DALIAN: Companies based in markets such as China, India, Japan and South Korea have a unique opportunity to grow in the financial crisis, but will need to invest in communications if they are to achieve this aim, a study by Fleishman-Hillard, the consultancy, has found.

It has been argued that few Chinese brands have managed to transfer their domestic prominence onto the international stage as yet, but, more positively, both China and several other Asian nations are set to be at the forefront of the economic recovery.

Based on a survey of 130 "high-ranking business executives and opinion leaders" in the region, Fleishman-Hillard reported that 40% of participants saw the recession as providing "a great deal of opportunity".

This figure rose to 67% for those arguing such a favourable climate would be present in five years time, while 70% agreed that Asia, led by China, will be the "most influential region in the global economy" by 2020.

Low costs and a cheap labour force were seen as the main advantage of multinationals in the area by 72% of the panel, but respondents also identified a range of obstacles that need to be overcome.

Some 35% of contributors said a "lack of profile and branding" was their "single greatest weakness", while a cumulative 48% highlighted inexperience in foreign markets, issues related to language and culture, and securing international distribution as playing such a role.

A further 72% of those polled thought "an investment in communications will be necessary for Asian multinational corporations to compete in the global marketplace."

While firms such as Lenovo, Tata Group, Hyundai and Daewoo all have high levels of international recognition, many of their counterparts see these examples as being in a distinct minority.

By contrast, just 15% said Asian corporations have the marketing and branding expertise they need to compete abroad, a figure falling to 11% when it comes to handling public affairs.

In all, 58% of the sample thought "Asian multinational corporations need more visibility to compete with companies in the US and Europe."

Data sourced from Fleishman-Hillard; additional content by WARC staff