. This becomes especially obvious at the Lakmé Fashion Week, the brand’s own fashion event run in co-operation with the Fashion Design Council of India. Having an entire event dedicated to the brand is an exceptional opportunity to hone brand messages and communicate them to a large audience. It sets Lakmé apart from domestic and international competitors, and ensures that the brand is a centrepiece and not an accessory at the event.
At Lakmé Fashion Week the models wear cutting-edge styles and traditionally inspired dresses alongside each other. Different styles from the catwalk are shared on social media, highlighting the Lakmé cosmetics worn by all types of models. The brand clearly communicates to its consumers that it is just like them: with one foot in each world.
Many of us will habitually assume that brand messages should have a single focus and that complexity is only a distraction. But by embracing contrasts at the heart of a brand message, marketers could gain much in terms of brand value and market penetration. Consumers are not single-minded entities and if they can identify with a brand on a deeper level, they will be more loyal, trusting and willing to engage.
Building Brand Trust
Trust is indeed another key issue in Asia-Pacific. In both India and Indonesia, banks dominate the BrandZ rankings, spurred on by strong public trust after surviving the financial crisis relatively unscathed. Being symbols of a renewed sense of empowerment also helps banks stand out--and marketers know how to use this.
Both BrandZ India and Indonesia found that people’s brand trust is higher in Asia than globally. In India, a third of consumers trust brands, while in the UK only a quarter do the same. This is partly a cultural difference and partly due to market factors. However, trust has also much to do with brand craftsmanship that stimulates positive re-enforcements.
A great example is the second-highest ranking brand in BrandZ Indonesia, Bank BRI. The bank has won consumers’ acclaim by offering credit to small businesses, helping them grow all around the country. Three quarters of the credit it provided in 2013 went to micro, small and medium-sized companies. By helping businesses flourish and using the slogan “Service from the heart”, the bank has managed to win trust across large sections of the population.
Bank BRI continually positions itself as helping to build the economy of the people--an important message capturing a central aspiration for individuals and for the collective population. It also offers specialist Islamic banking services--a large market in Indonesia--remaining respectful to religion while avoiding overtly religious messages or using religion as a sales platform. This method of engaging with important aspects of people’s lives in a modest and sympathetic manner is not unique for the brand, but the way Bank BRI does it is better than most.
In Europe, marketers will on occasion feel they are facing jaded consumers uninterested in building real relationships with brands, but this attitude is something to be wary of as it can become a self-fulfilling prophecy. By actively seeking out ways to build genuine brand trust, marketers can create a much stronger base for growth than quicker, less engaging strategies may achieve.
Mobile And E-Commerce Meeting The Real World
Online consumption is the final area where European marketers can learn a lot. In Asia-Pacific, the online-to-offline (O2O) market is more advanced than in Europe. And when merging the physical and digital in Asia, one aspect of consumer behaviour is unmissable: online basically equals mobile.
Only 16 out of 100 Indonesians have an internet subscription. But the share of mobile subscribers in Indonesia and the UK is exactly the same sky-high figure: 125 mobile subscriptions per 100 consumers. This means that very few people are online without doing something else at the same time, and that no online campaigns are seen in isolation.
Asian marketers have a constant focus on multi-screening and blending mobile and e-commerce with physical retail. The Indonesian brand Telkomsel, for instance, is a mobile provider expanding into electronic payments. Telkomsel came in at number three in BrandZ Indonesia--and the brand has realised that mobiles can, and are, used for much more than communication.
It has even linked up with Bank Maridi, number four in BrandZ Indonesia, to improve access to financial transactions. Since 2007, Telkomsel has been offering its T-Cash solution, designed to make remittances, online banking and payments easier. In 2013, T-Cash had 13m users and it has become a much more integrated part of phone banking than similar systems elsewhere.
Telkomsel also hosts large events with corresponding social media campaigns, which gives consumers both a reason to use its product and promote the product on social media. This summer, for instance, the brand held a Ramadan event across six Indonesian cities over one weekend. Throughout the online/offline interactions, Telkomsel’s mantra of “Go Discover” gives consumers a unifying purpose, which makes the brand’s entire O2O ecosystem hold together.
Seeing online campaigns in isolation is meaningless in APAC. As mobile grows in Europe, looking to the Asian frontier is one of the best ways to get new ideas for integrated digital/physical strategies.
Watch This Space
Many Indian and Indonesian brands are huge in their own markets, but still waiting to break through internationally. The key for these brands will be how to translate market-specific USPs to global USPs. Keeping an eye on which brands manage to grow globally and how they do it could be a great source of learning.
Asian markets will only grow bigger and dominate more of the global arena. The US government has predicted that in 2030 India’s economy will be bigger than both Germany’s and Japan’s, while Indonesia’s economy will be on par with Italy and Canada. The efforts to understand how Asian brands operate will pay off for marketers who apply their new insights in clever, tangible ways.