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An alternative perspective: The rise of dynamic brands in Asia

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Asian markets prove more complex when it comes to accepting change and embracing social and cultural conventions.

After all, Asia is such a mosaic of cultures. Challenger brands who act alternatively can often fail to resonate amongst many Asian consumers as most market forces dictate the degree to which a brand can behave like a challenger.

How Asian brands soar

The Japanese have a popular saying “the nail that sticks up gets hammered down”. They are constantly reminded of this. Act like other people. Refrain from showing off. Conform. Follow. Do as you are told. This provides a strong dichotomy to the ethos of up-and-coming challenger brands with their rebellious spirit. Culturally, they go against the norm.

In China, in the interest of time and money, brands prefer to take on the ‘me too’ approach rather than create challenger brands. There is a big emphasis on being the same and copycat strategies are how brands are built. In the majority of segments, a serious level of investment would be needed to start behaving like a challenger.

Investment must be used in the right way if we are to start to see more challenger brands breaking through in Asia as society becomes more open to change. With tradition a big part of Asian culture, brands will not succeed if they strive to simply replicate a Western model.

Why brands fail

We are seeing an increase in local FMCG brand champions, raising their game to introduce a new level of competition and winning key categories by using their local knowledge and low-cost positions. Western agencies and brands must start to bend their rules to truly understand cultural nuances to think globally, but more importantly act locally in order to make an impact.

But how can brands remain consistent globally and stay competitive against local ‘me too’ brands that make the same claims and try to out manoeuvre at every turn?

The answer? With 1HQ expanding into Singapore, we are working with brands to maximise their premium credentials and start to understand the importance of having the speed and agility to adapt, innovate and communicate to local markets.

Singapore’s innovation ecosystem, welcoming dynamic start-ups, has a strong commitment to R&D, providing the right environment to empower business to take risks without being hampered by too many rules. This too may allude to a shift in the way both big and small brands start to behave in the market. With Singapore coined the ‘Global Hub for Innovation’ by Forbes, we may see more rules starting to bend and break, especially as brands fight to stay relevant amid the digital revolution.


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