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Y&R: Consistency is a false economy for brands as Asians fear cultures are being steamrolled

Image: Y&R

Starbucks tries to go local. Image: Y&R

A study by ad agency Y&R has challenged the idea that brands should take a consistent approach to advertising in Asia, arguing that most Asians do not like the homogeneity that comes with globalisation and the threat it poses to culture and traditional values.

The study of 32,000 18-60 year-olds in ten Asian markets found that up to 73 per cent of older respondents and 70 per cent of younger ones are uncomfortable with a loss of traditional values leading the authors of the report to conclude that most Asians feel as if their culture is being “steamrolled” by globalisation.

While 66 per cent of 18-35 year olds and 65 per cent of 36-60 year olds say they like living in a “flat world” where they can learn from other cultures, most say they do not want their own cultures to be impeded.

The report’s authors argue that “consistency is a false economy” for brands.

“This need to connect with people’s cultural identity is what brands really need to focus on instead of the supposed choice, and endless tired debates, of globalisation versus localisation,” said Hari Ramanathan, Y&R Asia’s chief strategy officer.

The agency argues that “authenticity is the new premium”, echoing the sentiment of Geoff Beattie, the global head of corporate affairs at PR agency Cohn & Wolfe, who said last week that brands needed to be more authentic, open and honest in an age where spin is dead.

The agency, which has coined the term “culturalisation”, proposed five tenets that brands should adopt: “Learn from culture, contextualise your idea, live in the community, integrate not template and go to the jungle,” referring to the need for brands to immerse themselves in local culture.

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