Byravee Iyer
Jul 7, 2016

MNCs and local brands have equal opportunity in Myanmar: BrandZ

WPP’s analysis shows there is a clear early-mover advantage to be had in Myanmar. Apple, Telenor, Huawei prove strong.

Homegrown mobile brand MPT is the most loved brand, according to the report (Image: BrandZ Spotlight on Myanmar report)
Homegrown mobile brand MPT is the most loved brand, according to the report (Image: BrandZ Spotlight on Myanmar report)

MYANMAR - Apple has emerged as the most differentiated brand in Myanmar, followed by Coca-Cola and Samsung, while local telco MPT is the most loved, according to WPP and Milward Brown’s inaugural BrandZ Spotlight on Myanmar.

Within the categories surveyed, 42 brands from everyday categories like coffee, soft drinks, mobile phones and mobile network operators, Apple, Coca-Cola, Huawei, Nescafe, Sprite and Samsung have all emerged on the leaderboards.

“It is clear that strong brands can be—and are already—strong brands in Myanmar,” said David Roth, CEO, The Store WPP, EMEA and Asia.

Still, homegrown brands like MPT and Premier Coffee hold their own against competition. Findings suggest that people in Myanmar want brands that fulfill a role in their lives, and interestingly, both local and foreign brands are on fairly equal footing. “Local brands have the advantage of heritage and have also benefitted from a lack of competition over the past years,” Roth noted.

Most differentiated brands

He added: “They now have to defend their position against the new entrants. Mom-and-pop shops are still trustworthy guides for many locals, especially with new brands and products.”

Mobile network Telenor is the most innovative brand in the survey, with rivals MPT and Ooredoo coming in second and third, respectively. MPT is the most loved brand in the survey, nine points ahead of Samsung, and 11 points ahead of Telenor and Huawei. However, Huawei, scored highest on “brand power”—described as a brand’s ability to boost sales or gain market share due to consumers’ predisposition to choose this brand over another. Incidentally, Huawei performs better in Myanmar than it does in its home market, China, on this count.

Research shows that the most effective messages come from brands that put their products and benefits front and centre. The BrandZ study included 1,660 consumer interviews and covers 42 international and regional brands that are building a presence in the country.

Key takeaways

According to Roth, success in Myanmar hinges on getting the cultural message right and understanding the diversity of the country, particularly in border areas. Here’s his breakdown of key takeways for marketers in Myanmar:

  • The rise of the middle class is happening slowly but surely. Start positioning your brand and connecting now.
  • Prepare for leapfrog developments. Technology and infrastructure are changing fast. This will directly change the way certain sectors (banking and retail) traditionally operate.
  • TV is vital, but mobile is fast becoming the digital platform of choice for consumers and brands. Facebook and chat platforms are still dominant.
  • Consumers are still price-sensitive and new to a variety of products. Adopt packaging and communications to convey product value, rather than technical specifications.
  • Product is still the star but the strongest brands are those that project idealism, desirability and a sense of adventure.
  • Myanmar is diverse. Keep in mind that different regions have different dynamics and attitudes.

Growth opportunities

Telecoms and mobile have led the way over the past years. Deregulation has seen the entry of various operators like Qatar-backed Ooredoo and Norway-based Telenor, as well as players such as China’s Huawei and South Korea’s Samsung. Deregulation has also has brought the cost of a SIM card down from $2,000 on the black market to just $1.50 by legitimate means. “With private internet connections still prohibitively expensive and with installation fees of up to $500, many people’s first phone of choice is a smartphone, and it serves as their tool for online access,” Roth said.

All multinational brands have relied on TV to quickly build awareness and establish credibility with Myanmar consumers. The general belief is that if it is on TV, it must be genuine. Coca-Cola, for example, has picked up on its roots and reaffirmed its past relationship with Myanmar consumers that started 60 years ago. The brand has used events and music as touchpoints, in line with other markets and regions.

High visibility through point-of-sale banners and in-store signage is often helpful, as demonstrated by Nivea and Ovaltine. They’ve also adopted a patient game in terms of building up brand loyalty and commitment.

"Myanmar consumers have depended on single brands across different categories for many years, pre-opening up, and thus establishing a reason for consumers to switch is key for incoming brands," Roth said. :Brands should still keep the product central and its benefits clearly stated." 

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