• Transform magazine
  • December 05, 2019

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Insights: Building brands in the age of Asia

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The economic powerhouse of Asia is coming of age, heralding challenges and opportunities for brands that want a bigger piece of the action, Gareth Richardson writes.

When the term ‘Asian century’ was coined a few decades ago, it wasn’t anticipated that this new golden age of Asia would coincide with an era of such global turmoil.

By the time the 2020 Transform Awards Asia-Pacific shortlist is announced, Asian economies will be larger than the rest of the world combined, according to the Financial Times' analysis of International Monetary Fund data. The age of Asia will have truly begun.

That should be good news for brands in Asia. But in an increasingly overcrowded, economically challenged and conflicted world where the emphasis in ‘international’ is firmly on the ‘national,’ what are the implications for brands with expansionary aspirations?

As temperatures rise across the globe in more ways than one, we see manufacturers reshaping products and recalibrating supply chains to meet the demands of fully woke consumers. We see airlines facing a bumpy ride courtesy of carbon shaming, global logistics providers juggling with disintermediation and property developers building on amorphous foundations of smart living and wellbeing. Insurance companies are bracing themselves for waves of climate catastrophe. Legal firms are adapting to laws of automation. Trusted financial service providers are investing in disruption. Regulators are overseeing markets driven by the unseeable and universities are redefining the essence of education.

Reassuringly, for brands in all of these sectors and beyond, one constant is the benefit of standing out from competitors while resonating with audiences. This increasingly means finding shared beliefs and defining a brand purpose that transcends borders and cultures at a deep level.

Now that is not simple.

Core values have evolved through diverse influences across Asia. However, the characteristics of courtesy and respect, the desire for orderly society, the value of long-term relationships and importance of family are common. All are motivational for employees and are values the world should heed to steer responsible development.

Meanwhile branding is essentially a western-originated concept that has taken time to be embraced by Asian CEOs. Throughout a period of dramatic growth, the lure of short-term profits has often been at the cost of a sustainable brand positioning.

The opportunity for Asian businesses today is to harness the power of branding while being true to their authentic values; to recognise that brands with a clear purpose enable businesses to create value beyond profit.

As Asian consumers seek to satiate desire beyond meeting mere needs, they increasingly value the intangible; belonging, connection and quality of life. This hunger for progress is creating opportunity across Asia's diverse developed, emerging and frontier markets.

The need for brands to build belief in the future has never been more pressing and with the age of Asia now upon us, never more potentially rewarding.

Gareth Richardson is the group CEO of Sedgwick Richardson, which has been shortlisted in Transform Awards Asia-Pacific 2019.

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