Friday, December 08, 2006

Asians opt for global phone brands to show-off about how well they're doing even if their earnings are relatively low

Being reasonably familiar with life in the Philippines and Malaysia for family and other reasons, the results of a survey on the importance of brands in Asia is no surprise. At least some of us Irish tend to be more subtle by comparison.

In Asia, it's not uncommon to see people with their mobile phones suspended from their necks to show others that thay can afford Nokia handsets. Borrowing more for a car than a house is also not unusual.

I recall seeing a cringe-inducing Seiko watch advertisement in the Singapore Metro earlier this year, with the slogan: It's Your Watch That Says Most About Who You Are.

On Thursday, US tech research IDC published a multiclient study and survey of mobile phone and smartphone subscribers across five countries, which reveals that top global brands are in demand not only in developed countries, such as the U.S., U.K., and Germany, but also in emerging countries such as India and China. The relative influence of brand on product choice (especially in China and India) suggests that many people seek out global brands and the prestige that they carry.

Logic dictates that one would expect to find the proliferation of relatively inexpensive devices and brands in developing countries, but IDC's survey reveals quite the opposite phenomena. Chinese subscribers look more at the brand and style (top two purchase criteria) rather than being concerned with the underlying technology and product features.

In India high-end products like the Nokia Communicator 9500 do well precisely because they show off how wealthy and successful an individual is, and users tend to be loyal to the smartphone brands they carry. IDC's survey revealed that 69% of respondents in India were likely to recommend their smartphone brand to others, higher than other countries surveyed, except for the U.S.

"When you look around the world there is a growing prevalence of premium brands in emerging markets among populations with substantially lower income levels," said Randy Giusto, group vice president for IDC's Mobility, Computing and Consumer Markets research. "Brands such as Nokia, for example, dominate the Indian and Chinese markets from a market share perspective and are much sought after because of the image that they project."