Thai consumers eager to participate, Aussies most jaded: Iris

Thai consumers emerged as the most willing to play along with brands, but good luck getting Australian consumers to engage, according to new participation research from Iris.

Source: Brand's Thailand
Source: Brand's Thailand

Thai consumers love to participate with brands, and that willingness does not drop off with age, according to the Participation Brand Index study released by Iris.  

Out of the five markets studied—Thailand, Australia, Brazil, US, and UK—Thailand was the only market which did not record a natural drop-off in the participation index after the 18 to 34 age bracket. 

“The natural inclination of Thais to be more inquisitive and participative really came through loud and clear,” said Mark Hadfield, regional planning director of Iris. “Brands should think of participation regardless of who the audience is age-wise, because Thai consumers are telling us that it is still very relevant regardless of age.”

In contrast, Australia occupied the bottom rank in both the net promoter score (NPS) and popularity brand index (PBI). 

“Brands have to work really hard to create traction with consumers in Australia," Hadfield said. "It might be the general feeling across the country, where consumers are more cynical to marketing. The Aussie sense of humour has certainly played a role here.” 

While participation as a whole carries different meanings for each category and brand, the study, which sampled 14,000 consumers from the five markets, measured a total of 177 brands under five pillars of participation: culture shaping, category innovating, people powered, passionate purpose and distinctive character. Alcohol, automotive, consumer tech, retail, snacking and travel were the six sectors under focus.

The two markets in Asia-Pacific present different levels of maturity due to their vast differences in population and socioeconomics, Hadfield said. 

For more on the Iris research please see:

All-round winner

In Thailand, Line messenger came out tops across the overall PBI and the five pillars. 

Click to enlarge. Source: Iris

“Line doesn’t need to try too hard because of what it is as a product. By its natural design, it connects people, it entertains, it is powered by people and it is an innovating product within its category,” said Hadfield.

Used by more than 54 percent of the Thai population, Line is a cultural phenomenon that is often compared to WeChat’s omnipresence in China. The messaging app supports delivery services and mobile payment through Line Pay, but Thai consumers are most in love with its cutesy sticker packs. 


Hadfield said the sticker packs add a touch of personalisation to an otherwise impersonal application, and that in turn helps to increase the participation level from consumers. 

“There are many messages being sent out on a daily basis, not only to colleagues but also to loved ones. Line’s ability to personalise communication between people helps to set it apart from its competitors,” said Hadfield.

Meanwhile, Apple comes out as the overall winner in Australia, thanks largely to its ability to make the process of learning about its products easy and enjoyable. 

Click to enlarge. Source: iris

With consumer tech a status symbol in Australia, the connection between seeing others enjoying a brand and an interest in what the brand does next is almost twice as strong in the consumer tech category as it is in automotive or alcohol. Furthermore, consumer tech brands should focus on amplifying the social benefits of product ownership, the report added. 

Talking points

In the alcohol category, Hibiki ranked first in Thailand, ahead of Baileys, Johnnie Walker, Singha, Smirnoff, Heineken, Chang, Leo and Tiger Beer, in descending order. 

Regarding the poor showing of Tiger Beer, Hadfield said the brand has a relatively smaller market share in Thailand and hence a reduced media spend; it uses on-trade partnerships and owned channels for activities. The approach left consumers with little to build up a relationship with the brand.

“There’s also a question about provenance and aspiration," Hadfield said. "Singha, Leo and Chang are all good quality local products. Add the aspiration of premium foreign beers of Carlsberg and Heineken, and you find beers like Tiger sit in-between… neither local nor overly-aspirational compared to others within the category.”

Due to strict alcohol advertising laws in Thailand, Hadfield said brands have to generate social talking points that consumers want to lean in and participate with. Chang Beer came under scrutiny last year when pictures of Thai celebrities posing with its bottles surfaced on Instagram.  

However, brands in Thailand have reduced their marketing activities following the passing of the Thai king and the public mourning that ensued.

“Every brand should pay a lot of consideration to what their strategy should be," Hadfield said. "I think they should be sympathetic and understanding. A lot of brands have changed their strategy and each should take their own views on when they should re-emerge.”

New player

While Line won the love and trust of Thai consumers by being a part of everyday quirky Thai culture, German discount supermarket chain Aldi made headway in the Australian retail scene as an alternative for consumers jaded by alleged price-fixing schemes by competitors Coles and Woolworths, according to Iris. Celia Garforth, planning director at Iris, said Aldi is the Robin Hood of Australian retail, which burst onto the scene with a transparent value proposition and disruptive business model.

"Whereas the two big players market authenticity but deliver unethically, Aldi acts with authenticity in delivering what people want in retail," said Garforth. "In this way, they’ve built a formidable people-powered brand in a category that has for decades been entirely self-serving." 

She added that Aldi involves real people in debunking traditional category conventions through communications, an example of which is its supermarket switch challenge

Other takeaways from the study:

  • The FMCG category in Thailand lacks brands with a passionately expressed sense of purpose. Brand’s is one of the exceptions in the category because its clear wellness mission stands out. Thai consumers are also willing to pay more for FMCG brands that give them something to talk about with their friends and family. Knorr’s “Auntie Reply” campaign is an example of a brand playing an active role in consumers’ lives.
  • Sixty-one per cent of Thai consumers believe that auto brands are concerned about their impact on society. However, Mitsubishi is an exception that lacks differentiation from its competitors in making an impact on society.
  • Australian consumers value brand consistency, especially consistency in experience for high-value product categories such as automotive and technology. Google and Apple excel with seamlessly connected cross-channel experiences. Supermarket chain Aldi is an example of a non-premium brand that is strong on brand consistency.
  • As consumer data is essential in an increasingly digitalised automotive purchasing journey, auto brands turn to creating experiences that compel cynical Australian consumers to part with their data. BMW and Jeep are the top two auto brands that are successful in doing that.

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