Staff Writer
Jun 24, 2019

The battle between global and local brands – how to win trust with Asian consumers

McCann Worldgroup presents eight stories about Asia through the lens of the Truth about Global Brands 2: Powered by the Streets study.

McCann Worldgroup Truth Central’s The Truth about Global Brands 2: Powered by the Streets study reveals meaningful shifts concerning people’s attitudes about brands
McCann Worldgroup Truth Central’s The Truth about Global Brands 2: Powered by the Streets study reveals meaningful shifts concerning people’s attitudes about brands

Global and local brands are in the midst of a major transition with significant implications for Asia Pacific markets.

McCann Worldgroup Truth Central’s The Truth about Global Brands 2: Powered by the Streets study reveals meaningful shifts concerning people’s attitudes about brands.

This refresh of the global study, first fielded in 2015, surveyed more than 24,000 people in 29 countries and also sent all staffers out into the streets to uncover the texture beyond the data.

One noteworthy finding from the report states that people have more than double the amount of trust in companies than in politicians, with 81% of people believing that brands can make the world a better place.

“In a world where brands have enormous potential to improve people’s lives, our philosophy of ‘Deep Globality’ is even more important today. This means that as a global or local brand, you are operating in a way that is additive to culture; earning your way in by playing a meaningful role. Rather than ask yourself “does this work in x market?” ask yourself “does this work for x market?’” says  Nadia Tuma-Weldon, SVP, director of McCann Worldgroup Truth Central.

The upshot is that while brands have permission to play a more substantial role, they must have a deep local understanding of the people and culture of the market they wish to operate in. 

McCann Worldgroup Asia Pacific created a series of events to dive into deeply local content, held in Singapore, Shanghai, Hong Kong, Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei, Bangkok and Manila.

Here are the findings from APAC as a whole, and the eight individual markets.

Asia-Pacific: The Go for It! Region

Against the backdrop of the current challenging social, political and business climate, APAC is defined by its openness, progress, pragmatism and a growing sense of optimism and local pride.

The study finds that this region is incredibly nuanced in relation to diversity, and thrives on perpetual beta mode, where both individuals and nations are constantly seeking improvement. Born out of a communitarian nature, progress is brought forward with a sense of pragmatism.

Diversity in APAC goes beyond skin-deep. Brands which have successfully navigated this highly nuanced region in recent years have been homegrown disruptor brands.

For the Culture vs. In the Culture

GoJek and WeChat are two brands noted for their agility and ability to tap into ever-changing local trends.

GoJek has become a verb in Indonesia: it isn’t uncommon to hear the phrase ‘Let’s GoJek It’ in Jakarta, and locals say that the brand has adapted to the spirit of the city: hectic, dynamic, busy, crowded, ambitious.

Meanwhile, WeChat has successfully transformed itself from copy-cat to super-app. Starting out as a response to the limitations of a firewall, WeChat today fuels the everyday life and culture of Chinese people. And while it was created in the absence of Western social media platforms, it is now widely seen as best-in-class globally.

According to Richard McCabe, regional strategy director, McCann Worldgroup APAC, “at a time in APAC when we find a surge of pride and a wave of optimism, brands that navigate the nuance and take on a behavior of disruptor brands are the ones that are rising to the fore in consumers’ minds. These brands look to a deeply local issue, universal values and work out meaningful solutions, not just campaigns.”

China: Creativity Rules

The no. 1 key to success in China? Creativity. This outranked trustworthy in importance. In China, being creative and taking risks has seen a 16% increase from 2015.  Seen as a non-negotiable, creativity is recognised as a force for improvement and incremental progress, not disruption as is often the case in the West.

"What we’re seeing is ‘Made in China, loved by the world.’ A great idea can be born locally and go global,” says Steven Llewellyn, design director of Coca-Cola.

From left: Richard McCabe, regional strategy director, McCann Worldgroup APAC; Steven Chang, former corporate VP, Tencent; Li Guo, deputy director of business anthropology research center, Fudan University; Nadia Tuma-Weldon, SVP, director of McCann Worldgroup, Truth Central; Steven Llewellyn, design director, Coca-Cola; Suzzane Zhang, head of planning, McCann Worldgroup China; Sheena Jeng, CCO of McCann Worldgroup China; Elaine Ho, regional business director of McCann Worldgroup China

Hong Kong: Decoding the Shifting Dynamics

As fluidity of brands across Hong Kong and Southern China (Greater Bay Area) increases, so does the challenge of balancing cultural nuances. Positivity towards the future, and pride in China, rank highly in South Central China, where 64% of people trust local brands. The exception is Hong Kong, where that percentage drops to 7%. However, local brands still think that the city’s unique social and political background places them in a good position.

