This begins a series of posts by Svyatoslav Gazandzhiev, who manages Communication Agency Drofa’s promotion of digital financial projects for companies in Asian markets.
Differences in Outlook East vs. West: What European Companies Should Keep in Mind When Entering the Asian Market
When it comes to marketing, one of the main difficulties in working with the Asian market is the absence of standards that would be recognized in each country of the Asian and Pacific region. Marketing in Asia is a patchwork of laws and industry-specific codes that vary from country to country. Something that is acceptable in one would be condemned in another.
If you want to be successful, you will have to consider a multitude of nuances in working with different Asian countries. Below are a few idiosyncrasies that can be found in the marketing practices of Japan, China, and South Korea, the most prominent players on the Asian market.
Marketing is an integral part of any company’s existence in Japan, because there the phrase “the customer is always right” is more than just a phrase. Japanese companies are constantly researching consumers, their motivations, preferences, and demands. This way, they can always remain abreast of the latest trends and offer services that match their customers’ desires. While in many other countries, especially in the West, companies count maximizing profit as their highest priority, in Japan that is not the case at all. The end goal for Japanese companies is not to earn profit, but to maximize their customer satisfaction, which will naturally result in increased profits. If you want to get through to a Japanese audience, you will have to adapt and see how your goods or services can be useful to it.
The two key aspects that you should consider when it comes to marketing in China are branding and long-term planning. Chinese companies do not launch projects solely for short-term gain. They do not engage in unnecessary risk, regardless of the potential benefit. And even if the risks are justified, but run counter to the company’s policies and philosophy, no amount of money in the world will convince it to strike that deal. This is the foundational principle of all of Chinese branding and the operation of Chinese companies. In addition, the Chinese are not very keen on working with representatives of foreign business, generally preferring domestic companies. Therefore, if you are seeking to enter the Chinese market, establishing local connections is not just desirable, but absolutely necessary.
Compared to China and Japan, the South Korean market is easier to understand because it more closely resembles the European and American markets. Marketing planning, strategy, and tools for promotion work more or less the same here as in the West. Local consumers like popular trends, but they can be somewhat fickle; a Western company may find it difficult to secure their interest, and that requires extensive advertising. On the other hand, if you manage this, you can be sure that you have good chances in other Asian markets as well.
Even if you take into account the particular features of each country, you will encounter certain obstacles that will pop up everywhere, regardless of the region.
The most obvious obstacle is the language barrier. Europeans tend to assume that using English in negotiations can help open any door. But the reality is that proficiency levels in English, as with other foreign languages, are not as high in Asian countries as in European countries. To avoid misunderstandings with local partners from conversing broken English, you should always involve professional translators. Besides, you have a higher chance of earning someone’s trust if you show that you are willing to communicate with them in their native language.
Another important element is having a physical presence in the country. In most Eastern countries, interpersonal relationships are the deciding factor for many things. It is often not enough to work remote: you have to get “up close” to your audience to achieve success. Set up a branch office in the region, organize events, demo your product, establish connections, and build trust with potential customers directly: they have to see that you really exist.
Keeping this in mind, it is always helpful, when starting a campaign in one of the Asian countries, to seek the help of local PR agencies or agencies with offices in the region you need, rather than trying to figure out the situation on your own, using second-rate information and risking failure. The agency Drofa has been quite successful working with Eastern agencies and has its own office in Shanghai. We understand the features of the local markets and can help you adapt your marketing strategy to attract the attention of the business community.