Going East – Why Asia should be on your growth roadmap

 Hong Kong

(Image from Ming Chan bit.ly/13JpDJ3)

Having spent more than 15 years growing up in Hong Kong (and still visiting every year), I have always paid extra attention to the Asian markets since I founded The1stMovement in Los Angeles in 2006. In early 2012 we opened our first Asian office in Hong Kong, and we learned a lot from this experience. I wanted to share some of the lessons we learned for those companies who are also considering a move into Asia.

But, first, let’s consider the following statistics:

  • Four out of the top ten Fortune 500 companies in the world are headquartered in Asia 
  • 12 out of the 20 fastest growing countries in the world are in Asia, and have an average of 7% growth in 2012 (vs. <2% growth from US) 
  • Advertising spends in Asia are projected to grow at a rate of 7.6% in 2013 (vs. 3.8% in North America) 
  • US-based, multinational giants like Apple, Nike, GM, and others have poured over $49 Billion worth of investment into China alone each year since 2009 


With that context, here are the most important things we learned along the way:

  1. Asia is enormous and diverse
    Asia is the World’s largest and most populous continent with 48 separate and unique countries, home to 60% of the World’s population. Firms in Asia increasingly and regularly do business in more than one country, as we did recently with a project launched in 15 countries and in seven languages. All on the same day at the same time. This required real on the ground local knowledge and cultural understanding.
  2. Your entry point is critical
    Projected to become the largest economy by the end of 2016 , China might be your ultimate target market, but there are still serious challenges to setting up shop there. The most significant barrier is simply fundamental cultural differences between East and West. We chose to open in Hong Kong because it is one of the most multi-cultural cities in the World. But Singapore is also a good choice as it is a very Western-friendly city for business. And, despite recent economic troubles, Japan is still projected to be top five in the World for digital advertising spend. Not to be overlooked – Indonesia and Malaysia – are two of the fastest growing countries in the World.
  3. Consumer behavior is different in Asia
    While there is some opportunity to apply what we’ve learned in the US to the East, It is important not to underestimate differences in consumer behavior – and not only between East and West, but between different countries within Asia. For example, one recent project taught us that consumers in China spent on average four times more time online than consumers in Indonesia. A fact that caused us to adjust our campaign idea and local country execution plan.
  4. Your existing global clients can help you
    Chances are your company is already working with a client with global reach. Their knowledge, experience and network will undoubtedly help with your planning. For us, what started as a pipe dream of expanding into Asia quickly became a serious pursuit when we began working with global brands like Cisco, Pentax and Reebok. The experience we had working with their teams in Asia, and understanding how they act, how they communicate and how they think, made our transition into working with a local Asia brand that much smoother. 




This article was originally published in the 2013 SoDA (Society of Digital Agencies) Report Vol. 1 http://www.slideshare.net/sodaspeaks/the-soda-report-volume-1-2013


Ming Chan

As founded and CEO of The1stMovement, Ming was named as one of the "Top 10 Asian Entrepreneurs" by Inc. Magazine, and has led the agency to numerous accolades including 3-time Inc. 500 "Fastest Growing Private Companies in America", 3-time "Best Places to work in LA", and 5000% growth in 5 years with his passion for innovation and company culture. Follow @mingAtT1M

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