Screen Age

Through the use of ethnographic studies, Christophe Robert of Cimigo helped us to understand how evolving screen age lifestyles and emerging digital trends are shaping the future of Asian middle-class consumers.

In their research Cimigo  found that there is a generational divide in emerging Asia – young adults and teens lead full digital lives already, but those over 40 don’t think it is directly connected to the way the need to live their lives. It seems that in Asia technology is only exascerbating the concept of a generation gap.

In Asia, in general, there is a need to be conspicuously mobile – to be identified in some way with your connection to the devices you own (what brand, how many do you have, is it the latest…). While people are finding that their mobile gives them greater control in life (decisions, connectivity, communication), the flip side is that many Asian parents are experiencing angst that this technology will in the end end up controlling their children. Funny enough in contrast to this belief, Cimigo also found that many of these same parents have succumbed to the emerging trend of using these devices as digital pacifiers. A bit of a conundrum indeed. An interesting side fact to note is that in emerging Asia most middle class parents think of education as paper, so digital technology is not taken as  seriously in terms of education. This generational gap affects many aspects of life it seems.

In emerging Asia people still have digital fascination while in emerged Asia there is a growing era of digital fatigue. Some key elements  and at times contrasts of the two are:

Emerging Asia

  • Most parents use digital as entertainment – Connect-tainment.
  • Economic divides are still strong within emerging Asia.  Families live by strong budgets, so smartphones penetration may be low.
  • Digital is used to promote family values – share family stories and photos  – thereby underscoring the strong familial ties often found throughout the region.
  • Digital is used to create stronger connections to friends because use of social media and updated statuses giving real-time connections to emotions.
  • It is creating more time alone, but not  necessarily lonely people. In Asia it gives a new sense of privacy and freedom from family pressures and presence.

Emerged Asia

  •  Is always on….penetration of tablets and smartphones is huge.
  •  They have emerging frustrations and resentment with digital…i.e. a love/hate relationship towards digital devices.
  •  Their conversations are less extensive and tend to be more shallow, but are often used to rekindle old acquaintances.

Christophe believes that the term digital will become irrelevant once the entire universe is migrated online and there will be more and more peer review, so consumer-to-consumer feedback will have huge impact on brands and marketing.  The shapes and purposes of social media will change as we begin to think local and act global. Marketers will need to think local first and then expand out or they will not be successful and we must keep this in mind when doing studies, or our return on (smart) involvement will be worthless.

We are facing a brave new tech future – status will continue to matter, more is less, attachments to friends and love ones is getting stronger, reconnecting with old friends is key and there will be a plethora of new opportunities to take advantage of in the new screen age.

The brave new world….

Preti Mehra then showed us how to leverage digital more effectively. She showed that marketers must tackle the changes in the evolving media landscape while minimising innovation risks, which means that they must move towards working the in the channels that are best for them and break out of the comfort zone on spending only in the channels they feel comfortable in.

She suggest following the popular 70-20-10 rule:

  •  70 = the comfort zone – low risk bread and butter content
  •  20 = calculated innovation  – innovating based on what works – for many brands social media fits in this space.
  •  10 = high risk, content and brand new ideas – i.e.. mobile. In the end you must evaluate what is the true ROI?

Using this rule – she notes that the power of 30% could be key is helping marketers expand into new media innovation and territories. Different formats of digitial have different roles to play. Online display is where the bulk of ad spend is going and online video is more persuasive than static ads. Additionally repurposed tv ads can be good for increasing awareness,  while made for web can be used to have deep persuasive impact.

Mobile outperforms online display across all brand metrics…but it’s good to remember that users have high expectations for mobile. It must be competent, must know who they are and offer an exchange of tangible value. If you respect the format and medium,  audiences will be receptive.

