Aspiration is the tool that forges the future. And nowhere does this aspiration burn brighter than amongst the middle classes in Asia.
Enough has already been written about the size and demographic profile of the Asian middle class, in other places also referred to as the consuming class. Some studies estimate that, by 2030, the Asian Middle Class could account for as much as 65% of the 4.9 billion middle class individuals around the world*. For an interesting infomercial with interesting data on the Asian middle class, click here.
However, not enough has been written about how they consume, their attitudes and behaviours in relation to consumption and, how marketers need to respond to this. This article hopes to articulate some common shopping behaviors of this consuming class, and how marketers could respond to these behaviours.
Here are six guidelines for ‘Middle Class Marketing’ Asian Style
A growing economy, increasing disposable income and high optimism about the future is responsible for the rise of `modernity’ aspirations among the Asian middle class. While these modernity aspirations are progress markers, equally importantly, they are also for showing a better face to the world. Hence, these modern aspirations have an extra emphasis on outward manifestation. In other words, people seek obvious symbols of upward mobility. No wonder then that their value mindset demands big brands and loud logos.
Marketing Mantra: Celebrate the aspiration, blatantly.
Large-scale urban migration has been a reality across Asia (and indeed the world) for some time now. The first waves of migrants came to the city searching for better economic prospects. However, increasingly, the larger segment in many markets is the second generation of people whose parents migrated to urban cityscapes. These second generation migrants have a rose-tinted view of small town, rustic living. This nostalgic fondness translates into a desire to possess traditional, culture rich symbols like handicrafts or ornate furniture. They are the city dwellers yearning for their small town roots. This has led to the emergence of local designers who create unique blends of Eastern design and Western sensibility in varied categories from fabrics to furniture.
Marketing Mantra: Look to blend the local culture with the universal brand.
Dwelling units across urban Asia are getting standardized into less than 1000 square feet for a 2BHK (two bedroom, hall and kitchen – for the uninitiated). Simply put, small dwelling units imply a premium on `organization’ ideas. With family members making several competing demands on the same space, `organizer’ ideas that streamline and simplify life are always desired. In fact, these space savers capture our urban imagination at a visceral level. Take a look at multi-purpose collapsible furniture, narrow closets, sofa-cum-beds, and so on! This also may explain the peculiar Asian infatuation for shopping bags and storage boxes.
Marketing Mantra: Deliver savings beyond unit price into insightful convenience.
Ever wondered why so many grandparents accompany the family in the shopping expedition? That’s because we, in Asia, tend to reside in nuclear families, but live within the extended arm of our parents and siblings. Asia has the youngest demographic in the world, and it is also becoming smaller in family size. However, these smaller units of ‘familybuilders’ do not directly translate into independence of thought and consumption. Since most Asian societies are relationship and conformity driven, the long arm of the ‘extended’ family impacts purchase decisions (specially, the high ticket ones).
Marketing Mantra: Engage with family motivations while satisfying individual desire
There was a time when value was attached to durability – to the simple idea that stuff should definitely last a lifetime and preferably be passed over to the next generation. Today, obsolescence is hard wired into our thinking – from technology to celebrities to furniture. We value what is fashionable and current. And, yet Asians are loathe throwing away the old. It is this conflict that holds us back from purchase– what to do with that old television, old computer, old cupboard? Smart marketers are actively using exchange schemes as a part of their marketing mix to overcome this incumbency mindset.
Marketing Mantra: Pave the path to upgrade with creative disposal strategies.
Organized retail is a relatively new idea in Asia. For the novice shopper, the sheer choice offered by organized retail is contrasted by the inherent risk of having to decide for yourself. Hence, even a simple purchase at a supermarket becomes emotionally challenging. Shopper research indicates that shoppers go through a range of emotions, even on a simple shopping expedition to the neighborhood supermarket. This ranges from the sheer excitement of choice, followed by confusion, debate, trade-offs, post rationalization and, if navigated successfully, ultimately purchase. High involvement purchases only compound this emotional roller coaster. As retail formats evolve, one needs to make this shopping experience culturally relevant and emotionally convenient.
Marketing Mantra: Boost brand presence in modern retail with navigation aides.
As people grow into the aspirational middle classes of consumption, these six guidelines should help bolster the brand’s inherent positioning and make it resonate with the desires of the Asian middle class.
As the famous poet TS Eliot once said, “One starts an action simply because one must do something.” Here are six possible actions. Go ahead and start somewhere !