APAC marketing challenges during the coronavirus crisis

Right now, the world is looking to countries like China and Hong Kong to see what’s in store for a post-coronavirus world. So, it seemed only right to bring together marketers from across the APAC region to hear their thoughts on the current situation. Of course, APAC is extremely diverse, especially during this crisis. Some countries are moving towards recovery. Others are re-entering the lockdown phase. Many are still following initial preventative measures. Our roundtable was an attempt to understand how this crisis is affecting local marketing across such a varied region.

And, as if the geographical and cultural diversity of APAC wasn’t enough, we also invited speakers from a vast range of sectors to help us see the whole picture. Our speakers provided in-depth insights into this strange time, helping us to understand what the “new normal” really means for APAC marketing.

So, without further ado, here are our key insights:

Challenges since the start of the Covid-19 crisis:

  • The real challenge for most of our guest brands, both B2B and B2C, was moving from the offline side of things to online/digital activations. How do you make education work online? How do you make events exciting and engaging online? How do you run all-day events and week-long summits?
  • Consumer behaviour is changing. Under 30s – the key online consumer audience – are resisting spending money on retail products during this time of economic uncertainty. On the other hand, more older consumers are adopting online shopping. The challenge for brands is to stay relevant to shifting demographics while also responding to consumers who are being more cautious with their spending.
  • For B2B companies, refocusing efforts into different categories has been a challenge. Lots of companies are having to shift their efforts away from sectors that are dropping to zero during this crisis, the travel sector for example. Instead they’re pushing more into thriving sectors, like education and healthcare.
  • For B2B tech companies who serve a range of sectors, the challenge has been changing messaging towards those most affected. There’s been a shift from innovation and agility messaging to cost-saving comms.
  • Social media platforms are operating at maximum capacity, but lots of brands are still cutting ad-spend. As a result, the social media platforms are experiencing a dip in their source of revenue.
  • A test for all of our guest brands has been trying to do so much – producing content, shifting to fully remote working etc. – in such a short time scale, while remaining incredibly agile.

Managing your marketing across different markets and regions:

  • In a time of global crisis, brands are finding that taking a regional approach is key as it’s a much more scalable approach.
  • Business in Asia is very high-touch, so moving to virtual ways of doing business is tricky. A marketer from a language education company revealed that this was especially true in Japan. Customers in Japan were less keen to adopt virtual learning. Whereas in Singapore, online uptake reached 80-90%.
  • However, Japan is progressing towards a more digital model, a phenomenon that seems to have been accelerated by the crisis.
  • The coronavirus crisis has meant that lots of APAC businesses are having to change their practices in order to adopt an online culture, with physical events and summits becoming digital.
  • An issue for many B2B companies is finding creative ways to emulate the traditional offline business events on online platforms for cultures who are less digitally orientated.
  • According to a media agency working in the APAC region, lots of companies who used mainly traditional advertising are now having to rely heavily on social media content.
  • There has been an increase in intra-regional trade. It’s a great opportunity for Asian multinational brands, and it will be interesting to see how it plays out over the next few months.
  • Big, multinational brands are doubling down their efforts in Asia. The brands that aren’t engaged in Asian markets are taking a hit, perhaps something for them to re-evaluate moving forward.
  • Companies that offer economic solutions to consumers are very relevant, especially at a time when people want to get more for their money.
  • Communities are growing on social media with an increase in direct messaging and higher engagement rates on Instagram. Essentially, people are looking to engage with brands differently while bored at home.
  • Brands are finding new ways to engage with their audiences – one brand organised games nights and live events achieving high adoption rates.
  • Home essential categories – fitness, health, beauty, etc. – are soaring on social media.

Being experimental with your marketing in this new global context:

  • Brands should provide utilities and services to their clients, rather than focusing solely on brand-building.
  • B2B brands should introduce new features and platforms to help their clients sell their products more easily online. The aim is to be useful, helping clients to accelerate their e-commerce journey right now.
  • For many Asian enterprises, working from home has never been feasible. Many people have never even owned a laptop. For tech companies, it’s about pivoting their messaging towards improving working from home operations for their clients.
  • B2B tech brands should provide their clients with key tools for home-working. For example, they can redesign pre-existing messaging features to make them desktop-friendly.
  • Our guest speaker from the esports industry revealed that they’d had a complete shift in proposition, mission and messaging due to coronavirus. Their new focus is on helping traditional sports to become more ‘future forward’.
  • For the esports brand, the focus is on keeping people connected during social distancing. There’s an opportunity for games developers and publishers to go beyond focusing on commercialising electronics. They can now provide ways for people to stay connected.

The “new normal” and what it means for brands:

  • During the “new normal”, the impetus for brands shouldn’t be brand building. The question to ask is: ‘how do we, as companies, provide utility and value?’
  • The coronavirus crisis has been a digital transformation driver. Across all verticals, customers are having to embrace digital. The world will never be the same again from a digital standpoint.
  • For B2B tech companies, the focus will be on tech leadership, providing new analytics and products for an increasingly digital world.
  • B2B tech companies also need to listen to unique, customer stories at a regional level, understanding how customers are really using technology as the situation continues to change.
  • All companies will be thinking more and more about cost-cutting and optimising. So, B2B brands need to focus on messaging that relates to efficiency and budgeting in order to stay relevant in the coming months.
  • The challenge going forward will be for marketers to learn how to be innovative when it comes to digital events, providing exciting experiences online.
  • The future will be a blended model of offline/online services. There’s an opportunity for companies to internally embrace new technologies and remote, flexible working.

Our roundtable proved to be a huge success, especially since our guest brands seemed so optimistic about the future. Our guests clearly felt that now is the time to help their clients embrace digital innovations in order to thrive long after the coronavirus crisis. The “new normal” will be a digital frontier, one that global marketers are more than ready to explore.

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