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02 Oct 2012
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Asia has seen, is seeing, and will see a tidal wave of economic and social/ cultural changes, if not political. Where Asia lags significantly behind their Western counterparts is in the area of branding.

Asia has seen, is seeing, and will see a tidal wave of economic and social/ cultural changes, if not political. Where Asia lags significantly behind their Western counterparts is in the area of branding.

The stark reality that Asia is a rising economic power is a foregone conclusion. What is perhaps of greater interest is what more is there to come? A glimpse of this may be discerned from the rising population and rising affluence. The world’s population stood at around 1.65 billion in 1990. Today, it is 7 billion, and in another 15 years or so, it is projected to grow to 8 billion. Asia may have about 400 million more people by that time, suggesting that Asia itself may account for around 40 percent of this growth in population. At current rates of growth, India’s population will overtake China’s in the not-too-distant future, and both countries may account for almost a third of the global population in the next half-century.

China may no longer be the world’s second largest economy—its growth trajectory suggests it will only be a matter of time when it will take the pole position, with India a close second. The World Tourism Organisation predicts that the number of overseas trips made by Chinese people will surge from 70 million last year to 100 million by the end of the decade, from just 5 million 15 years ago, according to a Guardian report on 17 August 2012. Those 70 million Chinese travellers spent US$72 billion, the report said. This testifies to the spending power of the rising Chinese middle class, and what such a transformation of the economy brings to culture and society.

And besides the giants, China and India, rising in the ranks is Indonesia, already the fourth most populous country in the world and Southeast Asia’s largest economy. It joins stalwarts Japan, South Korea and Taiwan, and with Vietnam, the Philippines, Thailand, presents another wave of Asia rising.

The global landscape (business, social, political, etc) is transforming rapidly and the world is changing.

The question is—are we changing in step?

Without doubt, Asia has seen, is seeing, and will see a tidal wave of economic and social/ cultural changes, if not political. Today, many acknowledge that this is the Asian century. Where Asia lags significantly behind their Western counterparts is in the area of branding. In Interbrand’s 2011 Ranking of the Top 100 Brands in the world, no Asian brand made it to the top 10. Only 10 Asian brands were listed of which 7 were Japanese, 2 Korean and 1 Taiwanese. This is not to say there are no other strong Asian brands, only that they are not making a mark on the global scene—yet. The top brands are still dominated by the United States and Europe. This suggests a rich opportunity for Asian brands to grow. Whilst there is no one perfect strategy, let us to put forward a conceptual framework that is practical—the Sustainable Market-ing Enterprise model. This organisation development strategy model comprises three sub-models—(a) Sustainability; (b) Market-ing; and (c) Enterprise.

The Sustainability component requires every organisation to be willing to change and transform where the circumstances so require. An ability to adapt through a willingness to creatively destroy and productively create new rules, new ways of working, new products or services will help the enterprise control its destiny and remain sustainable. An example is Samsung of South Korea, founded in 1938 as a small trading company. In the wake of a dynamically changing environment in the global business and technology space, Samsung has transformed itself to become one of the world’s largest conglomerates. With its innovative products and processes, it is a world major player in fields such as digital appliances and media, semiconductors, memory and systems integration.

The sustainability spirit must be backed up by Market-ing that is continuously sensing and responding to changes in the market place. There are three components in Market-ing— ‘Strategy’ to capture the Mind Share; ‘Tactic’ to capture the Market Share; and ‘Value’ to capture the Heart Share. No market leader in any industry conscientiously attempts to serve the whole world. Instead they segment the market by mapping its needs and aspirations, target the market by selecting suitable segments that are sufficiently big, with potential for growth, complement their competencies and allow them to exploit competitive advantages; and develop their market by clever positioning to shape how their customers perceive them. This positioning is supported by differentiation, backed by one or more of the 4Ps in the Marketing mix concept—product, price, place and promotion. Selling tactics merely close the sale. To achieve sustainable success the enterprise needs to build a strong brand as a value indicator to customers. Such a brand value can be enhanced by good service, and in order for any enterprise to deliver an appropriate value to its customers; strong processes need to be in place.

In today’s digital world and with the proliferation of social media, the rules and ways of engagement have changed more rapidly than in the past. The code words have morphed; Segmentation is now communitisation, Targeting is confirming by the community; Positioning is Clarifying; Differentiation is Coding; Product is Co-creation; Price is Currency; Place is Communal Activation; Promotion is Conversation; Selling is Commercialisation; Brand is Character; Service is Caring and Process is Collaboration. Enterprises need to move from being Exclusive to Inclusive, Vertical to Horizontal and Oneway to Social. There is constant delineation and re-alignment of processes to cater for more differentiated markets.

Marketing requires a firm or organisation to continuously assess the outlook (taking into account that IT is now a connector amongst customers, competitors, changes in the environment and the company), adopt an appropriate marketing architecture whilst balancing the various needs of the different stakeholder groups. The global landscape (business, social, political, etc) is transforming rapidly and the world is changing.

The question is—are we changing in step? As Jack Welch, who helmed General Electric for 20 years from 1981, says, if we are not one step ahead, we are two steps behind.


Hermawan Kartajaya was named by the Chartered Institute of Marketing as one of the top 50 thinkers in Marketing.

Den Huan Hooi is Director of the Nanyang Technopreneurship Center and Associate Professor in the Nanyang Business School, Nanyang Technological University.

They co-wrote Rethinking Marketing: Sustaining Marketing Enterprise in Asia, with Philip Kotler and Sandra S. Liu and Think ASEAN! with Philip Kotler.

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