Emerging markets in Asia Pacific: what marketers should remember when planning campaigns

The Voices of Momo campaign in Myanmar was launched in December 2017 by a coalition of global conservation organisations.

A cursory glance at any forecast released by agencies and market research companies on mobile usage, advertising spend, ecommerce and digital economies usually throws up fast growth rates for the Asia Pacific region.

For example, a 2018 spring report by Magna Global predicts the APAC advertising market will grow by almost 7% in 2018, ahead of previous expectations of 5.9% growth, to reach $165bn, which means it remains the second largest region for advertising spend, behind North America’s $218bn.

A joint-report by Google and Temasek Holdings in 2017 showed that Southeast Asia’s Internet economy reached $50bn in 2017 and is set to reach $200bn by 2025, while a Kantar TNS study showed that over three quarters (77%) of people in APAC with access to the Internet made their most recent online purchase on mobile, in comparison to 61% globally in 2017.

So how should marketers use these statistics to their advantage in APAC and what kind of opportunities lie in wait for them, especially in emerging markets like India, Bangladesh, Myanmar and Vietnam? After all, as Kaye Quema, head of sales for Asia at Blis points out to The Drum, 2018 is a big year for advertising, given that there are so many big regional events that marketers can capitalise on, such as the Asian Games, on top of local events happening in each market.

For India, Anand Chakravarthy, managing director of Essence in India tells The Drum the country offers exciting opportunities for marketers because it has a large consumer base with a very large and growing middle class who have spending power, an increasing consumerism and, hence, a higher propensity to try new categories. This is coupled with a 'premiumisation' of categories, with consumers upgrading to more expensive brands, and a healthy and robust GDP growth that signals consistency and growth in market opportunities.

“Low costs of media, as compared to many countries in the APAC region, is an advantage because in India, media costs are approximately five times lower than that of China. India also has a rapidly evolving digital ecosystem, with the largest base of online consumers, high mobile phone penetration and increasingly connected devices,” he adds.

In neighbouring Bangladesh, Rabeth Khan, chief executive officer of MACOMM/Dentsu and MediaAxis/Carat, an agency which is an official affiliate of the Dentsu Aegis Network, underlines the fact that Bangladesh has one of the most consistent gross domestic product growths in and around APAC, pointing to the economic stability of the country that has a population base of more than 160mn people.

These factors, he tells The Drum, justifies the positioning of Bangladesh as one of the biggest growth economy ranked by leading economy ranking organisations of the world. In addition, he points out that more than 40% of the population are below 30 years, which is why the government of Bangladesh has a ‘digital Bangladesh’ vision.

According to Khan, the Bangladeshi government sees factors like Internet penetration growth, smart phone penetration growth and continuous increase of middle class segment (one of the highest growth rates of credit card usage in Asia), online and mobile financial transaction usage habits, e-commerce growth, as all the right indicators in place for expanded consumerism opportunity.

“The government of Bangladesh’s amicable policies towards foreign investment has already drawn strong interests from global brands such as Honda, Samsung, Alibaba, LG, CBL Munchee and etc. All of these names have already made strong investments in manufacturing infrastructure to serve the business potentials of consumer growth of their brands,” he adds.

Getting around limited digital infrastructure

While mature markets like China, Japan and South Korea report figures of 53%, 91% and 86% Internet penetration respectively, emerging markets in APAC still face limited Internet access, even though mobile adoption is high, which means marketers must work extra hard to ensure that information is easy to find, digest, and is shared via word of mouth to spread brand messages and increase conversions.

To market in countries with the limited digital infrastructure, Quema of Blis highlights that both technology and creativity play an important part for marketers in the adtech space. She says this is because when a brand has great messaging that is supported by accurate data and executed via a well-integrated platform and implemented with a creative execution and message that hits to the emotions of target users, then it can have a ripple effect in terms of results.

“At Blis, we help emerging markets amplify their digital strategy by using our movement data capabilities to complement traditional media (such as TV and OOH) and determine ROI in terms of footfall by tracking accurate proximity,” she explains.

“In some cases, emerging markets also go through technology leapfrogging to a point where mobile has become an integral part of their lives. Our forte and USP is that whilst we are not only mobile-first, we are able to harness a mobile unique data signal (i.e. location) to build out highly accurate audiences and identify the best real-world scenarios to reach these users.”

