MANILA: Brands should be considering greater co-operation ahead of the economic integration of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) next year a leading industry figure has said.

Yayu Javier, president of the Philippine Marketing Association, told the Manila Standard Today that in an expanded market of 600m consumers "the opportunities are really huge".

By the end of next year ten countries in the region – Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, the Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam – are due to form an economic community with free movement of goods, services, labour and capital.

The challenge, however, lay in discovering how best to take advantage of those opportunities. "Companies from different countries can work together," she said. "Together, we can make our businesses grow."

Javier expected that companies and brands would cross existing national borders once the regional integration was fully in place and she suggested that a co-operative approach would pay dividends.

"Learning to collaborate with competition will provide faster growth of the companies leveraging on each one's strength while still protecting their own trade secrets," she stated.

While Philippine brands understood the local market and consumer behaviours, as well as things like trade practices, government and industry regulations, foreign brands could bring a new perspective.

"The merging of different cultures and practices promotes innovation, improvement of processes, and sharing of best practices," Javier declared.

She offered several examples of Philippine brands – including Oishi and Bench – that had used a "focus on synergy" to succeed in overseas markets. "Tying up with local companies can increase a Filipino company's chances of being successful as it can then quickly immerse itself with the culture and local market conditions," Javier said.

Conversely, foreign brands such as such as Kopiko of Indonesia, Uniqlo of Japan and Forever 21 of the US had entered the Philippines market through strategic ventures with local companies.

Philippine brands have shown great invention when taking on big-budget overseas competitors, as demonstrated by local detergent brand Champion. Unable to challenge rival brands' spending on TV it gained daily exposure though placing ads on the ticketing turnstiles of Manila's public transport system.

And the Philippine Department of Tourism won the Warc Prize for Asian Strategy with a low-budget campaign, It's More Fun In The Philippines, that used local people as both inspiration and media channel.

Data sourced from Manila Standard Today; additional content by Warc staff