For the third year running, Sony has emerged as brand with the strongest equity in the region, coming top in every market except for Korea and, somewhat more surprisingly, Japan. The placing comes in parallel with an improved financial outlook, with the company gradually moving out of the red: the recently posted loss of US$439 million for the year is a significant improvement on 2009, which the firm has attributed largely to the performance of its LCD TV and digital camera divisions. The company has forecast a profit of $541 million by March 2011.
Sony once again tops the TV category, maintaining a lead over Korean rivals Samsung and LG, which rank second and third respectively. And the results of the survey indicate that the company is becoming a more credible player in the camera category, where it ranks as the second most prominent brand after the seemingly unshakable Canon.
Other areas where Sony fares particularly well are home audio, where it trumps Panasonic, and - drawing on its Walkman legacy - portable music player, where it comes ahead of Apple. In the gaming consoles category the brand trails Nintendo, and it has ground to make up on HP, Dell and Acer in the computer category. Mobile, too, continues to be a weak point: Nokia, Samsung and Apple all rank higher than the Sony Ericsson joint venture brand.
Over the past year, the company has taken clear steps to address the challenge from competitors. The Dash, a relatively inexpensive ‘personal internet viewer', is a move towards greater connectivity - although a seamless network as offered by Apple remains some way off. In the gaming sector, the
Move Playstation controller was introduced as an answer to Nintendo's Wii, and is likely to generate added revenue by making the console appealing to an audience outside of its typical hardcore gamers.
Meanwhile, Sony's core innovations of recent times - Blu-ray and 3DTV - are under pressure as they become commodity products. In particular, Panasonic has entered the Blu-ray arena with its own high quality players, while Samsung's LED TV range represents a challenge to Sony's domination of that market, which it has highlighted as a key growth driver. Although its TV division has made a loss for the past six consecutive years, Sony expects 3DTV sales to grow to around 25 million units by the end of the year.
To support a return to growth, Sony has made some bold changes to its branding, changing its ‘like.no.other' slogan to ‘make. believe' - a move that received a mixed reception from observers. While Sony still carries considerable weight in the region thanks to its heritage, retaining this over the long term will require improved consistency, according to Gregory Birge, managing director of F5 Digital Consulting. "Sony has strong potential, but it is not fully capitalising on its brand value," Birge says. "The fact that it is still present in all sectors is helping the brand. But its challenge is to move in a single direction. With competitors like Apple, all components are interlinked. It's really critical for Sony to embrace that change."
|Major categories||Consumer electronics|
Samsung remains hot on the heels of Sony. Aside from Korea, where it ranks first, markets where it rates particularly highly include Thailand, Singapore and India.
Significant investment in its TV products has made this Samsung’s strongest category. It ranks third in the home audio sector after Sony and Panasonic, and while it trails Canon, Nikon and Sony in the camera category, it is the region’s second-favourite mobile handset brand. It also has a solid profile in the white goods market, ranking second.
Clearly, Samsung’a aggressive push into overseas and in particular developing markets is paying off, and Japanese rivals have held up the company’s strategy as a benchmark for expansion. Globally, its share of the consumer electronics market is almost twice that of its closest rivals, and in Asia-Pacific stands at 17 per cent according to Euromonitor.
In terms of branding, the company is increasingly looking away from its in-house agency Cheil, working with Leo Burnett in markets like Malaysia. Notably, it handed creative duties for its premium PAVV TV brand to Hyundaiowned agency Innocean in Korea at the end of last year.
|Major categories||Electronics/White goods|
Korea’s highest-profile brand after Samsung, LG continues to build its profile across the region. The brand moves up one place on last year, making a strong showing across a number of categories. White goods products continue to be LG’s mainstay. The brand was the first choice for consumers across Asia-Pacific for refrigerators, washing machines and air conditioning units. It has also established itself as a solid contender in the TV market, where it ranks third. With an attractive premium product lineup and demand for flat panel TVs surging, this area in particular looks set to drive growth for the company. Last year saw an increase in overall revenue of 20 per cent on 2008 from its home entertainment division. In the smartphone sector, another of its core businesses, it comes a respectable fifth, but faces a stiff challenge against more established rivals such as Nokia, Samsung and Apple. Outside of its home market, LG is firmly established in Australia and India, where it holds second place. According to Euromonitor, its share of the regional consumer electronics market stands at 10 per cent.
|Major categories||Electronics/White goods|
Eighteen months on from the integration of parent company Matsushita into the higher-profile Panasonic, the brand has climbed up the rankings, spurred by the pressing need of all Japanese electronics brands to increase competitiveness outside their home market. Panasonic ranks highly across all markets surveyed, with the exception of India and Korea, where — somewhat worryingly — it failed to break the top 20. It is the top brand in Japan, and its strongest foreign markets consist of Malaysia, where it ranks second, China, Hong Kong and Thailand, where it ranks third. The brand scores highest for its home audio products, where it ranks second overall. In the TV category it has yet to move into the top three, but is taking steps to raise its profile with the launch of a 3D plasma TV range. Additionally, it is competing with Sony in the Blu-ray arena, having introduced its own less expensive variants. Cameras are another growth area, and its Lumix range is enjoying considerable success. In Malaysia, its top regional market outside Japan, Lumix product sales increased by nearly 250 per cent between April 2009 and January, giving the brand a market share of just over 15 per cent. Overall, however, share of the regional consumer electronics market remains small: two per cent, according to Euromonitor.
