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Emerging Asia admires Japanese brands

News, 10 June 2015

SINGAPORE: Consumers in emerging Asian markets greatly admire Japan and Japanese products according to a new report which argues that many Japanese marketers will have to rethink their approach if they are to succeed in these territories.

J Walter Thompson Asia Pacific surveyed 3,200 consumers aged 20-49 in eight countries – China, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, the Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam – exploring their openness to new brands and their perceptions of other countries and products made there, with a special focus on those from Japan.

The study highlighted the opportunities for Japanese brands seeking to expand beyond their slowing domestic market with an ageing consumer profile into fast-growing Asian markets with younger consumers.

In many ways they are pushing at an open door, as the survey showed that consumers in ASEAN and India want to visit Japan more than any other country in the world. They also described Japan as a 'loved one', 'mentor' or 'best friend'.

Respondents had a distinct view of the country as tech-savvy, hard-working and dependable and regarded products made there in the same light: 'Made in Japan' meant high quality, reliability and superior technology.

At the same time, however, they did not see Japanese products as cool or design-led. "There is a gap that needs to be filled with a clear position and powerful brand idea," the report said.

But it also noted that, in Japan, branding is often about corporate identity rather than the brand idea and values, a potential challenge for marketers looking beyond Japan's borders for the first time and having to make an emotional connection between their brands and new consumers.

"Consumers in much of Emerging Asia already love Japan," said Ratan Malli, J. Walter Thompson Asia Pacific's Director of Strategic Planning. "Brands just need to tap into that ready, deep pool of affection, trust, admiration and respect."

He advised using their "inherent Japanese-ness" to build a unique and compelling brand identity. "While 'innovation' and 'reliability' are top of mind, there are many more facets of Japanese street culture, style and craftsmanship that brands can tap into that will strike a chord with consumers across the region," he added.

Data sourced from J Walter Thompson, Digital Market Asia; additional content by Warc staff