'Culturally Tapped' how Asian Brands are Finding Competitive Advantage in Culture

19 Oct 2015|dimitropoulosp

As the Chinese market evolves and growth continues to slow, the battle for the hearts and minds of consumers is becoming increasingly competitive. Local brands are becoming much stronger and the advantages that used to be an inherent part of being a Western brand are being eroded. Chinese consumers are reaching new levels of sophistication, and as a result are demanding that all brands demonstrate understanding and a willingness to cater to their needs directly.

The success of a brand in the China market of course depends on many factors, but as the relationship between consumers, brands, and the ever changing world around them becomes more and more complex, there is an opportunity to think differently about how to drive growth and maintain loyalty. Smart brands will prioritize understanding this constant market evolution, from the way they view their broader role within society, construct philosophies and strategies to the way they do research, communicate and innovate. The key for such a shift in thinking and acting lies within culture.

Cultural Insight is a way of seeing differently and is an approach that can help us unlock the meanings behind everyday things. Using different methods of cultural analysis from semiotics to anthropology, this approach enables brands to look at their marketing challenges from an entirely differently perspective. Through the lens of culture, rather than consumers, it is possible to understand how meaning is produced within specific cultures and, specifically, how these meanings are evolving. This brings fresh perspectives and inspiring brand thinking, allowing us to understand things consumers can’t express, by looking at the world around them and drawing insight based on how that world communicates meaning and evolves through time.

In an ever changing environment, one of the biggest advantages that Chinese and Asian brands have over their Western counterparts is their inherent understanding of local culture and ability to use this knowledge to adapt and further refine their marketing strategies. Not all brands are clearly conscious of the importance of taking advantage of this opportunity, but unconsciously they are still leveraging the power of cultural awareness.

As local brands strive to differentiate themselves, cultural awareness is becoming an integral part of marketing strategy. Herborist, a Chinese cosmetics brand, is inspired by traditional values and knowledge, fusing the wisdom of traditional Chinese medicine with the effectiveness of modern technology to create products that capture the best of both worlds. The brand stands as symbol of the emerging cultural momentum of China that combines pride of the past with optimism for the future.
Brands are even turning the more negative aspects of Chinese life into innovative marketing strategies. The pricing of Airpocalypse IPA Beer is directly linked to Beijing’s air quality index, the higher the pollution the lower the price, it is even given away free if the pollution reaches a particularly high level.
It is not just Chinese brands that are using culture to drive competitive advantage. Innisfree, a Korean cosmetics brand, has recognised both the cultural desirability of Korea with young females (Korean pop culture is extremely popular) as well as the desire for natural products at an affordable price. All of this is underpinned by consumers desire to experiment, express their individuality, and have fun.
Brands that fail to understand culture exist in a vacuum, brands should draw their meaning and energy from culture as it shifts. The most successful brands are ones that tap into and even create culture themselves, allowing for more effective conversations with consumers. By recognising the importance of culture, Asian brands are well placed for further growth.

Written by Panos Dimitropoulos, Account Director of Cultural Insight, Sam Woollard, Client Development Director, and Philip Cox, Account Director.

Originally published in “Asia Brand Power” edited by Kantar Worldpanel.

Image source: Kantar Worldpanel.

prev next