Despite myriad changes in Asia’s Top 1000 Brands this year, the region’s five highest brands remained largely unshakable.
Samsung has now sat atop the list for a full decade—a remarkable feat attributable to a multitude of factors such as its wide product range placing it in so many categories, its leading innovation that brings us new products like foldable phones, its unparalleled distribution network across Asia-Pacific, its eye-catching creative marketing campaigns that leverage K-pop stars and foster the broadest appeal of any brand across all APAC markets.
Not too far behind though are its closest competitors. This year, all top five brands in our survey are consumer-electronics giants, after Nestle fell out hard from number five in 2020, tumbling to number 10 this year. Apple is once again the runner-up in second spot, as it has been for eight of the past 10 years during Samsung’s reign. Panasonic once again takes the bronze in third place.
It’s not until fourth place where we start seeing changes in positions from last year. In 2020, Sony’s first stumble out of the top five (thanks to the rise of LG) was a major development. This year, Sony strikes back, not only re-entering at number four, but nudging challenger LG down into fifth place.
Should we be surprised Asian consumers love their electronics brands so much? Hardly. A full year after the spread of Covid, people are more attached and dependent on their devices than ever before. But how else did these brands win brand affinity, or at least earn more attention, in the past year?
Here are five things each of them did:
1. ‘Unpacked’ loads of products
While hardware companies will often build up to one or two big headline events, Samsung has had so much to bring to market that in 2021 it’s 'Unpacked' product launch events are becoming more regular occurrences. After ‘unpacking’ new Galaxy S21 flagship phones in January, cheaper Galaxy A phones in March, and new laptops in April, yet another Unpacked event is set for August.
2. Promised to treat laptops more like smartphones
At the April Unpacked event, Campaign Asia-Pacific Power List member Stephanie Choi said the company wanted to treat new laptops more like smartphones. The company followed the statement up with a clever campaign about the ‘Museum of Laptops’ showing just how archaic the technology can be.
3. Inventive marketing
From teaming up with an Olympian for a fragrance ad parody, to using floating 3D forms in its DOOH advertising, Samsung is not shy to try something new. But probably this year’s favourite remains the wacky Galaxy A creator campaign featuring a Thai tatoo artist, a rap duo, a skate crew and alien Lil Mayo.
4. Led industry calls to overhaul memory technology
Given the rise of 5G, AI and the post-Covid explosion of data, Samsung announced this month that was ready to work with the entire industry beyond individual brand innovations on next-generation memory technology that will be needed in the near future.
5. Introduced the JetBot AI 90+
How do you make cleaning cool? Automate it by giving a self-vacuum a sleek white design, a spy camera and name like ‘JetBot’. Borderline creepy but still slightly more intriguing.
1. Put privacy first
Apple is making a concerted effort to position itself as a privacy-first company. Last November it rolled out new privacy ‘nutrition labels’ to make customers more aware of what was being tracked. Its April iOS 14 update made phone identifiers for advertisers an opt-in process, disrupting the targeted ad-dependent business models of big platforms like Facebook. But as not all governments are on board with allowing greater privacy, Apple is being forced to make difficult decisions about fulfilling its mission as a privacy leader and protecting its reach and revenue.
2. Got into a fee fight
Apple’s desire to be seen as defender of consumer interests, however, has been undermined by its spat with app developers who try to circumvent Apple’s fees. This was mostly visibly seen in its row with Fortnite creator Epic Games, which turned Apple’s 1984 ad against it as their legal battle became a public one.
3. Set a record quarter thanks to China
With a record $89.6 billion in sales in the second quarter, you could say Apple is doing more than okay. Importantly, China is playing a very big role in that, with revenue there jumping 87% in Q2 on strong demand for 5G smartphones.
4. Continued to roll out uber-cool stores
Apple’s orb that bobs in Singapore’s Marina Bay opened last summer but is still turning heads and forming line-ups, as plenty of shoppers like to take in its views, alongside the products.
5. Jumped rope for fun
A fun AirPods spot by TBWA\Media Arts Lab featured double Dutch champion Kengo Sugino.
