Asia-Pacific: Sony sees enemies at the gates
Consumer electronic brands lead in Asia-Pacific with Sony in first followed by Samsung and LG. The close results of these brands perfectly reflect the zeitgeist of the marketplace in which they compete.
As the Asia-Pacific brand with the most impact in 2004 (eleventh Globally), Sony is working harder than ever to innovate in each of its various and varied divisions.
Film, music, electronics, and semiconductors: Sony is involved in just about every aspect of entertainment from delivery systems to content. In 2004, its music division merged with BMG to form Sony BMG, second now only to Universal Music.
Still, as popular as Sony is in the consumer market, it’s obviously struggling. Strong competitor challenges from every part of its business as well as the public’s endless expectation of lower prices for digital equipment, have led to lower profits across the industry. Sony is countering with an investment in R&D, partnering with its own competition including NTT DoCoMo and Samsung, to develop new technology, and even taking the long-expected and advised step of withdrawing from areas where it’s weak. (In 2004, determining that the PDA market will eventually cede to cellphones, Sony withdew the Clié from the global market to sell only domestically. It will refocus its resources on smart cellphones instead.)
Part of Sony’s headache must include the strong showing of Korean chaebols Samsung (second) and LG (third).
Although Samsung’s businesses sprawls from semiconductors to oil and textiles, we assume the brand impact measured here is from its consumer electronics division Samsung Electronics.
Like Sony, Samsung now fights on many different fronts and ended 2004 by warning of lower profits than expected. But the Korean brand has been on a strong rise for the last couple years by turning its product from cheap to smart, investing in quality design and technology, and generally surprising consumers with competitively priced, quality products.
Samsung is also drawing praise in its appliance business. Now third in the global appliance sector (behind Whirlpool and Electrolux), Samsung unveiled smart products in 2004, such as the germ-free fridge.
Similar in scope to Sony and Samsung’s diverse businesses, LG places third among brands with the most impact. The Korean consumer electronics brand appears to be trying to beat Samsung at its own game by countering a traditionally poor image with a better quality product.
Last year kicked off with LG’s pledge to become one of the top three global electronics brands. As part of the strategy, it has set its hopes on the handset division where the theory is that loyalty to the brand’s phones will create a halo effect on other product. Sales rose from US$ 6.9 million in 2000 to US$ 44 million last year (beating Sony Ericsson and placing fifth in the world for handsets).
Back to Japan where Toyota places fourth. The automaker’s serious approach to perfection is reflected in sales and prominence in the industry worldwide. Toyota is the largest automaker in Japan and second worldwide only to General Motors. (GM has 15% of the world market; Toyota rose to 13% while Ford sunk to 11%.) While not the number one automaker, Toyota did turn the most profit in 2004: US$ 11.1 billion (to GM’s 4.04 billion and Ford’s 2.67 billion).
Toyota also received many write ins for its Scion line (a sub brand in the US), which seems to be gaining enormous interest beyond the brand’s traditional market.
Ranking fifth in Asia-Pacific is Australia’s Lonely Planet. No longer targeting the backpacker segment, the 31-year-old travel guidebook brand has grown more conservative with age. Its more mainstream approach to content has attracted a larger readership while also placing the once strongly differentiated brand squarely in the path of competitors.
The brand has made good use of the Internet with its travel forum Thorn Tree, and branched into other related guidebook areas such as restaurants and activities.
But Lonely Planet’s challenges still lie at the core of its product’s expertise. The right (or wrong) guidebook has the potential to have a substantial impact on one’s life via that emotional connection brands are always looking so hard to establish. Feeling well led when encountering the unknown cannot be underestimated and can lead to lifelong brand loyalty. It is for this reason that Lonely Planet's overwhelming priority should be constant quality control of its content.
After weathering colossal threats to the travel industry in the last three years (SARs, recessions and September 11th), it will be interesting to see how Lonely Planet now handles the rewrite on Asian titles affected by the tsunami to compensate for resorts and “places to eat” that are no longer there.
Rounding out the top ten in the region are, respectively, Singapore Airlines and Qantas, the financial mammoth HSBC, Japanese automaker Honda, and nudie drinks, Australia’s answer to the well-publicized Innocent Drinks brand in the UK.
Latin America: Cemex cements top spot
At the top of the 2004 Latin America brand rankings is Mexican cement brand Cemex. The third largest cement company in the world, Cemex’s recent success can be traced in part to Mexico’s housing boom, as an increase in government mortgage loans has led to an increase in development. However the brand’s finishing is surprising when compared to other regions’ tech and retail favored results.
