We asked three in-markets experts for their insights into Thai consumers.
- Neel Chaurasia, Director – International Business at TBWA\Thailand
- Andrew Chu. ECD, GreynJ United
- Preetanjali Kukreja (Preeti), strategy director, Brand New Day Asia
What distinguishes the Thai consumer market from others? What are the most interesting trends in Thailand that make its consumer market unique in Asia?
Chaurasia: The Thai consumer is today globally wired, but yet there are some noticeably unique traits. For example, Thai women’s love for beauty and skincare is unparalleled, and consumers also love brands that tap into being very very Thai. Aside from displaying passionate patriotism, this can range from adopting a wacky sense of humour, to applying emotional and religious themes placing high value on making merit, taking care of family, and respect for elders.
In addition to this, Thais also love cultural trends. Here are some recent examples. Thais are feeling nostalgia, for, for example, 1990s songs and toys, MSN and vintage fashion. People and brands are using local pride to solve problems with a Thai twist, by creatively adapting local things. Examples include MADIEW, Recycle Instrument, and adaptation of Thai foods in unique ways, such as durian mask, Kitkat somtam, Instant somtam and kanom-chin namvon.
The Line app is the No. 1 form of communication amongst Thais, and has become more than a messenger app with the introduction of Line Man delivery and a platform for commerce.
More and more Thais are turning to Instagram and Facebook to promote and sell products, with many selling directly through these social platforms. Bangkok is the city with the largest number of active Facebook users in the world. Brands that can take the lead in embracing this will thrive.
Kukreja: A quick look at numbers in terms of smartphone uptake across Thailand tells us that this market is very open to digital phone technology. This in turn leads to blanketed social-media use, and the willingness to trust and transact via social-media channels such as Instagram, Line, and Facebook. So much so that banks and digital apps that once used their own platforms are now partnering with such platforms to increase their penetration and visibility to consumers. Ecommerce just keeps on going, and growing.
What are some of the cultural issues brands need to be aware of when marketing?
Chaurasia: Thailand has never been colonised and they are fiercely proud of their culture and being ‘Thai’. They revere the monarchy and love their language, food and the uniqueness of being Thai. Brands that can understand and be a part of the culture and fabric of Thailand will succeed. In addition, Thais are generally conservative. As a result, individuals may not always express themselves publicly. Social media, however, gives them a channel through which they can express themselves from behind a device. There is an incredible amount of engagement in online communities, social channels and chatting platforms.
Chu: A global strategy or message does not always translate or resonate locally. And even though brand consistency can be understandable from a marketing point of view, a one-size-fits-all message may not work if a global brand tries to force its way into the local culture, and expect to change local behavior without understanding and accepting the Thai way of life.
Kukreja: Thais have a relaxed and open attitude to most things, and generally seem to enjoy humour in marketing. However, there is much unspoken context and meaning found within the nuances of the culture, which is something brands need to be aware of.
Is there anything advertisers need to avoid?
Chaurasia: Advertising in Thailand should avoid politics, religion and nudity. Also anything related to the monarchy and royal family is taboo due to the strict lèse-majesté laws.
Kukreja: Brands need to be sure that their marketing messages translate clearly, and will not be cause for offence. Brands would be advised to to check laws and regulations such as those that govern advertising products that can only be sold to consumers above 18 years of age, and be very careful when alluding to religion or local culture and practices.