The Asia Pacific region is home to over 4.5 billion people, about 60 percent of Earth’s population. It encompasses a variety of cultures, histories, and economic conditions difficult to group together under a single headline. While these intricacies and regional characteristics are important to grasp in global marketing in Asia and everywhere else, we can begin to uncover what it takes for brands to expand into this part of the world.
That’s disheartening. But perhaps worse—or at least, more confusing—is the fact that the numbers neither confirm nor deny the validity of these terms. On one hand, HubSpot stats for Asia, Australia, and New Zealand show that, in 2016, “70 percent of APAC businesses feel their content marketing efforts are limited, basic, or inconsistent.” On the other hand, according to LinkedIn, an equal percentage of B2B global marketing practitioners plan to increase their spend on content in the next year, while brands in Asia already devote close to 25 percent of their marketing budgets to it.
If your brand is looking to expand its global content efforts to Asia in 2017 or soon thereafter, this is disconcerting. You can’t plan your next moves without a clearer picture of the environment you’re hoping to enter.
According to Campaign Asia, content marketing in Asia is growing between 5 and 10 percent annually, mostly due to the number of companies that are becoming full-fledged media brands.
Interested in learning more, I asked three global marketing experts based in Asia the same question I asked European marketers in a previous article: how can a company succeed in expanding its content strategy into the region? Below are their answers.
Are There Content Marketing Strategies That Work Better or Worse in Asia? If So, Why?
1. Isabella Barbato—Regional Marketing Manager for Outbrain, Asia Pacific: Singapore
“Despite the challenges, innovation is picking up quickly in the market.”
Brands in Asia are growing increasingly mature in their understanding of content, and the budgets are indicative of this. Statistics from the Content Marketing Institute reveal that the average business in Asia spends about 25 percent of its marketing budget on content marketing creation and distribution. This is proof that marketers in the region are relatively convinced of content marketing’s potential to generate leads and sales.
While this is so, there are nuances to take note of when executing content marketing in Asia Pacific. They include 1) its status as a mobile-first region 2) publishers’ fiercely independent stance, and finally 3) a fragmented landscape.
Opportunity as a mobile-first region
The surge of mobile as a medium is also fast-growing in popularity in the more mature markets where smartphone penetration is high. 2016 has been a year of continued growth for the APAC mobile industry, with smartphone penetration outstripping traditional desktop devices in most countries in the region.
Research by Google also reaffirms this advancement; four of the world’s top ten markets for smartphone adoption helm from the region—with Singapore and South Korea vying for fourth place at 91 percent, followed closely by Taiwan and Malaysia at 82 percent and 81 percent respectively.
This makes the landscape ripe with opportunities for brands to engage with consumers through thoughtful, creative content marketing on the medium.
Another hurdle we face here in Asia is that because the region is so diverse, the marketing landscape is fragmented; consumer needs, preferences and habits vary widely across the region that effective content strategies and campaigns require a market-by-market approach.
In China for instance, given the economic disparity and inequality between the first, second, and third-tier cities, content marketing may be seen by some brands as a realistic means of reaching an audience willing to spend—but less so to others.
India is another case in point. As a result of a growing middle class, India is seeing strong momentum from second- and third-tier cities in terms of increased demand and appetite for e-commerce related content. There is no doubt the next wave of growth in India’s internet penetration will be fueled by these cities; already, they make up approximately half of revenues for most e-tailers. Additionally, by 2020, of the 650 million internet users in India, 50-55 percent are expected to be rural users, up from 33 percent in 2013, according to a report by Ernst and Young (EY).
Upcoming trends in 2017
Despite the challenges that the market presents, innovation is picking up quickly and seems to be the strategic thrust in 2017, including:
- Purpose-driven content marketing, where content discovery will be increasingly key in this process.
- Use of videos as a medium of content promotion is set to rise.
- Increased investments in chatbots, a reflection of the shift in how individuals consume information.
2. Nick Fawbert—Founder at Mutiny Consulting, Board Member, Asia Content Marketing Association: Singapore.
“Content creators have to satisfy consumer needs that are culturally specific to Asia.”
Content is a “pull” rather than a “push” medium, so great content creators will be conscious that they need to satisfy consumer needs that are culturally specific to Asia. Generally speaking, many underlying motivations in western culture will revolve around individualism, opportunities to gain and pride of ownership. Conversely, collectivist Asian societies tend to be more conservative, so underlying motivations revolve around collaboration, security, and the mitigation of risk.
Newcomers to the region often comment on how sentimental content can be, and that’s because creative practitioners are leveraging these emotional triggers.
Nevertheless, there are significant differences between nations and communities. Unruly Media studied a range of drivers in social sharing, and it’s remarkable how different the triggers are, for example, between Singapore and Thailand when sharing content. That means it’s not enough just to develop original content strategies for Asia, you need to develop them at a national and community level.
3. Mary Pereira—Social Media Strategist, Digital Marketing Lead at HackerTrail: Singapore
“Don’t confuse content marketing with campaigns because the success that content marketing derives from is longevity and sustainability.”
Given that the market is already saturated with content from our western counterparts, Asia struggles to be on par. However, instead of competing, look at complementing existing content that is currently out there. With the context so often getting lost in translation, forgo transcription and create original content pieces from scratch with the same objectives in mind and apply to any medium—blogs, videos, infographics—for a credible outreach to the relevant audience.
But it’s not enough to just be producing content; the key is to have a strategy in place. Don’t confuse content marketing with campaigns because the success that content marketing derives from is longevity and sustainability. Peter Drucker was once quoted as saying “If you can’t measure it, you can’t change it.” For successful content marketing strategies to generate ROI, bring in analytics to distinguish what works and what doesn’t in order to innovate.
With the difference of values and disposition in Asia, content marketing is not a one-size-fits-all solution. There should be a conscious effort to recognize that communication and distribution strategy differs from region to region when engaging with audiences in Asia. And if brands understand that authenticity, personalization and consistency are key in content marketing successes, it will be a win-win for both them and their Asian audiences.
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About the Author
BiographyMore Content by Carlos García-Arista