The Big Differences between the Asian and European Markets

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Jan Harling, Global Media Director for OPPO since February 2021, offers valuable insight into the Asian market and what sets it apart from the US and Europe. 

What are the specificities of the Asian market, and can it be generalised as one market?

Having been in Asia 15 years now, it is very difficult to categorise the continent as one region. For starters, geographically the region naturally divides into five sub-regions which are used as the basis for our division of the Asian market– APAC, South East Asia, China, India and Japan. Moreover, economically, culturally and demographically the region is incredibly diverse. Various corners of Asia are at dramati­cally different stages of economic and technological development; China and Bangladesh, for exam­ple, are incomparable. Similarly, culturally there is no one coherent ‘Asian’ culture in a way that exists more concretely in the US or Europe. Demographically certain countries are much more mature; Japan has an aging population whilst the popula­tion in Indonesia is growing explosively – around 50% of the population is under the age of 30. The market is unique in its diver­sity yet is united in a region­wide dynamism and hunger for growth. In the last ten to 15 years GDP and the adoption of new technologies has skyrocketed.

What are the major differences between Asia and the US/Europe in terms of media landscape, consumption habits and content trends?

Unlike in Europe and the US, many markets in Asia didn’t have a ‘desktop phase’ so digital adaptation is much faster and there is a greater reliance on mobile technology. Internet speed is much faster and more far-reaching across Asia there­fore digital consumption is more common, even amongst older generations. For the most part, media consumption is still happening on global platforms, but regional players such as WeChat or LINE, offering a variety of services through one app including communication and payment, is significant. The cultural impact of the US remains hugely influential with growing numbers of subscriptions to Netflix and Disney+. Yet, there is equally huge local influence, particularly in South Korea where K-Pop influencers have taken the region by storm.

What is TV consumption like in Asia and is it in decline?

 The work culture across Asia is very different; many people work late and then go out after work meaning that there is a much greater demand for VOD in comparison with linear TV. Furthermore, millions consume snippets of TV content on social media or YouTube. Shows that are global phenomena such as Got Talent or The Masked Singer are equally popular across Asia as family entertainment to be shared.


In terms of the media landscape in Asia, are big TV companies huge compared with digital players?

In Asia, as a result of the sheer scale of the region, TV is very localised and big regional players don’t really exist. For example, there are over 3000 TV stations in China as a result of huge cultural and language chasms for over 20 provinces.

Could you tell us about the Asian market and the best ways for marketing and advertising brands to get in touch with the Asian consumer?

The most important thing is a localised approach whilst maintaining a global positioning. Brands that have been successful across the region are those that tailored their communi­cations approach to the region. McDonalds and KFC altered their menus and style in accord with the country they opened in, whilst staying true to their brand values. Support from local KOLs (Key Opinion Leaders) and influencers, who carry greater respect than their Western counterparts, is practically es­sential for launching a brand. Additionally important, is the ability for a brand to digitalise.


Chinese brand sponsorship is growing in European sporting events. What explains this?

Eight out of ten sponsoring brands during the last Euros were Chinese. Yet, we must question whether this advertising was aimed at European audiences. There is a large Chinese audience watching international football and this strategy is a form of reverse marketing. Mid­-tier brands gain reverse credibility through the prestige of advertising in the West and this results in success in the East. On the other hand, tennis is not hugely popular across Asia so, OPPO’s sponsorship of the Wimbledon Championships and Roland Garros was an attempt at accessing a more premium European customer base.

Would you agree that the big creative challenge for Chinese brands in Europe is their image?

It depends. Although the ‘made in China’ image can be difficult to shake off, there are markets where Chinese brands are gaining popularity, especially when shown on credible TV channels. With clear positioning and message, brands can find the right media channels to grow authentically. Eventually, due to their technological advantage, Chinese brands will become more successful in European markets.

What differs in OPPO’s marketing technique to make it so successful?

OPPO is the fourth largest smartphone brand globally. Our focus on innovation and investment in R+D brings value to the consumer. Specifically, our camera technology brings a new level of photo opportunities to people in a way that has never been done before. It is exciting to be part of the growth of the brand and I am looking forward to its continued development across Europe.

What are the priorities in Asia in terms of Social Value Positioning?

Compared with Western brands, where support for diversity can seem tokenistic and inauthentic­, there is a certain pragmatism amongst Asian and Chinese brands. Authenticity is so important for the success of a brand and often Asian brands don’t over­publicise the charitable work they are partaking in. For us at OPPO, we offered magnanimous support for India and Pakistan when they were hit by Covid-19, sending health technologies. This felt right for our brand, and we hope this authenticity is recognised. /

Jan Harling

Jan Harling

OPPO, Global Media Director

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