FEATURE23 June 2009

The changing face of the Asian consumer

Grey Group’s ‘Eye on Asia’ study looks at consumer trends in 16 countries. We spoke to Simon Rich, director of planning at Grey Australia, about the changing face of the Asian consumer.

Looking up

  • 76% of Asians believe the future is likely to be better than the past
  • 63% are satisfied with their life today

“Asians across the board are concerned about their economic situation, but satisfaction in life is still high”

Asians across the board are concerned about their economic situation, but satisfaction in life is still high. There’s a lot of positivity, particularly in Bangladesh, Sri Lanka and Vietnam. Looking at trended data for the last few years, optimism has remained solid around the 60% mark.


Cutting back

  • Only 45% of Asians feel financially comfortable
  • 86% are ‘concerned’ about their household finances

Levels of optimism are not necessarily trending in the same direction as concern about personal finances. When you look at the finances you realise times are tough. People in Taiwan and Japan are particularly pessimistic and the proportion who believe things will get worse before they get better has increased over the last few years among the Koreans, Chinese and Japanese. One of the trends going on here is conservatism: people are more focused on making sure they’re getting value for money, so there’s very much a conservative bent towards established brands. We saw a polarisation in how people view their household finances over the next year – it seems the less developed nations are more positive and the more developed nations are less positive.


Attitudes to ads

  • 72% of Asians say marketers are doing a good job
  • 78% agree that advertising is ‘fun’

“People see the growth of marketing and the influx of brands as something that enhances their lives”

People see the growth of marketing and the influx of brands as something that enhances their lives. They associate marketing and advertising with wealth and development. The markets that are already well developed are bottom of the list for this. China is also a low one, but we think that’s because advertising is quite poor in China because of the restrictions on it. It’s not connecting with people. One of the overarching themes is that the less developed countries are looking to indulge in things that the rest of the world seems to have moved on from. What’s annoying and frustrating in one part of the world is exciting and entertaining in others.


Local vs global

  • More than two-thirds of people in Korea, Thailand and Singapore believe local products are usually better quality than those made in other countries, but foreign products are more trusted in China, Hong Kong and Vietnam

The lesson is that if you’re entering these countries that believe local brands are good quality, you have to do a lot more to prove yourself. It really depends on the level of maturity and sophistication in the marketplace.


Family ties

  • 89% of Asians agree that it’s becoming necessary for mothers to work to contribute to family finances, and 76% believe women are capable of taking care of a family and having a job
  • However, 81% feel that mothers are so busy these days they do not spend enough time with their children

“When it comes to balancing work with kids, there aren’t any rules for some of these young women to learn from. It’s a new world for them”

You can see the levels of stress involved in raising children in some of these countries. Some women are choosing not to become mothers because of the stress that’s placed upon them. Job and chlidren? No way. We’re talking about some places that were at such a radically different stage of development 20 years ago, that there aren’t any rules for young women to learn from. It’s a new world for them. It’s sad the pressure that’s put on these women: do I buy into the Asian dream of big aspirational brands or do I try to maintain this traditional family environment? And a high proportion say no, I’m going to have to give up becoming a mother.

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