Building authentic connections with consumers is fundamental to growing strong brand equity. But with inflation, cost-of-living and household budgets overtaking the pandemic as the top concerns of populations across Southeast Asia, it’s more critical than ever to utilise your brand’s short- and long-term equity levers in pursuit of purposeful brand growth. Strong brand affinity underpins a customer’s willingness to pay for your brand, and understanding how exactly people choose brands is key to offset spiking inflation. So how do you balance purpose with growth in turbulent times for in-the-moment connection? 

Successful brands are meaningful, different, salient, and emotionally resonant   

A ‘meaningful’ brand does a good job of fulfilling your needs, but to have longevity, loyalty and lead a category, your brand must also have a layer of emotional meaning — this is what creates lasting affinity between consumer and brand. ‘Difference’ leads you to interrupt your normal buying habits — to stop and look at a brand in a store, online or in the street; or pause to consider brand communications promising something special that others in its category do not. Purchase decisions are increasingly being made in seconds (or fractions of a second), so truly connecting in that moment matters. 

Together, ‘meaningful difference’ is a powerful contributor to brand equity — it supercharges growth. And, when amplified by ‘salience’ — immediate recall and emotional resonance that the shopper believes will deliver ‘meaningful difference’ — then you’re on the fast track to growing brand equity. This triple threat is vital for your brand to connect authentically with Southeast Asian shoppers. It helps your business increase the value of your brand — and in turn, sales, share price, and impact on society and the planet.    

Make your mark in turbulent times by authentically communicating your meaningful difference   

Brand purpose represents a big opportunity for well-established brands to find a valuable point of meaningful difference. The rewards are there for those that focus on understanding the emotion they need to capture and the discipline to communicate consistently over the long haul. But with Southeast Asia’s significant differences in lifestyles, cultural values and languages, you must consider how your brand’s equity differs across markets.   

Kantar’s Sustainability Sector Index reveals that 97% of global consumers are prepared to take action to live a more sustainable lifestyle. In particular, authenticity in sustainability is becoming increasingly central to purchasing decisions. Kantar’s Global Issues Barometer overwhelmingly reveals people seek brands demonstrating authenticity in their social and environmental purpose. Yet, many struggle to practice sustainability in their daily lives — 65% want to do more to be more mindful of the planet and the environment, but their increased cost of living prevents them from doing so.   

However, three in five Asians are prepared to invest their time and money to support businesses that do good, which bodes well for brands to potentially outperform their competitors if strategically aligned to social responsibility that is easy, compelling, and meaningful for the consumer. There’s also a shift towards ‘doing purpose’ and investing in activities that make a difference to people’s lives and the environment, like Google’s Real Tone camera improving image quality for darker skin tones or Dole Sunshine Company’s move towards its zero waste goal by using leftover pineapple leaves to create vegan leather through a partnership with Ananas Anam.   

Having a point-in-time read on the competitive context of your brand will help you take advantage   

The importance of brand-building and a strengthened brand equity through purpose is vital for brands to make powerful connections with consumers, grow, and stay at the top. You can identify growth opportunities with quick, cost-effective insights using Brand Equity Evaluation on Kantar Marketplace. This allows you to see if your brand is connected to the things that consumers value in as little as four days. In these turbulent economic times, this is an essential heads up on your brand’s health, equity drivers, and the category factors influencing short and long-term sales.   

There’s no single formula for success with brands since each one is different. Your brand’s heritage, current life stage, relative size against competitors and many other factors will affect your equity. And with the heightened focus on purpose as we grapple with sustainability, the economic crisis, and local market issues across the region, it’s only by understanding where and how you’re connected to consumers that you can properly formulate an effective strategy to create value in the long term.   

Remember, if your brand is meaningful with deep connections that give shoppers confidence that it can meet expectations and they like what it does, it will sustain your demand power. If your brand is different with qualities that mean shoppers won’t want to swap it for something else, it’s a key driver of your pricing power. And if it is salient with the ability to access shopper mental connections with its benefits and purpose quickly and easily, then it will be top of mind when they’re faced with a choice. This is your brand’s triple threat during good times — and especially so during turbulent times.   

Jane Ng, General Manager and head of brand guidance at Kantar, Singapore   

Jane is an expert at building great global brands and iconic local jewels. She is passionate about purposeful brand building and has extensive programme design, analytical and advisory experience building meaningfully different brands across Asia Pacific.