|Major categories||Consumer electronics
Canon is still Asia’s top camera brand, but the past year has seen it drop two places overall. As predicted, profits fell significantly last year, with the company posting its lowest in a decade. Its strongest markets are China, Hong Kong, Thailand and Malaysia, although its ranking in each case has slipped on last year to fourth. Two of its biggest falls were in Japan and Australia, where it only just makes the top 10. The company’s core strength remains cameras, although it also scores well in the camcorder and printer categories. A priority this year is to build on its momentum in China, which it has earmarked as becoming the world’s top camera market by 2015, and to expand its camera business in India. In China, the brand plans to double its number of outlets. The market currently accounts for around 15 per cent of global sales, and Canon forecasts a 10 per cent rise in sales volume there this year. Meanwhile in India, revenues increased by almost 30 per cent year-on-year in 2009, supported by high profile marketing efforts. The company is aiming to grow its share of that market from 20 to 30 per cent by the summer, and is reaching out to consumers beyond top-tier cities with an experiential ‘Canon on wheels’ campaign across 50 cities nationwide.
|Major categories||Camera/Office equipment
Google's sheer presence in the news throughout 2010 has propelled the company three slots in this year's brand rankings. Starting at the end of 2009, with its blockbuster announcement that it would no longer censor its searches in China, Google has played a pivotal role in shaping the search landscape in Asia. In China, Google's March departure has acted as a game changer, giving companies such as Tencent, Sina and Sohu the opportunity to gain crucial ground to take on market leader Baidu. However, the move has also undoubtedly limited Google's opportunities in the market.
Other markets where Google fails to dominate include Hong Kong, Korea, Japan and Taiwan. However, the brand's popularity has risen significantly in the latter two over the past year, and its efforts to strengthen its mobile positioning may also be paying off. In the first quarter of 2010, mobile phones that use Google's Android operating system outsold Apple's iPhone in the US for the first time. If that success is replicated in Asia - in mobile-rich markets such as India, Indonesia and the Philippines - Google will cement its position as a resilient and adaptable digital leader.
|Major categories||Search engine|
Having fallen out of the top ten in 2009, Yahoo re-enters after a strong and newsworthy year, remaining the search engine of choice in Hong Kong, Japan and Taiwan. After resolving the drawn-out Microhoo fiasco last summer, Yahoo inked several key partnerships in the region. In January, it linked with Friendster in Southeast Asia to share information, further promoting cross-usage between the two popular Southeast Asian domains, and in May, Yahoo Japan and Alibaba created an e-retail partnership that allows Yahoo Japan to provide product listings to Chinese consumers. The momentum came off the back of a global marketing blitz — its first in seven years — that began in September, on the same day its redesigned homepage went live. The initiative included a US$100 million-plus global ad campaign and a new tagline ‘Y!OU’. The brand has also benefited from streamlining. Following a zoning restructure that consolidated Asia-Pacific markets, senior VP for Asia, Rose Tsou, expanded her role to include the management of Southeast Asia and India. With her experience leading Yahoo in markets including Hong Kong and Taiwan, more positive changes are likely.
|Major categories||Search engine|
Despite a turbulent year for Nestlé in the press, the food and beverage giant manages to launch into the top 10, up five places from 2009. In its favour are its well-established products: both the overarching Nestlé brand and the Maggi instant noodle brand land in the top ten in Malaysia.
In Singapore and Thailand, Nestlé ranks ninth and thirteenth respectively - far ahead of rival Cadbury.
However, Nestlé 's image has been dented by a recent publicity storm after Greenpeace launched a campaign blaming the company for the deforestation of jungles inhabited by Indonesian orangutans. What resulted was a social media spat that saw Nestlé force Greenpeace's video off Youtube and exchange insults with its social media ‘fans'. The international debacle became a lesson for all brands looking to engage in social media marketing, but Nestlé found a more forgiving audience in Asia. Going forward, Nestlé has learned valuable communications lessons, which it will use in taking on newly-merged
competitors Cadbury and Kraft.
|Major categories||Food and drink|
Apple's elevated profile in 2010 can be attributed to one product: the iPad. Once again, Apple's technology left competitors scrambling to announce their own equivalents. However, while Apple leads the way in the tablet computer market, it has increasing competition in other key areas. In the first quarter of 2010, phones equipped with Google's Android software have outsold iPhones in the US for the first time, while Microsoft launched its Kin smartphone targeting younger audiences. Apple's cause was further hindered when photos of its latest iPhone prototype were leaked online after a technician lost the gadget at a bar, allegedly prompting Steve Jobs to personally demand for its return. Elsewhere, Apple's refusal to install Adobe Flash on its iPad may also give industry players the gap they seek to gain leverage over Apple's established product.
Nonetheless, Apple has taken steps to stay ahead of the curve. Also in January, the company announced its takeover of mobile ad network Quattro Wireless, showing that it aims to maintain relevance in key business areas while continuing to explore new possibilities.
|Major categories||Consumer electronics|
10. Hewlett Packard
While its first-quarter revenue increased by 19 per cent in Asia-Pacific, HP's ranking this year drops four places. Nonetheless, it remains the region's top computer brand, weighing in above Dell and Acer, which rank second and third respectively. It also continues to dominate the printer category, trumping Canon and Epson. The US brand is strongest in China and Thailand, where it comes in seventh and ninth respectively.
Recent activity has been concentrated on China, and includes last year's acquisition of leading network vendor 3Com. This is expected to contribute to a return to form for the brand in the software sector, which saw an overall dip of 16 per cent last year. Elsewhere in the region, HP failed to make the top 10. Yet Asia-Pacific remains HP's key growth region. Earlier this year, it opened a research facility in Singapore - its third in the region - to develop its cloud-based services. A challenge in 2010 will be recovering dropped share in the regional notebook market: it currently holds 17 per cent, behind Lenovo.