It's going to be an intense decade for brands in Asia-Pacific. Home to both the largest economy by GDP in the world in China, and the fastest growing economies in the likes of India, Cambodia and Bangladesh, Asia Pacific will emerge as the key battleground for new and existing brands looking to capture growth in the 2020s.
We have already seen exponential growth in unicorns in the region, meanwhile some early adopter global brands are enjoying healthy returns from investing in the region. But not all brands will be winners. As competition heats up, some will be forced to disinvest or retreat all together.
As we enter an exciting new decade, Campaign asked brand specialists AnalogFolk, Landor, 1HQ and Superunion which brands in Asia Pacific stand the best chance of prospering in the 2020s, and why. Interestingly, Chinese electronics maker Xiaomi gets two votes.
Freddie Luchterhand-Dare, regional strategy director, Landor
1. Guangzhou Evergrande FC
Football has always been big business. On a brand superpower level, the emphasis has had a distinctly Westward slant. However, like a post-Christmas diet proves, the weight can always shift, and we might now finally be witnessing a change in the guard. The weak signals are already there. For the first time in China, home-grown club brands are becoming more popular domestically than the reds and blues of Europe. With a government-mandated—but nevertheless ambitious—goal of China being the best national team in the region by 2030 (and a world supremo by 2050), the investment at a public and private sector level is certainly there to scaffold such a meteoric rise. For that reason, it’s likely that a brand like Guangzhou Evergrande FC (Alibaba backed, top of the Chinese Super League) will dominate the next 10 years. We’ll see ever more fans, bigger trophies, new heroes and villains as well as merchandise galore carrying the name and logo, and increasing the profile of this awakening beast across a famously football hungry region.
The subject of the environment will echo loudly through the next decade. That’s no great surprise given 2019 ends with bushfires and Greta Thunberg. This will prove a lucrative concern for many businesses. For one, we would call out the invisible giant BYD, which has incredibly managed to become the world’s largest manufacturer of electric vehicles whilst remaining relatively unknown as a brand. But as their fleet of green cars continue to fuel the push for new sources of clean transport, it’s unlikely that will remain the case for long. Alliances with governments, electric taxi investments and changing consumer behaviours (paired with unchanging consumer needs around movement) point distinctly in the direction of BYD becoming a household name by decade end. The brand’s blueprint certainly stretches far beyond mainland China, and with the name being an acronym for build your dreams, BYD’s ‘next 10’ dream looks to be of the American variety. It has its ultimate sights firmly set on winning in that elusive market, at the expense of Elon and Tesla. Its success there will certainly be an effective barometer of its surging transnational brand dominance.
The reputation of a country is shaped by all its constituent parts. And we foresee Brand Vietnam capturing people’s imaginations in the next years in the same way everything ‘K–’ did in the departing ones, representing the apex of Vietnam’s resurgence following difficult historic episodes. Building on economic stability rooted in '80s reforms, the conditions are certainly more conducive than ever. Commercially, the country has homegrown mega-brands, and a young, tech-savvy middle class to buy them, as well as burgeoning startup, electronics, creative and manufacturing scenes. It is beginning to export aspects of its distinct culture, with Vietnamese coffee lingering just beneath the surface of regional coffee obsession—evidenced by Cong Caphe’s decision to open its first international outlet in Seoul, not Seattle. Demand for its local coffee is just a microcosm of the demand for the country as a whole. As its regional integration improves and its air connectivity expands, tourists are flocking there in growing numbers. All considered, it’s clear why Vietnam is predicted to be part of the exclusive ‘7%’ growth club of nations in the 2020s, and why this could well turn out to be the V-decade.
Karen Cole, managing creative director, 1HQ Singapore
Beijing-based company Xiaomi has become a brand to watch as it aims to launch over 10 models of 5G smartphone in 2020, with plans to make 5G devices just as common as 4G. Although the first models released will be priced above 2,000-yuan, Xiaomi’s founder Lei Jun (pictured above) has announced that subsequent models will cover a full range of prices, making it more affordable for consumers to commit to the switch. Having already launched a 5G AIoT strategy to increase the development and adoption of its services, Xiaomi is set to quickly surpass their existing 3 million users.
