The World: Insider's view - Singapore

Understanding and responding to Asian consumers' unique value system can help raise the profile of Eastern brands on the global stage, Mike Amour writes.

In Asia, democratisation of access to broader choices is illustrating a fundamental shift in how brands need to enter consumers' lives, whatever the price. Today, "new" luxury is not so much what I have, but how much I enjoy - the pleasure it gives me. It is the experience of luxury, not the "thing" itself. Asian consumers are increasingly seeking enriched experiences, rather than rich lifestyles.

On average, 60 per cent are satisfied with their lives; satisfaction tends to correlate with the notion of prosperity, but in no country was having more money a key driver. In Singapore, having more time to be with one's family is viewed as central to improving quality of life.

One marketing issue that shares a general, yet intimate insight, is time. This has become a major focus of stress and anxiety. Time is poorly understood and can be a powerful marketing weapon to lift life beyond the everyday. That said, while time is objective, how people view it is subjective. It is valued differently at different times, and, above all, people experience time differently.

In comparison with the West, where many people will actually pay not to receive advertising, we find Asians respect and react positively to marketing messages. Marketing and advertising plays an important role in the lives of people, providing the intrinsic joy of creativity and stimulating people's aspirations and pleasure. At the same time, aspirations may vary, since each country has a unique personality and individual collective unconscious.

With the unnerving trend towards globalisation and the massive focus on Asia, the really significant opportunity is to accelerate the development of Asian brands that can go global. Globally, there are few strong Asian brands, with the exception of ones from Korea and Japan. Asian manufacturers mostly produce for other companies, and the majority of these products are therefore non-branded - principally volume products without personalities, values and distinct faces. This must change in the next few years if Asian companies are to benefit from a larger part of a product's financial value, driven by strong marketing and branding programs.

One successful Asian brand that is not standing still, Singapore Airlines has successfully tapped into this need by redefining first-class travel in its new Boeing 777-300. What makes this experience unique for the traveller is the blend of luxury delivered through the iconic Singapore Girl. While the luxury and the accessories can be easily replicated by the competitors, it is the quality of service that really transforms the traveller's experience.

In this era of the value-exchange, if we want our target audience to trade a precious moment of their time interacting with our brand, then we have to give them something very worthwhile in return.

- Mike Amour is the Grey Global Group's Asia-Pacific chairman and chief executive.