Brands look to cultural identity

13 November 2014

SINGAPORE: Global brands need to address Asian consumers' desire for a sense of identity and relevance amid fears that traditional values are eroding, according to new research.

The latest findings from the ongoing Generation Asia study conducted by the Y&R agency, which covers 32,000 people in ten Asian markets, found that 73% of 36-60 year-olds and 70% of 18-35 year-olds were worried about how globalisation had affected long-held standards.

Interestingly, the two groups had arrived at this conclusion from opposite directions – the older being raised with aspirations to international ideals, while the younger were increasingly seeking their own cultural place in the world.

Much of this change was taking place in the public realm – three quarters of respondents felt that it was solely within the family that attempts were being made to preserve values – emphasising the role advertisers have to play.

Y&R advocated a new 'culturalisation' approach to marketing communications. "This need to connect with people's cultural identity is what brands really need to focus on instead of the supposed choice, and endless tired debates, of globalisation versus localisation," said Hari Ramanathan Chief Strategy Officer, Y&R Asia.

One might argue that localisation necessarily involves at least some element of culturalisation. When Peter Field analysed the shortlisted entries to the first Warc Prize for Asian Strategy he noted that local insights had been essential to the success of many campaigns.

"The campaigns that increasingly work hardest are the ones that drive the most buzz and sharing, and these are almost without exception very local … For a campaign to have a strong buzz effect it needs to be inspiring and surprising and both these qualities tend to be culturally dependent," he wrote.

A recent episode of Jing Daily's Thoughtful China series made a similar point about the potential for the use of language and culture by international brands.

"A lot of the humour in Chinese language, and especially on the internet, is around puns," said Sam Flemming, founder and CEO of Kantar Media CIC. "If a foreign brand uses Chinese puns, it really demonstrates that they are global but also that they are local."

Data sourced from WPP, Jing Daily; additional content by Warc staff