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Eye on Asia

January 2006

The comprehensive, 12-country study examines how urban Asians feel about their lives and their aspirations for the future; what they believe makes a great brand; and what they want – and don’t want – from advertising and marketing.

Conducted by Grey and research firm Millward Brown, Eye on Asia surveyed 4,400 Asian adults age 18+ across 12 countries using both quantitative and qualitative research, including in-depth ethnographic interviews and extensive secondary research. The survey covers: China/Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, Taiwan, Thailand and Australia. Eye on Asia is modeled on the company’s highly successful Eye on Australia study, which is now in its 14th year, and a leading barometer of consumer sentiment in that country for government, business and the media.

Topline Findings

Hopes, dreams and needs

  • Asians are optimistic about their futures, which they see as being brighter and as holding more personal advancement opportunities. There is receptivity to that which is new, and a spirit of adventure in creating the future.
  • The greatest aspiration people in the region have for their personal futures is a greater sense of well-being (97%). It is the top ranked aspiration in all age groups except 55+. For 18-24 year olds, it is as important as hobbies and interests.
  • People define well being as: an adequate balance of financial security; family connection (93% overall say they want more time with family); work/life balance; self esteem; variety and new experiences; connection to nature (89%) and peaceful living. 85% of those in Southeast Asia say they want more time for spiritual pursuits.

    Stress, the pressures of pursuing a ‘have it all lifestyle’ and a strong desire to escape the heightened energy of city living are leading people to streamline their lives and respond to options that simplify choice.

What Makes a Great Brand?

Trust, ease and innovation are the three factors people consistently cite as being the building blocks of a great brand.

  • Trust means being credible, 93%; trustworthy, 92%; and ‘from a company with ethics and values’ (87%), underscoring the growing trend to evaluate companies on their overall corporate behaviour as well price or service.
  • Ease, or being easy to remember a brand and its messages, ranks second at 91%. To achieve this, respondents said people who sell products need to ‘be in touch/understand people like me’. Only 54% of those surveyed felt this was currently the case. The disconnection is strongest in Japan where people feel they are being “talked at” rather than engaged.
  • 91% of consumers said innovation was critical for a great brand. 90% of Asians surveyed think their country’s brands need to be more innovative. Ninety-three percent of Asians on average think their country needs to be more inventive.

What Do People Think of Advertising and Marketing?

Asians rate marketers highly; 62% say they’re ‘doing a good job’. They are highly receptive marketing communications seeing them as ways to learn about new products and lifestyles. Sixty-three per cent say they are interested in advertising, finding it fun (69%); innovative (64%) and exciting (53%), valuing humor, new information, appealing use of celebrities, creativity and the medium’s visual and aesthetic appeal.

Yet, 69% say they feel bombarded with too much advertising and marketing, with the situation most acute in Korea (93%) and China (82%). Seventy-two per cent think there is too much of both.

Further, 77% percent call for more limitations and regulations on advertising and marketing, one of the study’s strongest, most consistent findings, indicating global and local advertisers alike need to think of self-regulation in regard to cultural and moral sensitivities.

  • In Beijing and Shanghai, 86% believe advertising is always overselling
  • Vulgarity is almost universally cited in India and Indonesia, with concern that such ads could trigger criminality or moral corruption among youth.
  • Some respondents, particularly Thais believe advertising is insulting to certain cultural and religious groups.

Global advertising per se is not considered offensive – and global brands play an important role in spurring innovation in local brands.

Yet being a global brand in and of itself is no longer as enticing to people as it was in the past. Foreign brands will remain foreign unless they focus more on leveraging their authenticity and brand promises in ways that are relevant to local consumers. The same is true for local brands that want to expand business beyond their own borders.

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About the author

Chris Beaumont
Chief Strategy Officer/Asia Pacific
Grey Global Group
Further information

Susan Reingold
VP, Corporate Communications/Asia Pacific
Grey Global Group