brandshareGuest post by Cornelia Kunze, vice chairman of Edelman APACMEA.

The race is on. In 2016, one quarter of all global consumer products will be sold in Asia. Marketers are competing for the smartest way to win Asian consumers’ minds, hearts and wallets. Their learnings from Western markets will not suffice to succeed in the emerging Asian markets as significant differences prevail. With our brandshare study, we’ve looked in to ways to “share” brands and examined expectations towards sharing as a smart solution to drive stronger business outcomes. And yes, sharing works differently in emerging markets than in the West. Why do Indians and Chinese place much more importance to brands’ sharing behaviours than Germans, Americans or French? Three theories I would like to share with you:

1. A New Type of Consumer: Every day more consumers from a growing middle-class have access to brands on a daily basis. While they are building a relationship with those brands, they need to develop clearer perceptions and trust, and therefore want transparency and openness about the brand. Chinese respondents were especially insistent on this point. They want brands to ask questions and then give thoughtful answers more than they want  to share a brand’s content or information. More specifically, brands need to engage more around people’s “needs.” Those needs might differ dramatically from those in developed markets. In Karnataka, for example, which is in the south of India, village farmers were asked to test the touch-screen smartphone software easySMS, which was created for illiterate users. The software works with images and sound, and translates it into words.

2. “We” Instead of “Me”: Family relationships, togetherness, social harmony and a great nation are more important than individual freedom and progress. India is a region of so many cultural differences, languages and values. But India has one common denominator: traditional values and relationships matter more than anything else. That is why luxury brands such as Mont Blanc adapt their brand experiences, whether they engage with rich Punjabis or with affluent consumers from Bangalore. They adapt invitation cards, gifts and venue decorations to the local tradition.

In India, people of all cultures, religions and communities share food, space, joy and sorrow, coming together in respect and tolerance. This affinity for sharing explains why brands who share are highly rewarded. For many brands in India, caring for the community plays an important role in the country. Hence, when the gang rape case in Delhi created an outcry for more respect toward women, brands, such as Tata*, Vodafone, Gillette and Amul supported the movement. In China, BMW* has embarked on cultural journeys since 2007 and protects cultural heritage in the midst of massive modernization. The car manufacturer is sharing values and history whilst supporting China to do the same. Whereas BMW hit the nerve and matched the values of Chinese consumers, it took Cadillac some time to understand Chinese values and move away from their all-American “pioneering the world” approach.

3. The Technology Revolution: Mobile phones and social media are the catalysts of change by connecting people and making markets. Whereas 20 years ago India had only 5 million landlines, today 800 million people are using mobile phones and getting access to jobs, relationships and the world at large. McDonalds in China has taken up a dialogue on Weibo to discuss the hygiene of their bathrooms in a very open way and were rewarded with a lot of support. Chinese online retailer Vancl and Starbucks* are both active and share their campaigns, their products and values with Chinese Weibo and Wechat users. In India, opinions and values are shared on Twitter. Brands go on Facebook and share dialog as well as campaign and product creation.

The sharing successes in India and China of brands like Vancl, BMW, Vodafone, Tata and Starbucks remind me that new consumers in emerging markets grow up with high expectations from day one. They are used to brands who share – and thus they believe it’s important. There’s always room for improvement, and more than 20 percent of the people we asked were actually asking for it. But, sharing seems more like a default desire in our region.

*Edelman Client. Tata is a client of Rediffusion/Edelman.

Cornelia Kunze is vice chairman of Asia Pacific, Middle East & Africa.