Chakravarthy of Essence agrees with Quema and adds that it also comes down to how well brands are connected to audience insights and how is this reflected in the brands advertising on traditional media. “For decades these have been the most important levers to build strong brands that consumers are engaged with and talk positively about. In a digitised world, the excessive reliance on push messaging to drive engagement and word of mouth is in effect taking away from core basic tenets of good marketing,” he says.

The importance of hyper-localised campaigns

For countries that are large enough that they cannot be considered as an individual market, marketers must employ different hyper-localisation strategies. For example, India as a country is equivalent to seven or eight different countries, with differences in language, culture, socio-economic differences and food. That is why India is like Europe in a way, remarks Chakravarthy.

“Given this significant diversity, the media landscape has evolved accordingly. Firstly, media for each of these diverse regions is increasingly become unique clusters - with regional channels, newspapers, radio stations and even digital content. So, media choices for different regions are different, he explains. “Secondly, given the diversity in culture and socio-economic context, the opportunities to market to consumers in these different regions also differ. With different festivals, wedding season, climate markets need to tailor-make solutions accordingly.”

Even communication and the kind of insights one uses would be different for different regions in India, adds Chakravarthy, as fundamentally, smart marketers recognise this and do not adopt a 'one shoe fits all' strategy.

While India and Bangladesh share a border, one common mistake global brands make is that they feel Bangladesh consumers and culture is close to India, which in reality, is not the case, according to Khan, as the ways of life and living of West Bengal, which speaks a different local dialect, is also different from Bangladeshi ways.

“Localisation is necessary in terms of language, which is Bangla. English is widely spoken and understood in the key urban areas. For advertising and communication campaigns, it is strongly recommended to deploy local language for efficient results and use local consumer insights and nuances,” he explains.

One campaign that did well in an emerging market is the Voices of Momo campaign in Myanmar, which was launched in December 2017 by a coalition of global conservation organisations in response to the elephant poaching crisis in the country. The campaign, conceptualised by communications agency Rice, wanted to encourage individuals and organizations across all sectors to use their voice to drive awareness and education, and call for the end to illegal wildlife trade in Myanmar.

To do this, organisers held a three-day public exhibition, in addition to a social media campaign, of seven life-size papier-mâché elephants at Mahabandoola Park in downtown Yangon in partnership with Myanmar visual artist Arker Kyaw. In addition, they also formed a partnership with local fair-trade shop Pomelo to design and sell miniatures of the elephants, which were prominently displayed during and after the exhibition.

With no paid media and depending on Facebook posts from influencers like meteorologist Dr. U Tun Lwin (1.3M followers), singer Eint Chit (462,702 followers) and singer Bunny Phyo (392,000 followers) the Voices of Momo’s Facebook page managed to reach 564,979 people and 3,121 page likes. Statistics from media intelligence company Meltwater showed that the campaign earned a 106% media exposure from the time of its launch to May 2018 and received 50% positive sentiments.

Another campaign, this time in Vietnam, saw Unilever’s dishwashing liquid brand Sunlight trying to change attitudes towards women in the country as the Vietnamese society still lays the burden of the household on the shoulders of women. With the help of MullenLowe and Ogilvy, the brand created a film and used key opinion leaders such as prominent psychologist Phan Thi Huyen Tran, and influencers like Hoang Bach, Thu Ha, Trang Moon, Dang Khoi and Trang Ha to hold workshops, write articles and post about how women can have a life beyond chores on their social media accounts.

The campaign achieved 11 million views for the film on YouTube, with 90% of views coming from the target audience (women aged 25-34) and reaching almost 12% of the Vietnam population, 200-700 shares per key opinion leader post and 6000 submissions for the ‘Life over Chores’ activation on Zalo app, wherein women pledged to a ‘life over chores’ and shared pictures of the time they spent with family and friends, self-indulgence or new experiences

Mimrah Mahmood, regional director for media solutions in APAC at Meltwater says the campaigns in Vietnam and Myanmar showed it is important for brands to understand local nuances and trends. “By understanding the external environment, brands can better tailor their campaigns for emerging markets, positioning themselves as a first-mover in their respective industries,” he explains.

The campaigns also proved that social media and online needs, need to be considered as a key medium for advertising, more than above-the-line platforms like print and television if a campaign is geared for younger target audience from the ages 15 – 30. As Khan notes, campaigns that usually do well in emerging markets are those that understands the target audience carefully, the cultural insights, the religious sensitivities and the cultural undertones.

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