Asian trends, creative MR and the myth of global brands: Insights from the ESOMAR Asia Pacific conference

Manfred Mareck

In almost every session of the 2013 ESOMAR Asia Pacific conference, held in Ho Chi Minh City, presenters showed that Asian markets are much more culturally diverse than western marketers may think. This in turn suggests that a one-size-fits-all approach to the region is likely going to fail.

Of course, in simple terms of distribution we have an increasing number of globally-available brands. But dig a little deeper and the picture becomes more complex.

Global Brands – Myth or Reality

It was 30 years ago that an article by Theodore Levitt was published in the 1983 May/June issue of the Harvard Business Review. The Globalisation of Markets, and, more broadly, Levitt's notion of the Global Village, has led, at least in part, to the widely-held myth about global brands. After Levitt, marketing and advertising budgets, creative development, brand positioning and campaign execution have often been centralised to ensure consistency of the message across the globe.

This in turn led to a lazy way of thinking: towards creating one set of commercial brand messages and running the TV spots in every country. All you had to do was change the voiceover to the respective local language; if a brand was aimed at the top end of the market even this minor tweak was not necessary: after all, those luxury buyers who bought Rolex watches, drank Johnny Walker Black Label and invested their money offshore all lived their lives in English. Simple – or maybe not.