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Author sees big futurefor Asian brands

Mark South
page04  2006-2-16

Branding guru Martin Roll visited Shanghai this week to spread the word on brand building and to promote his new book "Asian Brand Strategy: How Asia Builds Strong Brands."

Launching the book at Garden Books on Changle Road on February 14, Roll said he believes Chinese brands will become increasingly global in the coming years.

"Look at Asian brands at the moment and, discounting Japan, how many are truly global? Very, very few, but that is going to change," he said.

"Japan went to Harvard in the 1950s, learnt about business strategy and brand building, took what they learned back to their own companies and adapted it very successfully; that is what companies from elsewhere in Asia are doing now."

Roll, who is Danish and a full time resident of Singapore, has 15 years of experience in international advertising. He is founder and CEO of VentureRepublic, a business consultancy firm specializing in branding strategy, and visiting professor in Strategic Brand Management at the China-Europe International Business School (CEIBS) in Shanghai, which is ranked tops in executive education in Asia by the Financial Times.

The aim of Roll's book, he said, is to encourage companies across Asia to build brands and move up the value chain, by making branding an integral part of their business plan.

"If you look at the boards of most Asian companies, they are made up of financiers and engineers -- they understand the technology and the business rationale very well, but they do not necessarily understand the emotional aspect of brand building," he explained.

While Asian companies may be very good at building companies, they have so far struggled to create brands to which customers are loyal. That, he said, is the key to their progression and globalization.

"Cheap production is easy but there is no loyalty. Once costs rise companies will look to source from elsewhere. If a company builds its own brand and creates that loyalty, it creates value for its share holders."

Using the examples of companies like Samsung, Singapore Airlines, Shiseido, Li Ning and others, Roll's book highlights the effective strategies and pitfalls for Asian companies looking to expand into the global market.

But as he pointed out, brand building is not easy: "Western companies have years of experience in building brands and even some of them have made mistakes and struggled to break into the Chinese market -- it is no surprise that Asian brands, who have nowhere near as much experience are finding it hard the other way around."
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