The winners and losers in this year’s Top 1000 Brands survey paint a many-faceted picture of rapidly evolving consumer trends in markets across Asia-Pacific.
WeChat climbs 249 places to 207
WeChat’s leap up the chart from 456 to 207 reflects its incremental popularity as a ‘for everything’ portal, particularly in China. After QQ and Sina, Tencent’s app is the third most popular social networking brand in China (and seventh in Asia overall), counting 898 million users as of Q4 last year, but it also comes in as China’s second and Asia’s fifth most popular online payment provider brand.
WeChat’s enviably high ‘sticky’ levels — 90 percent of its monthly active users are also daily active users — are further testament to the fact that the app’s purpose now extends far beyond social networking to gaming, splitting bills and even the professional world. Penguin Intelligence by Tencent found 87.7 percent of surveyed users said the app was their top choice for daily work communication. It is therefore unsurprising that WeChat was ranked the second ‘most relevant’ brand in China, according to a recent poll of 10,000 customers by the global consultancy Prophet.
While the brand has made a few inroads outside China — Nielsen’s list says it is the second most popular social media site in Hong Kong, and the third most popular in Malaysia — its hazy censorship policies may be a reason why it hasn’t as yet seen notable international success, despite major ad spend. Another could be that by prioritising its development in China, the brand has become less internationally-friendly both in terms of product and marketing; likewise, international brands hoping to make use of WeChat in China may have struggled to understand its many native quirks.
Bosch leaps more than 300 places to 266
The German electronics company registered an 8.3 percent increase in sales in Asia-Pacific last year, to 20.8 billion euros (US$22.6 billion), amounting to almost 30 percent of global revenue. Bosch’s rapid rise from position 613 to 266 in the last year reflects this success, but it also takes into account the brand’s inclusion in a new sub-category for 2017, smart home technology: in which Bosch launched three products last year, including a 360-degree indoor camera.
As these products are unlikely to have fully registered on consumer radar yet, however, Bosch’s stellar increase in popularity as a brand may more conceivably be down to a major advertising campaign launched last year in Southeast Asia. The ‘We help make a difference campaign’ was coordinated regionally by OMD and features a set of videos explaining how Bosch “helps make vehicles safer” or “helps make food last longer”, for example. The campaign is part of a three-year investment in the region that the brand hopes will strengthen its position there and boost awareness of the full range of its products.
LinkedIn up over 100 places to 491
Despite attempts by Facebook to compete in this space LinkedIn, which jumps from 602 to 491 in Nielsen’s list, has thrived as the only social media platform to focus solely on B2B communications and has been quietly doubling in size in APAC over the last two years. It opened its first data centre outside the US in Singapore last April and passed the 100 million member mark in the region four months later: APAC members now make up 22 percent of the global total.
The rise in membership in this region reflects “a growing understanding of the economic value of personal branding and a global professional network”, said JAPAC managing director Olivier Legrand in a statement. To capitalise on this, LinkedIn last year launched three strategic products for the Indian market, the largest in APAC, including LinkedIn Lite, a simplified mobile version of the platform for cheap handsets or those with limited data; and LinkedIn Placements, a portal for graduating students to find work opportunities.
International travel sites down
This year sees review site TripAdvisor drop 54 places from 126 to 180, while travel booking sites Booking.com and Expedia have fallen by 41 and 39 places to end up in 141st and 136th positions respectively. One explanation could be the increasing preference among consumers for Asia-born sites as opposed to American or European ones. Agoda, for example, which was established in Thailand and is Asia’s favourite travel booking site, experienced just a small dip in popularity this year. The Indonesian booking platform Traveloka, meanwhile, is by far the favourite in its home country and has also seen growth in Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines and Vietnam since opening regional offices in 2015. Taiwanese consumers rate their own local site EzTravel much higher than any others and Japan’s largest booking site, Rakuten Travel, is also the most popular brand among home consumers.
On top of this trend come two others that may offer an explanation for the decline: first is the rise of Airbnb in Asia (it jumped 47 places to 245), which may be eating into the market share of the hotel booking sites; second is the increasing savviness of travellers, who are constantly broadening their methods of research about potential holidays.
All major camera brands down
Camcorder and camera brands have experienced some of the most dramatically unhealthy movements in Nielsen’s charts. Canon, a Top 10 stalwart since 2008, this year drops down to 12th position as its camera sales continue to decline. The Japanese electronics company has been making a few ‘beyond camera’ investments in the last few years; it bought Toshiba Medical Systems at the end of last year, and spent S$20 million (US$14.4 billion) building a Canon Delight Hub in Singapore designed to bring together all its different businesses.
But along with rivals Sony, Olympus and Nikon, Canon suffered a further blow to its camera market last year following an earthquake in Kumamoto, southern Japan, where many of the companies’ suppliers or factories are located, setting the industry back by around four months in production time.
Natural disaster aside, the huge drops in consumer popularity seen in the case of Olympus (171 to 370), Nikon (24 to 91) and Kodak (291 to 619) over the last year are more likely attributed to consumers’ ever-increasing dependence on mobile phones as their photography tool of choice. With smartphone brands placing greater emphasis on better cameras with every new release — Samsung’s Galaxy S7 Edge phone recently topped Tech Radar’s best camera phone list — this looks set to be an irreversible trend.
eBay down 47 to 191
Each APAC country has its preference in terms of favourite online shopping sites, with only Australia ranking eBay as its favourite: half the country’s online shoppers bought something from ebay.com.au in 2016. But overall in Asia eBay has fallen from 144th to 191st place this year, suggesting the rest of the region’s consumers prefer their homegrown ecommerce sites.
Lazada for instance, which was founded in 2012 in Singapore, took a US$1 billion investment from Alibaba in 2016 and climbed this year from 106 to 97. Japan’s shoppers rate Rakuten the highest and India’s love Flipkart. But eBay doesn’t look likely to go down without a fight. In April, it made a move to link itself more closely with Asian-born ecommerce companies by selling its India arm to Flipkart and announcing a $500 million investment in the company. In China, meanwhile, it has partnered with the port of Ningbo to capitalise on China’s growing international trade market.