I moved to Asia two and a half years ago to work with a wide variety of global brands and make a splash in the ever-growing, ever-changing Asian market.

For many brands, entering China, Japan, Korea and beyond is a real battle. However, there are some clear differentiating factors for success:

1.     Be flexible with your brand 

Many brands use an international veneer. It may seem obvious but flexibility is a must; brands need to communicate in a way that’s relevant to the end-user. Consider Louis Vuitton and their ‘giant suitcase’, which was positively received in the Chinese market, however, the same approach would likely have been shunned in Europe simply for being too gauche.

Adapting to a market doesn’t have to mean greater expense, it’s about being clever with your budget in order to achieve the best results from the target audience.

2.     Get to market!

The Asian market place is like nothing I’ve ever seen. Take the beauty market, where you can choose between a synthetic snake venom mask and a snail trail moisturiser! These ever changing trends don’t mean the market is fickle, but demonstrate a willingness to experiment, with genuine interest in trialling and exploring new products.

Assuming you’ve done due diligence prior to launch (considering consumers unmet needs and cultural nuances) get yourself out there! The fact you’re doing something interesting will be embraced. Learn what genuinely works as you go and adapt to suit. In such a busy and ever-evolving market, this is key to consumer engagement and brand growth.

3.     Acknowledge your retail channels

There’s incredible variation in retail channel opportunities across Asia. From premium flagship stores to boutiques, from crowded malls to dusty shops on busy backstreets, juxtaposed with the significant presence of digital via desktop, mobile and tablet.

eMarketer estimates that over the next 12 months, Ecommerce sales in China will increase by 42.1% to US $672.01 billion.

Discounting isn’t an option due to the volumes being driven, so the key is for your brand to standout in these polarised environments in order to claim some of this share of wallet.

And it goes without saying that design must play a pivotal role, such as creating activation toolkits relevant to the retail context of the shopping channel environment.

4.     Look to the future

There was a time when simply being an international brand was enough. However, competition is high with local players like Xiaomi (a private technology company) undercutting the price of the Apple iPhone with their innovative smartphone, gaining significant market share and creating genuine competition.

For many brands Asia is the future: in a region renowned for early adopters, with vast disposable income, the potential to claim market share is vast.

In summary, having a vision for your brand, working towards a set of clear goals, and developing a channel communication strategy to deliver on your ambitions and meet the needs of your target audience, will enable success. Traditional retail principles and short termism will simply have to be rethought.


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