ASIA: TOP ASIAN CLIENTS - The commercial potential in Asia presents marketers with a tough challenge. Thomas Verner talks to four senior client figures about the hazards of creating brand identities in a divergent market

By THOMAS VERNER, campaignlive.co.uk, Friday, 09 May 1997 12:00AM

LEVI STRAUSS

LEVI STRAUSS



Simon Hughes, 37



Asia Pacific Marketing



What is your work background?



I’ve been with Levi’s for ten years, and have been marketing the brand

in Korea, New Zealand and Singapore for the past two years. Before that

I was marketing Coca-Cola in New Zealand.



What advertising, apart from your own, do you like or dislike?



Calvin Klein and Ericcson788, the mobile phone. I like the advertising

for IBM where the laptop is shown in virtual environments around the

world.



What is the most difficult part of your job?



A new global brand equity study has given us the impetus to create a

communications strategy for Asia. We’re bringing together 12 countries

that have worked independently of each other. Asia is not as homogeneous

as Europe, you’ve got Antipodeans, north Asia and south Asia, so it’s a

question of identifying which ones to go after.



Which other brands would you like to work for and why?



Adidas. I’m a big sports enthusiast. Its resurgence is nothing short of

spectacular and I have enormous admiration for it. Another brand which

has enormous potential is Nokia with its Nokia 9000.



What do you like and dislike about ad agencies?



Bartle Bogle Hegarty has opened an office in Singapore, so we can marry

the best of both worlds. BBH’s superb creative work combined with the

superb media-buying knowledge of McCann-Erickson in Asia Pacific.



For a client, what possibilities does the Asian market offer?



The market potential for consumer products in Asia is absolutely vast.

But the challenge is not realising the potential, it’s trying to eke out

a strong identity in the Asian consumer’s mind. At the moment, Asians

buy a brand for its label rather than its value. There are wonderful

opportunities for strong brands in this part of the world.



If you weren’t a client, what would your alternative career choice

be?



I’d love to get into sports marketing - to plan and develop a sports

franchise. Working in the marketing department of Manchester United

would be really exciting - it’s a particularly strong brand.



IKEA



Lotta Lunden, 40



Commercial director, Singapore



What is your work background?.



I’ve been the commercial director of Ikea in Singapore for

three-and-a-half years - I’ve been working for the company since 1980,

in Sweden and elsewhere in Europe. I left Ikea for two years in the

early 90s when I started my own business consultancy in Sweden.



What advertising, apart from your own, do you like or dislike?



I like advertising that has a strong identity and profile, the type of

advertising that is attention-grabbing and appeals to a specific target

group. I have problems with global marketing, where you get the feeling

the company is so preoccupied with what it would like to say it ignores

what the consumer wants to hear. It is important to reach out to a

specific target group and tie them into your market.



What is the most difficult part of your job?



Ikea is about giving value for your money and it is important that we

get value from our suppliers. It’s difficult to find a partner who

shares our challenge of seeking new solutions.



Which other brands would you like to work for and why?



I really want to continue working for Ikea. It is important for me that

a company is built on a strong vision. As markets become more

competitive, it is the companies with a strong vision that stand

out.



What do you like and dislike about ad agencies?



I think it’s important with an agency to get a good partnership;

agencies must really understand the type of business you are in. They

can offer fresh ideas and inspiration. I don’t like it when I feel an

agency loses focus in the sense that they are concentrating on producing

a good ad, rather than producing something that enhances the business.

The creative solution must meet the goal - which is to increase business

or brand the company.



For a client, what possibilities does the Asian market offer?



Asia is overtaking the rest of the world - it is an extremely

fast-moving economy. I see unlimited growth here. I think the future is

in Asia. For Ikea, if you look at Singapore, there’s a huge up-grading

in Asia - people are getting bigger houses and there’s more interest in

furniture and home furnishings. The same goes for Malaysia.



If you weren’t a client, what would your alternative career choice

be?



I would like to stay in the retail business with a company which is

daring and different. Otherwise, I would probably live in the South of

France.



NOKIA



Colin Giles, 33



Director of marketing, Asia Pacific



What is your work background?



I have been director of marketing for Nokia for three years in Hong

Kong, and now in Singapore as well. Prior to that, I was a marketing

manager in Australia for Nokia for 18 months . I was in product

management for Alcatel in Sydney before working for the

telecommunications service provider, Millicom, in Darlington, North-east

England.



What advertising, apart from your own, do you like or dislike?



