Asia: New Brand & Marketing Comms Practice
Leading the brand, consumer and retail communications recruitment function of VMA Group, Asia-Pacific for the past 12 months, I have seen an emerging need for strategic brand and marketing communications professionals, particularly as the consumption of brands and the Asian retail sector is expanding so rapidly.
The presence of luxury brands in Asia is almost overwhelming and is a constant reminder of the recent injection of wealth in the region, particularly from mainland China. A quick stroll through Central in Hong Kong is like wading through a luxury retail park. What is scarier than the price-tags on the luxury goods inside is that these retailers are braving some of the world’s most expensive commercial rents. Basically, luxury retail in Asia is a booming business and the escalating rental prices are evidence. It is common knowledge in Hong Kong that a Queen’s Road mass-market fashion retailer has been driven out by another brand who is willing to pay double the rent – around US$1.4M per month for the 30,000 square foot store.
So, what is driving the demand? Is it perceived status, newfound wealth or a materialistic attitude? Whatever the cause, it is certainly a new cultural phenomenon amongst the Asian population.
“Luxury is something you could do without but that you don’t want to do without” – Coco Chanel.
This statement is obviously very true in this market.
Beyond the luxury market, the appetite and consumption of brands in Asia is huge, and discretionary spending is still on the rise. Not only are the luxury brands dominating, a lot of the high street, ‘fast-fashion’ houses have opened recently in Hong Kong – Abercrombie & Fitch, Topshop and Victoria’s Secret to name a few. For these companies, there is a growing need for brand ambassadors and the communications and PR function is a critical element to establish success and drive awareness. Generally these brands have an established loyalty and awareness amongst their consumers; it’s just a matter of making them more accessible. Beyond the physical bricks and mortar retail presence, it’s the brands are using online channels to reach their consumers via Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, Weibo and traditional websites. It is generally the communications team who have ownership of this function so the demand for passionate, creative and tech savvy brand communicators is increasing.
Coming from a consumer brand marketing background myself, I have had the privilege throughout my career to provide strategic marketing plans, nurture old brands and launch new brands and products for companies such as L’Oreal, Turner Broadcasting, Mattel and Pacific Brands. It has equipped me with a robust knowledge of consumer behaviour and the ever-changing and competitive retail environment. I have witnessed brands that have been a raging success and ones that have died a miserable death. There are many reasons why a brand might fail – tough market conditions, lack of a strong product offering or a badly designed launch plan to name a few. However, this has also left me wondering not only about the market conditions but about the talent and the people working at these brands and how essential they are to a brand’s ultimate success.
The most interesting things I have witnessed in my career always relate to the individuals who work on brands. As a ‘Brand Manager’ in many of my previous roles I was the gatekeeper, the custodian, the ambassador for my brands. I ensured brand guidelines were met, a consistent message was channelled and the brands were positioned and aligned with their core values – brand DNA upheld and directed towards the appropriate target market.
Despite the strategies, objectives, and sales plans, one of the most important aspects I prided myself on was the passion I had for the brands I worked with. My mantra has always been, if you don’t have a passion for what you’re doing and the portfolio you’re working on, then it’s not the right fit – it’s a critical element especially in consumer products where the brand is king. Now that I’ve jumped the fence into the recruitment world, when I am working on a brand role at VMA Group, I look beyond the skills and experience of the candidate and instead hone in on their personality and cultural fit, not only for the organisation but for the brand they will be representing. On paper, they may be extremely capable, but if they’re not a good fit for the brand itself and reflect the brand image, then they are not right for the job. This is where ‘personality-fit’ is carefully considered – would this person be a good brand advocate? Do they reflect the brand image? Are they passionate about the brand? All important questions that can sometimes outweigh the depth of experience on a candidate’s CV.
As a recruitment consultant, this is where I can help as I have an understanding of brand marketing and communications from a skills and competencies perspective. However, I can work with organisations to ensure they also find the right talent that will really hit the mark for their brand from a personality point of view, someone who I know will live, breathe and become their brand….and of course be passionate!
Drop me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org and I’d be happy to discuss the relevant brand marketing and communications market trends in Asia.
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