"Hong Kong’s rich cultural and historical background puts it in a unique position to help Chinese brands who want to go global. Just imagine how much it can boost Hong Kong’s growth and development in brand management if we can do this well," says Anthony Wong, EVP, Shangri-La Group.

From left: Olivia Parker, Deputy Editor of Campaign Asia (panel moderator); Ramsy Yeung, CMO of Cigna Hong Kong; Anthony Wong, EVP of Shangri-La Group; Nadia-Tuma Weldon, SVP, director of McCann Worldgroup Truth Central; Florence Kong, managing director of McCann Worldgroup Hong Kong

Meanwhile, Ramsy Yeung, Cigna Hong Kong’s CMO notes, “Hong Kong has an opportunity to play a role as a test bed hub with its position between China and the world."

Japan: A Growing Global Influence

On the one hand, Japanese have the highest preference for local brands — #1 globally. This reflects a long-standing belief in the quality of and pride in Japanese products. On the other hand, Japanese brands expanding overseas face different challenges.

“Since Japan is fairly homogenous, many Japanese brands do not have much experience in representing diverse audiences”, according to John Grant Woodward, CSO, McCann Japan.

From right: Yoshi Matsuura, group head of planning at McCann Worldgroup Japan; Irin Ko, senior planner at McCann Worldgroup Japan 

Thailand: Honesty Above All 

In the midst of growing distrust against its media and government, honesty is valued highest from brands - 41%, significantly higher than APAC and global numbers - followed by responsibility and trustworthiness.

Thais are also looking towards brands to make their country better, and to provide both positivity and optimism. 86% of people in Thailand prefer to buy brands that support and promote their country, compared to the APAC and global average of 76% and 75%.

From left: Amanda Hancock, head of strategy of McCann Worldgroup Thailand; Richard McCabe, regional strategy director of McCann Worldgroup APAC; Yupin Muntzing, CEO of McCann Worldgroup Thailand; Danut Ngamsiriporn, Youtuber; Worawalun Taweekarn, 2nd runner up, Miss Tiffany Universe; Wittawat Pitchayakun, environmentalist at Keep.Eco; Nalin Prudthirungsi, senior strategic planning manager of McCann Worldgroup Thailand, Numpol Chantathanakorn, planning director of McCann Worldgroup Thailand

Singapore: Globalisation Juxtaposition

Singapore is generally viewed as a model of ‘the meeting of worlds’. However, more than anywhere else in APAC, 49% of Singaporean respondents said the “greatest downside to globalisation” is “increasing intolerance for other ways of life” – a nine-point jump since 2015.

Perhaps as a result, while 60% of people in the rest of the world said they “expect the best in every person and situation”, 3 in 4 Singaporeans say it’s better to “be prepared for the worst.”

It’s no surprise that given a choice between brands that challenge them and brands that reassure them, 73% of Singaporeans prefer the latter.

From left to right: Richard McCabe, regional strategy director of McCann Worldgroup, APAC (panel moderator); Mandy Mak-Cheong, regional Marketing director APAC at Subway; Kaveri Khullar, marketing director of SEA at Mastercard; Ji-Ching Tang, digital conversion leader of Unilever Food Solutions; Gay Li Tan, professional marketing director at Align Technology

Philippines:  Positive Together 

The general climate in the Philippines has been uneasy. More than 6 out of 10 (60%) of Filipinos say that the country is in a state of conflict, which is higher than the global average of 51%. Yet 9 out of 10 Filipinos say that their personal mood has been positive overall. 

It’s likely that brands have had a hand in this, and can continue to play a role in helping the people keep their trademark optimism.  To stand out, brands need to be meaningful on both a personal and community level.

The McCann Philippines Strategy team

South Korea: Navigating Generational Diversity 

Once dubbed ‘the well-mannered country of the East’, the study finds that only 48% of people in Korea say they have respect for the older generation, the lowest of any country surveyed. 

The study suggests that Korea’s history plays a role in this: after all, the country has completely transformed in the last 70 years, gaining independence from Japan, and undergoing several historical milestones.

Brands have an opportunity to bridge this intergenerational gap.   

Jeeyoung Kwak, COO of McCann Worldgroup Korea welcomes a crowd of Korean marketers

Taiwan: Being Global, Acting Local

Interestingly, the findings in Taiwan align closely with the macro global findings regarding global and local trends. They want both global and local brands to understand the nuances of the culture.  Brands that win lead with their ‘gift of globality’ or 'gift of locality'. 

Cocktail menu with local flavour

To find out more information on the studies, please contact: [email protected]

Related Articles:

Global good, but local better: APAC view on brands

Only 7% of Hong Kongers trust local brands: Report

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