Orange stands out as a benchmark for our industry as an integrated and

consistent marketing campaign. We’re starting to see mini-Orange

campaigns in the cellular industry floating around Asia now. I relate to

them because they’re in my industry; even our Nokia campaign through

Bates Singapore bears some relation to Orange. We’re starting to move

into emotional advertising rather than the ’You want to buy a mobile

phone?’approach. Otherwise, I like advertising that breaks out of the

mould, takes risks. I’m attracted to the Apple ’1984’ commercial, the

Absolut Vodka marketing and Swatch’s campaigns. As an Asian example, you

have to give Singapore Airlines credit for its consistent approach. The

concept of the Singapore girl is an icon for Asian advertising.



What is the most difficult part of your job?



My major problem is focusing and having to compromise. The Asia Pacific

region is just so diverse. If you include Australia, you have a whole

bunch of Europeans in the bottom of Asia, then you have millions of

Asian people who are culturally different from each other. You’ll never

get the job 100 per cent right in this region, it’s too diverse. Our

Nokia campaign by Bates Singapore minimised the number of compromises

with its modular approach, with four different strands - Malaysian,

Indian, Chinese and European. We were then able to put the four modules

together to create a regional campaign that took into account the local

differences and didn’t cost an arm and a leg. We didn’t have to produce

a different commercial in each country. If I had an unlimited budget I

might well produce local advertising in every market - but I don’t.



Which other brands would you like to work for and why?



I’m a telecommunications specialist so I do relate to the other

technology brands such as Sony and Microsoft. I relate to the underdogs,

so I would love to take up a challenge, like Apple Computer. The image

of Apple is starting to deteriorate - it doesn’t have the same

credibility it once had, so it will have to do a massive campaign to

turn itself around, not just on the stock market but in the shops.



What do you like and dislike about ad agencies?



In Asia, when I travel around visiting advertising agencies, I don’t

like having to do constant sales pitches. I admire creatives. Trying to

turn strategy into reality through creativity is a wonderful, fulfilling

challenge.



For a client, what possibilities does the Asian market offer?



Asia is an absolutely wonderful continent. There are so many people here

who are just discovering that they’ve got a disposable income and

they’re trying to work out what to do with it. For the marketer, it’s

the opportunity to build brands from the beginning. In some parts of

China, people have never heard of Coca-Cola or Marlboro. Most of our

markets are in growing industries, which offer different challenges to

the mature European markets.



If you weren’t a client, what would your alternative career choice

be?



I think I’d just lie on a beach. I was a semi-professional tri-athelete,

so I guess if I had to live my life again and I had the talent, I’d like

to be a professional sportsman.



BLACK CAT



Wongchanoke Chevasiri, 29



Deputy managing director,



United Winery and Distillery



What is your work background?.



Since October 1984, I have been working for UWD and Aqua Vitae,

producers of the Thai whisky, Black Cat Whisky, V.O. Whisky and the

light alcohol brand, Wine Cooler Club.



What advertising, apart from your own, do you like or dislike?



I love all kinds of advertising. but I particularly like the Ericsson

’it’s in a hole’ads. It successfully conveys its key product benefits -

its compact size and how easy it is to carry - with a precise marketing

strategy and the catchline, ’So small it could be in a hole.’ I don’t

like the recent Carlsberg ads which fail to position the brand

successfully in the beer market. It could harm the 100-year-old

reputation of the Carlsberg name, which does not have a good reputation

in Thailand.



What is the most difficult part of your job?



The beginning of a new product launch is the most difficult part. Once

I’ve found the right direction - how the product will be positioned and

who the target group is, most of my problems disappear. I must consider

the demographics and culture of each country’s peoples, so that no-one

is offended.



Which other brands would you like to work for and why?



I’d like to introduce and market beauty products such as hair and

complexion merchandise. Otherwise, I’d like to support organisations

which help deprived children and contribute to society but I am very

loyal and obliged to UWD.



What do you like and dislike about ad agencies?



I have never been disappointed with Results Advertising, UWD’s agency. I

like the process of building a team and sharing ideas. It’s a learning

experience. I gain information about advertising from Decha

Tangpanitansuk, the managing director of Results Advertising, and they

learn about alcohol products from me.



For a client, what possibilities does the Asian market offer?



The Indo-China and Asia markets hold great potential. I plan to export

UWD’s products to Indo-China, and expect to be a pioneer in its future

market. As an Asian marketer, I have successfully exported the Wine

Cooler Club to the Scandinavian market, and plan to export across Europe

too.



If you weren’t a client, what would your alternative career choice

be?



Whatever makes me happy.



This article was first published on campaignlive.co.uk

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