This year’s Asia’s Top Digital Brands study proved to be quite revealing about which industries and countries are making the most of digital media. For one thing, global brands aren’t the only ones who have recognised the importance of digital media today. While at the regional level, global brands top the list of most recognised brands using digital, local brands are increasingly using digital to communicate with consumers in their home countries.
This is particularly true in China, where 12 out of the top 20 brands are Chinese, a big increase from last year with only seven of the top 20 being Chinese. This goes to show the growing importance of digital to local brands, who are putting more and more resources into effective digital marketing to compete with global brands.
In Asia, telecoms are using digital in a big way, topping the lists of most recognised digital brands in many countries. Yet, despite their high awareness through digital, telecoms also have some of the least motivating digital media. For example, while 72 per cent of respondents say they have seen Singtel promoted through digital media, only 17 per cent of those were motivated by Singtel’s digital marketing.
However, telecoms aren’t the only ones whose digital communications are facing challenges. Financial services also have room to improve in motivating consumers through digital. Services brands (telecoms and financial services) have historically faced greater challenges in marketing themselves due to their less tangible products, and digital marketing appears to be no different for these brands (although there are some exceptions to the rule). Services brands may need to look towards consumer Tech brands, who are generally more successful at motivating digital media, for some needed inspiration.
Across the Asian markets we surveyed, respondents in developing markets (Thailand, Malaysia, and China) are more motivated by branded digital media than in developed markets (Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan). One possible reason for this disparity may be that developing markets have been less exposed to digital marketing in the past, and as such may be more persuaded by this communications channel. Digital is still something new which grabs their attention. Going forward, brands using digital to market in both developed and developing markets, will need to continue to innovate and find new ways of capturing consumers’ attention online.
Amongst brand generated media, the brand’s website is considered the most trustworthy digital communications channel. In fact, the brand’s Website is not only the most trustworthy brand-generated digital media, it’s the most trustworthy brand-generated media, period – beating out TV, print, and radio.
For brands that want to build stronger and more effective digital relationships with consumers, they must increase resources towards the digital media channels that consumers trust. Using TV, packaging, print, email newsletters, etc. to point consumers to the brand’s website will help to ensure consumers are engaged with a trustworthy digital channel, which in turn can help to increase the overall effectiveness of the brand’s digital activities.
Justin Szeto, senior research manager, TNS and Piotr JJ Szymanski, research director, technology sector, TNS
TOP 20 REGIONAL BRANDS
6. Hewlett Packard (HP)
10. Head & Shoulders
Nokia may be undergoing one of the most troubled periods in its history, but digital marketing still appears to be one of its top priorities. The brand has overtaken McDonald’s as the most visible brand online across six of the region’s key markets.
There has been movement elsewhere, too. Sony, Samsung, Adidas and Nike maintain a strong profile, but other major advertisers have fallen out of the top 20 altogether: Heineken, Pepsi, Philips, Pizza Hut and Visa have made way for more digitally aggressive tech brands Apple, Dell and HP, as well as HSBC and L’Oréal.
In individual markets, local brands are gaining prominence like never before. In China, for instance, China Mobile replaces KFC at the top; indeed, half of the brands in the market’s top 10 are domestic. And homegrown brands are similarly strong in Malaysia, Singapore and Taiwan. Yet high awareness levels are no guarantee of commercial success. China Mobile, for example, does little to motivate consumers. Conversely, certain brands that do not fall within a market’s top 10 in terms of awareness, such as 100Plus in Malaysia, come top among motivating advertisers - and presumably the most trustworthy.
The most trusted sources for consumers remain friends and family, but digital media is also seen as a credible platform for independent reviewers. Dedicated websites, the most visible online platform, and search ads, are also relatively trusted, but banners, pop-ups, email, virtual world and in-game ads continue to be regarded with much more suspicion than more traditional channels.
Perhaps not surprisingly though, different markets are more receptive to digital messaging than others. While the majority of participants across the six markets admit that digital media raises their interest in a brand somewhat, the impact is most pronounced in Thailand. Singaporeans, on the other hand, remain much more sceptical.
The six reports that follow highlight these subtle differences in attitude towards digital marketing and show, where possible, the relationship between investment, visibility and conversion. In doing so, they paint a clear picture of the new digital brand landscape in Asia.
Research company TNS interviewed a total of 3,000 consumers, aged 15 to 39, across six Asian markets: China, Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore,Taiwan and Thailand.
Interviews were conducted online using an access panel provided by Lightspeed, a Kantar company.
The research had four main objectives:
To understand consumer awareness of a brand’s digital presence in each market
To examine the use of digital media by different brands in the region
To assess the effect a brand’s digital presence has on influencing consumer choice
To explore levels of consumer trust towards different media channels
Accurate representation of consumers was achieved via stratified sampling with quotas on age, gender and city in line with population distribution. The brands included in the survey comprise the top spending online advertisers in each market across all media, according to Nielsen’s advertising expenditure data.
This study therefore focuses on the digital presence of the top advertisers only. Those advertisers and brands not included in the list of top spenders are by default excluded from the study.