Asia is a market that many international brands struggle to penetrate. For those unused to the culture, its twists and turns can seem unpredictable.
And although most brands have some major hiccups initially, we’re seeing more and more companies (usually big ones) start to settle into Asian markets, producing exciting and creative campaigns.
As online advertising continues to grow exponentially in all sectors – from display ads to videos to social media – we must also remember the value of physical posters and television advertising in a region that values tradition.
Each country – even regions within each country – has a different set of preferences. We’ve rounded up some of the more successful and endearing recent brand advertising in Asia.
China is a tricky market. Growing nationalism in the country has proved challenging for foreign brands, some of whom have had to completely rethink ad campaigns. “Buy Chinese” is a difficult message to fight against, but fears are perhaps a little overblown. Keeping an eye on trends can mean continuing success in the gargantuan Chinese market.
Appealing to sentimentality and even harnessing a bit of nationalism is working well for Reebok, who’ve teamed up with “China’s hunkiest Grandpa”, 81-year-old Wang Deshun.
The campaign, which is the start of Reebok’s new focus on gym equipment (kettle balls, pull-up bars etc), also makes use of other local brand ambassadors, Yuan Shanshan and Wu Lei, but it is Deshun’s inclusion that has made the advertisements stand out. The slogan is a global one: ‘Be More Human’; telling viewers that anyone can build a better body and mind. Reebok are happily sailing along with an uptick in sports interest in China, particularly running.
Hong Kong is culturally very distinct from China, and advertisers need to be careful to build separate marketing strategies for the island city.
A recent ad campaign we’ve been particularly impressed with is Snickers’ “Hungry Slip Ups”. Riffing off the successful global campaign “You’re Not You When You’re Hungry”, the poster campaign took advantage of Hong Kong’s love of celebrity foot-in-mouth moments (such as “What’s your surname, Mr. Chan?” from a former Chief Executive).
Snickers showed a good understanding of Hong Kong culture, which puts a great deal of emphasis on the concept of ‘face’. Little embarrassments are a much bigger deal – and evoke much bigger laughs – than they might do in other countries.
The campaign garnered more than 3.5 million views, likes and shares online and Snickers saw 17% y-o-y growth in sales.
Thailand’s a great place to advertise. Creativity is well-received and online ads – display and video – get a good rate of view-ability. A brand-new paper from Integral Ad Science also ranked it the safest country in the region for online advertising.
One success story we’re seeing again and again in Thailand is the ‘pull-at-your-heart-strings’ emotive ads – more focused on the warm and fuzzies than on aggressive brand pushing. Dubbed ‘sadvertising’, the masters of this genre are Ogilvy & Mather Bangkok, the geniuses behind Thai Life Insurance’s viral ads. The 2014 ad “Unsung Hero” (below) is the most famous of the series (with nearly 30 million views), but keep an eye on thailifechannel to see what’s keeping people loyal to the brand.
Thailand also likes having its funny bone tickled, as the many compilations of successful humorous ads on YouTube will show you. One of our favourites is another good example of “several minutes of drama with very little reference to the actual brand” field of advertising which Thai consumers seem so fond of:
Here’s a brand-new one for you.
Singapore is the first in the SEA region to see the launch of Lego’s new “Build Amazing” campaign, which is pushing for a freer and more imaginative form of play for children (particularly relevant in Asia, where education is very structured from a young age).
The ad features some older children (high school age) building a whimsical invention straight out of their younger peers’ imaginations: a candy rainbow machine.
The new video’s theme cleverly echoes the main ‘lesson’ of the Lego Movie – a piece of advertising most brands can only sob over with envy.
The campaign is also set to roll out in India, Indonesia, Thailand, Vietnam and the Philippines.