This global phenomenon has reached over 500 million monthly active users in the second half of 2019 and we predict this will only continue to increase into 2020—beating Twitter and Snapchat’s monthly actives combined. In 2020, we will see a desire for businesses to move towards less saturated, more community-based platforms such as TikTok. For brands looking to establish a TikTok presence, it will be interesting to see how the platform continues to innovate with paid media partnership opportunities to help mitigate the growing competition from apps such as Firework.
Although the growth of WeChat has slowed down in 2019, the app's user base has increased by 3.2% and it remains the number 1 platform of conversation rates for higher-priced products. WeChat is looking to revamp itself in 2020 with a host of updates and changes to offer new opportunities for both users and brands, including more affordable advertising and improved ways for brands to stay connected to their customers through WeChat CRM. We predict that in 2020, China’s Key Opinion Consumers (KOCs) will become more beneficial than previous KOL influencers and WeChat will play a pivotal part in their growth and relatability.
Chris Ryan, founding partner and MD, AnalogFolk Asia
Honestly I’m not copping out here, but I’m going to say at least one brand doesn’t exist yet. How fast has the brand landscape changed since 2008? It’s nuts. The brand we haven’t met yet will offer well-being (think Headspace and Calm), at a time when mental health and social pressures are big topics.
2. Impossible Foods
A brand making noticeable impact here and around the world is Impossible Foods Inc. It is changing our perception of non-meat foods and—in the process—reducing environmental impact and working to eradicate intensive farming. I love its vision: “To Save Meat. And Earth.” The company didn’t exist 10 years ago, but it will be a driving force in the 2020s.
The third brand takes us back to entertainment, and a very old brand: Disney. Asia in particular has a love affair with Disney. Its impressive content ownership, its recently-launched streaming services, and the extent of its theme parks empire will mean it continues to deliver “magical experiences” in the 2020s.
Ambrish Chaudhry, managing strategy director, Superunion
Lazada has all the ingredients to move to the next level. A painstakingly created logistics network, customers’ growing familiarity and ease with ecommerce across SEA and the backing and tech know-how of the Alibaba group. Lazada’s approach to online shopping is becoming increasing experiential. Shoppertainment includes things like gaming, group discount hunting and live streaming and is increasingly shifting the shopper motivation from convenience to engagement. They’ve also focused on strengthening brand partnerships and creating better tools for smaller retailers. As the category evolves, brands will increasingly need to drive differentiation as online retailers will attempt to wean customers from the heavy discounts they’ve come to expect. All of which places Lazada as one of our key bets to rule the decade.
Even as I type this, a notification offering me a Grab credit card has just sprung up on my phone. Yet another example of the company’s quest to evolve beyond a ride hailing app into something of a daily concierge, making life easier for people across SEA in a multitude of ways. Already Grab is present across most SEA economies and is going from strength to strength in terms of daily and monthly usage numbers. They continue to add new dimensions to their service such as monthly billing and a rewards scheme to boost user loyalty, both of which enabled the brand to withstand Gojek’s entry into Singapore without resorting to excessive discounting. So where does Grab go from here? The race to be the leading super app for SEA is well and truly on and Grab is well placed to make a real tilt at it.
3. Xiaomi (again!) *
One could well say that Xiaomi has already made a mark on this decade. Yet the future looks even brighter. A big part of Xiaomi’s success is that its ever-expanding product range manages to unerringly fall on the right side of the price quality equation. Not only has this primed Xiaomi for expansion across emerging markets (they are the leader in smartphones and wearables in India for example) but also set it up for success in markets such as the US and UK, which the company is keen to target. Perhaps what Xiaomi does better than all competitors is to marry hardware and software expertise. Most companies tend to be good at one, but Xiaomi has consistently shown prowess across both. As a result, they are beginning to shed their lower price perception and have shown the ability to move into mass-premium pricing for some of their products. Sharper focus on brand and communications could well make the 20s Xiaomi’s decade.
*Both Lazada and Xiaomi are clients of Superunion