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Pictured here: GE's Jason Hill, MasterCard's Ben Jankowski, Omnicom's Tim Love and R3's Greg Paull

Industry Leaders Share Insights on Changing Asia Markets

At an Internationalist "Hot Markets" Think Tank last month, four global industry leaders provided marketers with new thinking on how a changing Asia will impact their strategies. The key focus of the discussion was Asia's three marketing powerhouses- Japan, China and India; however, other countries and subregions were brought into the discussion. Today Asian markets are critical to achieving multinational marketing success, yet each is distinctly different in terms of advertising sophistication, media usage, consumer spending, retail distribution and global brand development.

The Think Tank, made possible by BBC World News, Bloomberg, Publicitas and the Yomiuri Shimbun, featured the perspectives of R3's Founder Greg Paull, GE's Director of Advertising for Growth Markets Jason Hill, MasterCard's Group Head of Global Media Ben Jankowski and Omnicom's Vice Chairman Tim Love.

According to opening presenter Greg Paull, China, India and Japan are all "hot markets" as all three place among the Top Five Countries for total internet users. China leads with 513 million Internet users (or 38.4% of the population), followed by the US with 245 million (78.3% of the population), India with 121 million (10.2% of the population), Japan with 101 million (80% of the population) and, in 5th place, Brazil with 82 million (42.2% of the population).

Among the many trends presented for these top markets, Greg Paull highlighted the following:

China's digital marketing landscape is unlike that of any other country. Microblogging has changed marketing and has contributed to the rise of Weibo, best described as a hybrid of Twitter and Facebook. The top 5 most engaging digital brands are Sina Weibo, Baidu, Q-Zone, Taobao and Tencent Weibo--none of which has wider international familiarity. China's digital sophistication has led to a number of marketing "gimmicks" to watch in the struggle for brand growth. "Water Armies" are online groups paid by marketers to inflate the number of users. "Corpses" are thousands of paid followers who engage with brands to inflate their status. "Zombies" are individuals paid to tweet about brands. "50 Cent Parties" are also groups paid to spread positive brand comments. The best advice for China? Think local and act local.

Japan's e-commerce is well established and consumers have a mature mindset that is largely driven by comparative consideration and seeking greater information. Consumer spending comprises more than half of the country's economic activity. As a result, the best marketing advice is to know your company's role in the consumer journey and drive for innovation. This means over-investing in CRM and loyalty programs, while also thinking of niche and exclusivity strategies. Keep in mind that Mixi, Japan's leading social network, is largely mobile-accessed with 85% of users keeping up to date via their smart phone. (Note that Apple only has 2.5% marketshare of mobile phones in Japan.)

Without question, mobile is driving India to become a more connected country, which means that marketers must test and learn on smartphones. The world's largest democracy and second most populous country is also home to a burgeoning middle class of 300 million people, while 75% of the population is between the ages of 15 and 24. Relevant youth insights are critical. India's challenge to brands is its retail structure. Small family-run shops currently comprise 90% of all retailers. India is now starting to open doors to foreign retail investment, which bodes well for companies like Wal-Mart Stores Inc. The Congress Party-controlled government will allow foreign retailers to own up to 51 percent in local projects. However, state governments are allowed to reject the policy.


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