Is the West best?

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Is the West best?

This technology enabled some fantastic new opportunities for
marketers. A few of my favourite examples from my time there are shoppable
subway ads
(oddly enough part of a campaign for Tesco’s ill-fated Asian
expansion), and EMart’s mind-boggling
sundial QR Code
which is only scannable between 12-1pm when the right
shadows are cast, unlocking offers designed to boost lunchtime custom.

I would of course be remiss to not mention the
often-horrific impact that technological advancement can have in societies
around the world when used to the detriment of vulnerable people – from
fabricated scaremongering in India
to dystopian
social credit scoring systems in China
– but there are commentators much
more qualified than I to speak about those issues.

Since my time living there, I’ve been of the opinion that
the hot technology in Asian cities like Seoul, Tokyo and Taipei are precursors
to what we can expect in the West in 5-10 years. Cashless payments and mobile
video streaming are finally reaching widespread adoption in the UK ten years
after they were already the norm on the other side of the globe.

If that’s the case, then looking at how technology is
shaping marketing in Asia today could well provide a crystal ball for those of
us in the West. But keeping up with these regions is hard – we don’t share a
language or a timezone, putting up two natural barriers which make consuming
the trending campaigns of the day that much more difficult.

Our trade press is also, quite naturally, focused on markets closer to home. Only when a piece of work is so noteworthy that it can break free from its geographic constraints are we likely to hear about it in the West (like this excellent ad for spicy ramen).

Keeping up with the latest and greatest on the other side of the world is difficult to do passively – you have to go out and find it. The best way I’ve found so far is through expats living and working in these territories, and consultants whose raison d’être is to help companies understand and achieve success in these markets.

Of course, what works in Shenzen won’t work in Sheffield, and it’s beholden on all marketers to use their knowledge of the local market to craft campaigns which will deliver. The proliferation of messaging apps in Asia (WeChat, Line, KakaoTalk, to name but a few – see my colleague Joe’s talk on Dark Social for a nice intro to these channels) means they often form a much larger slice of the marketing pie than in the West, and it would be a risky endeavour for a UK business to shape their strategy around WhatsApp.

In my Forefront talk, I’ve tried to sum up how companies I
admire in this part of the world differ from their western counterparts, and I
arrived at three key differentiators:

  • Scale
  • Innovation
  • Problem Solving

I discuss a few examples of each in my talk and give, in
what I’m already considering a career-defining moment, a live demo of a Zozo
bodysuit, which I see as one of the most left-field consumer innovations of the
last decade.

I hope once you’ve taken the time to watch this talk you’re
bought into my theory, and devote a little bit of time each week to keeping up
with all the fascinating developments in Asia. Even better, if you’re able, go
visit. Soak up the culture, see how things work differently, sing some karaoke,
and please bring me back some Pepero.