Always politically turbulent, Thailand is only just emerging from a crisis of its own that has pushed concerns relating to global downturn to one side. Chaipranin Visudhipol, chairman of TBWA in the market, points to a marked rise in spending at the beginning of the year that has been halted by recent unrest. The hospitality and retail industries have been the hardest hit, and Visudhipol fears further marketing budget cuts as the year progresses.
But the market is nothing if not resilient, and growth and innovation has persisted in the shadow of political turmoil. In particular, the beauty category has enjoyed a strong 12 months by targeting unconventional consumers.
"The biggest change- - or twist - has been the explosion in the male grooming sector," says Mark Ingrouille, CEO of Publicis Thailand. "L'Or é al's Garnier brand launched an entire men's line at the tail end of 2009 and sales have massively exceeded expectation. Garnier is already the leading women's brand, so it will be interesting to see whether the men's line catches up."
Elsewhere, the beverage sector has gravitated towards health products, with the launch of a new range of drinks like diet coffee to attract diet-conscious high end consumers. Tida Vibulvanich, managing partner at Y&R Thailand, notes "aggressive movement from leading brands" to offer premium products that satisfy broadening consumer needs.
In the telecommunications sector, BlackBerry is coming back aggressively, having recently been obscured by Apple. Its share is expanding thanks to an attractive 'Live chat' application, according to Pattaraporn Wongmesak, associate VP and country manager of Grey Group Thailand. Wongmesak says the brand's advertising strategy revolves around word-of-mouth and co-brand marketing with three major operators-DTCA, TRUE and AIS.
Overall, it has not been a year for groundbreaking marketing campaigns, although Ingrouille notes increasing experimentation with the use of consumers in advertising. While TV dominates the media mix, Wongmesak says digital and OOH are growing fast as brands try to reach young consumers. The restlessness of brands is reflected in their consumers.
"Thais are constantly evolving and look for new trends and ideas. They need brands to stay relevant to them in good and bad times" states Sanjay Bhasin, CEO of Y&R Thailand.
Thailand Top 20 brands
15 Thai Airways
19 Nok Air
20 Siam Commercial Bank
5 TV Thai
1 Thai Rath
2 Daily News
3 Khao Sod
5 Kom Chad Luek
This article was originally published as part of the 2010 Top 1000 Brands report.