Advertising in ASEAN: Biggest Mistake Marketers Make

Advertising in ASEAN: Biggest Mistake Marketers Make

Last updated April 16th, 2019.


Companies around the world want to seize the ocean of opportunities that Southeast Asia now represents. That’s especially true with the launch of the ASEAN Economic Community.

Learning how to advertise in the ASEAN region is a good start towards accomplishing that goal.

Advertising in ASEAN is very different compared to other places. For example, fast food giants such as Burger King and Carl’s Jr. didn’t succeed until they dropped prices and adapted to local flavors.

There’s still some time until AEC achieves its goals in becoming a single market and production base. Full implementation of the economic union appears delayed by several years.

Nonetheless, anyone wanting to conduct business throughout the ASEAN region should gain a head start on understanding Southeast Asia and its unique consumer market.

Only then can companies implement the correct sales and marketing techniques once the time is right.


Why Expand into Southeast Asia?

ASEAN represents a huge trading bloc of over 634 million people. In fact, it’s the world’s third biggest consumer market in terms of population trailing behind China and India.

Key features that distinguish ASEAN from other large consumer markets are its rapid income growth and young demographics.

Southeast Asia also enjoys immense economic diversity. It’s the sole region in the world where highly developed countries like Singapore sit alongside frontier markets such as Cambodia and Myanmar.

Comparing median age across other regions, Southeast Asia’s 28.9 means it has a significantly younger population than China’s 37.5, USA’s 37.8, or 42.4 in the EU.

ASEAN is the world’s third most populous consumer market. Yet it only ranks seventh in terms of total trade value.

However, this will change rather soon. Many organizations predict the ASEAN economy will be worth more than US$3.0 trillion before 2030. That’s ahead of Japan’s expected $2.9 trillion, the UK’s $2.6 trillion, and the entire Eastern Europe’s $2.5 trillion.


Multibillion-dollar corporations sometimes even make horrible marketing mistakes in Asia.

ASEAN is Diverse: A Challenge for Marketers

Firms shouldn’t dive into ASEAN without expanding their knowledge first. The region’s great diversity is arguably the most important thing that potential investors must consider.

Southeast Asia is growing rapidly in both income and expenditure levels. But this growth isn’t evenly spread. For example, comparing Singapore and Vietnam, Singapore boasts an average household annual disposable income level of over US$100,000. Vietnam’s is below US$5,000.

Those income disparities are explained by several factors. Reasons include lopsided degrees of economic openness, trade liberalization, and financial market development.

Walking hand in hand with income levels are expenditure levels. The gap here is as large, if not larger.

Singapore, the region’s most developed nation, has an average household expenditure of over US$70,000. Meanwhile, it’s barely $3,000 in Myanmar. That’s why ASEAN’S “average household expenditure” figure is generally misleading.

If disparities between expenditure and income within the ASEAN region weren’t enough, huge differences also exist within each country by themselves.

Other factors worth considering when marketing and advertising across ASEAN include its vast array of different different cultures, languages, and religions.


Businesses Must Understand Advertising in ASEAN

Due to the ASEAN region’s extreme diversity, companies shouldn’t approach things with a “one size fits all” strategy.

Many large, well-backed multinationals consider Southeast Asia as just merely a single market though. That’s a massive mistake.

Firms must gain a clear understanding of consumers before entering the ASEAN market. And perhaps decide whether they should even do business in ASEAN at all.

Greater awareness will ultimately help companies make the correct decision.

The point is: ASEAN has many challenges. But investors who overcome them will obtain access to one of the fastest growing markets on the planet.

Learning how to create effective advertisements is a solid first step towards achieving business success overall in this dynamic region.


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