Importantly, Preti noted that creative quality plays a big role in campaign performance. Poor digital creative has a negative brand impact, especially on purchase intent, as does inconsistent and not prominent brand presence. These all lead to poor branding. In the end you must  look for synergistic impact before deciding to go with one channel over another. Taking the time to do this can make or break your digital strategy and effectiveness.

Turning into TV ads

Using facial emotional technology, Alastair Gordon and Joe Wheeler, displayed some great technology showcasing how facial recognition technology can transform the understanding of advertising in Asia.  They showcased a study that not only challenge some regional myths but also explored total emotional life (total amount of emotion one feels) when viewing ads from around the region.  What they fund supported their idea that in Asia the style of the ad can affect the emotional response even more so than the culture – debunking some key cultural myths often embraced by marketers.

Ads with more happiness and that build and tell a story/narrative do well.  They found that it’s key to keep the emotions high during the branding parts of the ad – something that companies like Heineken often do well (in my opinion). Suspense is great for a good narrative story. When using this technology it’s vital to note when the high readings occur and how often.  If you get them early and sustain your emotional response, you are likely to experience success.

It’s important to remember that the  emotional response to advertising doesn’t vary so much by culture but is really correlated to the quality and differentiation of execution of message. Asian ads don’t need to be made simpler than others – in fact it can be offensive to do so. Asians want advertising that engages and the safe approach of following category norms can be quite dangerous.

Advertising Clusters in Asia

Shivkumar Moulee tested whether there were  clusters of ad markets in Asia and that perform similarly and if ads could be used across those areas.

By examining the performance of ads that had already been tested across various markets and then diagnosing them in a granular fashion, he was able to find the top performing ads and then compare the performance of the ad in two countries.

What he found was that Asia was a more diverse region than any other in the world with ad transference of 40%  versus 58 % in Western Europe and 51% in the US. He also discovered that within Asia there are intuitive geographical clusters  – Greater China, North Asia, India and Southeast Asia. The clusters, however are not as homogenous as one might expect.

  •  Southeast Asia has distinct clusters  with good ad transference between the markets
  •  In North Asia – shorter ads lengths work better in Japan and Korea, but Japan uses more stylised industry and Koreans like liberal use of celebrities
  •  India and China while different from the rest also show differences within….

In the end it’s often how developed a category is that affects how consumers respond to advertising. Differences in brand stature can also affect brand perception and expectations from advertising, while cultural differences and economic developments are changing expectations from advertising. It’s safest to focus your energies upstream with a strong and consistent positioning and advertising idea before attempting multi-country as promotion.   There is no need to waste your or your clients time.

Alex Wang then opened the last session of the day covering Asian brands and cultures.

The myth of brand in Asia

James Parsons of Flamingo Singapore gave a very entertaining presentation on the myth of the brand in Asia and how Western marketing just may be detrimental to brand success in the region.

Investment experts place large amounts of importance in brands as the brand is one of the few assets that can provide a long term competitive advantage. Or so they believe. This belief system has permeated marketing and MR with thinking that brands create magnetism and attract loyalty… think Saatchi’s Kevin Roberts and Love Marks….

But there is another school of thought out there that suggests that brands find more success through penetration than from loyalty – and James believes that within the Asian context this is likely where success is to be found. In his research he found that rising and declining brands displayed more change in penetration than purchase frequency, which tended to be more stable across brands over time.  The allure of loyalty is not is sexy as it appears to be…

Western marketing still focuses on love, loyalty, relationships, franchises etc… and has given birth to a whole new marketing dynamic.  The focus is on abstract values  and that model is problematic in the APAC region for particularly Asian reasons. In Asia the idea of consumerism is vastly different.  While America has been a consumerist society for more than for 60 years, China has only been in the arena for 15 years or so as has India. The ultimate question to ask is are Asians looking for emotional relationships with their brands? Is this something that Chinese or Bangladeshi culture supports and does it make sense to approach brand strategy form this angle?