1. Stayed in on the Olympics
Panasonic has been a key sponsor of the Olympic Games for over 30 years, known for providing broadcast and camera equipment for the events. For the Tokyo Games, it is also a supporting partner of the torch relay.
2. Planned a restructure
3. Made its biggest acquisition in a decade
Whilst Panasonic is still best known for its consumer goods, its $7 billion deal to buy supply chain software company Blue Yonder signals the brand’s desire to move away from traditional manufacturing.
4. Cracks down on counterfeits
Panasonic teamed up with Lazada to help seize 82,000 fake Panasonic batteries and help police catch the counterfeiters in Thailand.
5. Created Pa!go with Google to get kids off screens
To help kids explore their world around them, Panasonic developed a remote control-type device hat encourages discovering new surroundings. The device captures images of their surroundings, describes them and allows kids to share their findings with their families.
1. Launches PS5…
Sure, Playstation is its own healthy brand (up six spots to 29th overall in Asia this year) but mother brand Sony derives much of its equity from its highly successful gaming console, which had its first major upgrade since the PS4 was launched in 2013. While the console itself has a confusing design that has led it to be positioned upside-down even in its ads, reviews have been healthy placing Sony back into next-gen gaming conversations.
2. …with an impossible brand promise
The gaming community is up for good fun but cynical by nature. So if your new brand promise is “Play has no limits,” it makes for dazzling new marketing, but you can be sure any glitches, hiccups or shortcomings will be served back to you. And it was. The memes off this tagline have had fewer limits than the hardware as Sony was mocked for its pricing (“Play has no limits. But my bank account has.”) and availability (“Play has extremely limited stock”). It also did not help that indie developers challenged Sony for its lack of backend support to help them succeed on the platform.
3. Brought in a lot more revenue
With more people home-bound under Covid, being in the gaming and home entertainment space is a good place to be. Hence Sony’s net income in the latest quarter surged nearly 750% on-year thanks largely to a surge from its Game & Network Services division, but was helped by increases from music, electronics products and financial services and more—everything but its movie division. The brand finished fiscal 2020 with 9% more revenue than the year prior.
4. Picked a bad launch day in China
Earlier this month Sony announced it would host an event in China to launch its newest smartphones on July 7th. This was the same date on which Japanese forces invaded China back in 1937. Not good. The announcement also came a day before China’s Communist Party celebrated its 100th anniversary, and the blowback was severe. The party’s mouthpiece, The Global Times has singled Sony out for repeated humiliations over the years, forcing the brand to once again apologise to its Chinese customers.
5. Sealed a deal to bring Sesame Street back to Japan
After a 17-year hiatus, Sony Group again acquired the rights to the Sesame Street children's characters in Japan, Nikkei Asia reported, with plans to integrate them into its game development and create new merchandising opportunities.
1. Exited the mobile phone business
In April, LG announced it will walk away from manufacturing smartphones after losing money for years. But it vowed to continue research and development (R&D) activities into telecom technologies.
2. Attempted to stop vehicle-pedestrian accidents with an app
One example of LG’s continued diversification is a smartphone app called V2X (vehicle-to-everything) aimed at warning of collision risks between pedestrians and vehicles based on incoming road condition information and available smart CCTV footage. The app sends location, direction and speed data from the user to the cloud which sends back traffic data to the user. Yes, soon there will be even fewer reasons to divert attention from our smartphones while walking to be aware of our surroundings—the phones will keep us safe.
3. Posted record sales figures
In its latest quarter, LG sales hit 17.11 trillion won (US$15 billion), a Q2 record, alongside a 66% jump in operating profit, bolstered by strength in home appliances and TVs.
4. Joined the mini-LED TV race
While Samsung has led the way on mini-LED TVs followed by Chinese brands, LG is about to bring its own version to market with tiny LED backlighting that helps with sharper contrast.
5. Committed the unforgivable in a Singapore ad
What jingle is sure to stick in people’s minds forever? Why ‘Baby Shark’ of course. So is it understandable that LG would use it in advertising for its Styler air purifier. It sure is. But that doesn’t mean it’s a forgivable offense.