Nearly a hundred years old, Cemex reported that 2004 net income was more than double 2003’s net. Growing at a comparable rate is Cemex’s debt, now at US$ 5.6 billion, which the company claims is one percent less than the year before. At this rate, Cemex should be debt free just in time for Mexico to reclaim Texas and California.
Three beverage brands land in Latin American’s top five; Mexico’s Corona places second, Cuba/Bermuda’s Bacardi places third and Chile’s Concha y Toro is fifth (knocking off Café de Colombia), leaving bakery brand Bimbo (fourth) to soak in all the booze.
These rankings represent no change from the 2003 Readers’ Choice Award results for Central & Latin America.
Grupo Modelo’s Corona holds the majority of its home market in Mexico, and it does an effective job of selling an image of sun and sand to the rest of the world.
In 2004, Bacardi added to its stable of brands (which includes Dewar’s, Bombay and Martini), including the (estimated) US$ 2 billion purchase of the incredibly successful Grey Goose brand from Sidney Frank.
Chilean wine brand Viña Concha y Toro reflects the overall healthy Chilean wine industry. Chile’s wine market increased 26 percent between September 2003 and October 2004, and of that market, Concha y Toro holds more than 20 percent between its fifteen vineyards. Sales for 2004 were up 3.8 percent with more than half of the revenue coming from exports to nearly 100 countries. The brand follows the Chilean industry model of offering good quality wine at popular price points, but it receives a lot of attention, praise and awards from critical entities like Wine Spectator, Wine Enthusiast, Descorchados and Wines and Spirits.
Mexican brand Bimbo, the third largest bread maker in the world and market leader for flour-based products in the Americas, reported year-over-year increased sales of 7.7 percent in Mexico in 2004 (in the rest of Latin America sales were up 4.9 percent from 2003). Its US sales dip has been blamed, in part, on the lo-carb fad.
With no monumental news in 2004, it becomes difficult to know exactly why our voters rated this brand with such a high impact. Still, like the coffee (and arguably the alcohol) brands in the survey, bread is a daily part of most lives, and no one does bread quite like Bimbo.
Brands rounding out the top ten in Latin America include Brazilian flip-flop brand Havaianas, capturing voters’ fancy as a footwear trend, and finishing sixth. It was followed by Mexican airline Aeroméxico at seventh place.
Although Café de Colombia slipped to eighth (from fifth in 2003) this National Federation of Coffee Growers is still one to watch. Second behind Brazil as the world’s largest coffee producer, Colombia organizes its relatively small individual growers under the more powerful Café de Colombia brand (sub-brand and retail outlets include the Juan Valdez brand).
In addition to reaching more markets abroad, Café de Colombia hopes to brew domestic interest in its own product at home. Presently Colombians only drink 1.2 million of the 12 million sacks of coffee sold each year by the brand.
Rounding out the top ten for Latin America brands are Brazil’s largest industrial company, Petrobras (ninth) and the nation’s cosmetic brand Natura (tenth).
Methods to the Madness: What, who, when, how
The annual Readers’ Choice Awards are a chance to recognize the brands that have the most impact on our lives each year. Impact can be either positive or negative.
A total of 1,984 brandchannel readers from 75 countries voted online between November and December 2004.
A shortlist for each region is provided but readers are given a chance to write in brand(s) to compensate for omissions on the part of brandchannel.
The shortlist comprises brands that were highly visible that year. Write in votes carry equal weight to listed brands unless the brand is already listed in the shortlist, in which case we accept up to 10 write ins for one brand.
Voters are allowed to vote for up to five brands per region and complete the demographics section once.
Respondents can only vote once per region. No section of the survey is mandatory, which explains the varying response rates by region.
Respondents per region equal: 1,984 for Global, 935 for US & Canada, 858 for Europe & Africa, 655 for Asia-Pacific, and 408 for Latin America.
Voting is open to anyone. Rankings are compiled purely on the basis of reader results. We do not influence the results through weighting, sampling or a flawed electoral college.
Our readers are interested in brands and branding. They are online and are therefore presumably familiar with technology. Of course, they are above average in intelligence, curiosity, good looks, taste, charm.
Sixty percent of voters identified themselves as men; the strongest group of voters fell in the age range of 26 to 35 years old.
Previous year results are equally fascinating: 2003, 2002 and 2001 or view charts of this year and previous year’s surveys.