Brands in Asia have a role but maybe not the same as in the West.  While Westerners are obsessed with the “individual”,  Asians tend to focus more on community or family. The Westa wants to understand the essence of things, while in contrast countries like China tend to be more interested in the inter-relationship of things. Overall, tangible realities tend to be more important in Asia versus the essence of the product.

Western marketing has developed with concept of above the line marketing for brands…but is this the same in Asia? Does 15 seconds make a difference in APAC?  If going for depth and essence likely not, but for reach and impact maybe…hence the high level of celebrity advertising in APAC countries. Quick and dirty -a s ad time is expensive and penetration is key.

The biggest takeaway – Asian marketing and communications discourse is heavily informed by Western traditions, but we it could be foolish and even deadly for your brand to not ensure these ideas are viewed through an Asian lens and perspective.

There is no such place as Chindia!

How can we develop cultural precision in growth strategies?  Anjali Puri of TNS India illustrates how this is done through her focus on China and India and the importanceof being precise when connecting to these two countries. They are two markets shaped by different histories and cultures, wealth and age differences (India is quite young and China will be increasingly ageing…)

So how can marketers tap into opportunities by exploring the cultural differences of these two countries? By reinterpreting the hero and ruler archetypes, Anjali attempted to find out why and how marketers can capitalise on these differences to reach consumers within categories.

Under the ruler archetype she notes that success in India is despite the system rather than because of it.  There is a profound belief in the individual rather than the state, in contrast to China which believes in working and acting together and has a  more controlling political system making for a more compliant mindset versus that of strong individualism…

India also has a  deep social divide – par is a zero sum game and their are defined and noted winners and losers in India. The display status and power is not permanent and power is only there if   someone else is behind you on the ladder.  While China is by many means a far more egalitarian society, where power must be earned to be socially recognised and deserved.

Under the hero archetype, Indian heros have shades of outlaw associated with them, supporting the concept of the end justifies the means. The Indian hero fights for a principle or cause and challenges the status quo, while in China heros take on a larger rival and success is achieved on your home ground.   Perseverance is key and one goes the distance no matter what…

Thus advertising that plays into these principles – strength or success through defeat or by hard work and dedication – can connect consumers with a brand in a stronger and more deep context. It seems that indeed there is no Chindia and brand owners will be thankful if you remember that.

Softpower aint so soft…

Once again, Dave McCaughan wowed the crowd with his mix of truth, humour and interesting research.  This presentation focused on the role that soft power  – the ability to influence the behaviour of others to get the outcomes you want –  can and will play in brand and marketing management (and many others areas of our lives as well) in the future.

Softpower is no longer optional, but many of us don’t think about how we should or will actually measure soft power when the time comes. Quoting from a WARC paper on soft power, he noted..“The trend will continue to gather strength because in the new world of social media, getting it wrong is swiftly and publically punished”.

Our lives are the sum of our media influences and all of our personal histories reflect soft culture. How we see the world is built around our impressions.

Celebrity, however remains the key channel for softpower and he gave some great regional cases on how a Kimchi, ginseng and refrigerator sales all went up because of the perceived romantic nature of a famous Korean actor in a television show.  Just his presence was enough to create a 9% increase in kimchi sales alone.

Celebrity is both a a result and tool of softpower. When you think of a country you have never been to, if you know a celebrity from that area, that is likely the first thing that comes to mind to help you identify with that area. Many people now do it with PSY and Gangham Style when thinking of Korea.

Funny enough, if you google soft power – the first thing you get is Putin and Obama in swim trunks. A bit literal, but Obama’s other half is a great example of how softpower can work.  Michelle Obama drove J.Crew fashion sales just from her casual clothes on the campaign trail. Softpower is global and it is here to stay. How we choose to harness, to learn from and to maximise it in our branding and marketing is our challenge. Research into this area is a great connector of market and social research, and if Dave is right about this not being optional, then it could also be a great opportunity for our industry to explore as well.