Marketers in Asia must catch up with their consumers 

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The Economist Marketing Unbound event reveals HONG KONG, May 25th, 2016 – To respond to the evolving needs of consumers, brands and agencies must adapt their strategies to better understand, engage with and ultimately win over their audiences. Marketing Unbound, a new event series held in both Hong Kong and New York, connected business leaders and marketing professionals in an open and honest discussion about the challenges CMOs today face in Asia. The Hong Kong event gathered more than 180 marketing experts, business decision-makers, and visionaries from across the region.

Speaking at the event, Andrew Palmer, business affairs editor of The Economist said: “It has been truly inspiring to hear from some of the brightest minds in the industry today. It’s clear that though we face many challenges, the advances that we’re making in Asia will be at the forefront of marketing not only in our region, but the wider world. Despite concerns about an economic slowdown, 70% of you today remain optimistic about the future of the region.”

Key take-aways include:

  • The personal touch: The old model of shouting out your message to a mass audience through traditional advertising vehicles no longer works – personalization has become key to successful marketing. The ubiquity of mobile devices makes it easier for companies to identify and track who their consumers are, allowing companies to target products and services more accurately to an individual consumer. “Do you want to send the same message to everyone or do you want to market yourself differently to someone who already has your services,” said Karim Temsamani, president, Asia-Pacific, Google.
  • Engage the customer: Although the product is important, in today’s climate even more important is how companies engage with the customer. Shopping has become more seamless and consumers no longer distinguish between online or offline platforms. Alan Lau, senior partner and leader, McKinsey Digital, Asia, McKinsey & Company, said very few transactions are just offline or online, most are multi-channel. Moreover, consumers are driven by what is most convenient for them, and that can be a combination of shopping modes, noted Erica Poon Werkun, managing director and head of Asian consumer and internet research for UBS.
  • Finding the Millennials’ touch points:  The millennial generation is a globally connected tribe that doesn’t like to be talked down to, is open-minded, and seeks information from anywhere and everywhere. The mobile phone is their device of choice and they use it to inform themselves about the latest products and trends. To connect with millennials, marketers need to identify their passion points and how best to access those touch points. Working with influencers on social media – be they celebrities or grassroots bloggers – can have a huge impact gaining positive consumer perceptions of a brand. 
  • Global versus local: Global marketing teams need to understand that the local team on the ground needs to have the creative freedom to adapt the customer message. As Tricia Weener, head of marketing, commercial banking and global banking & markets, Asia Pacific, HSBC, pointed out, there is no one size fits all remedy. A three-word tagline in English that fits a mobile phone screen may not translate as easily, or pithily, into Chinese characters for example. Finding a consumer truth for a product that transcends cultural differences is also a challenge. If marketers can find a message that touches the roots of human nature, and is cross-cultural, then you can adapt rather than have to reinvent the wheel each time.
  • Definition of a marketer: The marketer has to be a company’s biggest advocate for the market. According to Ipsita Dasgupta, executive vice-president and business head, Asia-Pacific and Russia/CIS, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals, the core skills a marketer needs are curiosity, common sense, the ability to distil, prioritise, and be able to build a deep understanding and intimacy with the market. Whether the company be a start-up or a multinational, the marketer has to be the person in the company who challenges the status quo and has an understanding of what the market wants.
  • Asia at forefront of change: Audiences in Asia are very connected, engaged and have different expectations of a brand. The challenge for marketers is figuring how to tap into this changing consumer behaviour. Asia has a high penetration rate of mobile phones and consumers around the region use them for gaming, watching videos, and doing web searches, but marketers are falling behind consumers in using these tools to engage with them. The more successful companies are the ones who are quickly working out how to do that, and the ones coming up with new business models rather than different products.

Featured speakers included Karim Temsamani, Asia-Pacific president, Google, David Roman, senior vice-president and chief marketing officer, Lenovo, Asmita Dubey, chief marketing officer, L’Oréal and Charles Allen, head of marketing, Arsenal Football Club.

Other key insights from the day include:

"The market is ahead of us - shame on us - and we should catch up quickly." - David Roman, CMO, Lenovo

"Millennials don't like being talked to; they like being talked with." - Ananth Narayanan, CEO, Myntra

"Marketing is the queen and servant of the business."- Ipsita Dasgupta, Glenmark Pharmaceuticals

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 Marketing Unbound is sponsored by McKinsey & Company, Ogilvy & Mather, PRIZM Group and Williams Lea Tag. Edelman is the Official communications marketing agency and PR Newswire the News distribution partner. Supported by Asia Content Marketing Association, CMO Asia, Indonesian Digital Association, Mobile Marketing Association, The Marketing Society, The Digital + Direct Marketing Association Asia [D+D] and the Society of Publishers in Asia.

For full details on the programme, click here.

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