In a nascent marketplace where local brands hold their own against foreign competitors, Apple has emerged as the most differentiated brand in Myanmar, whereas local telecom player MPT ranks as the most loved. Brands like mobile provider Telenor have also earned recognition for innovation, despite being a recent market entrant, according to WPP and Millward Brown’s BrandZ Spotlight on Myanmar. The inaugural report explores critical business insights into the world’s fastest-growing economy and the evolving psyche behind Myanmar’s 51 million consumers.
Myanmar’s rapid transformation also means businesses need to ready themselves for game-changing scenarios propelled by technology and infrastructure advancements. Myanmar is set to become the first country in the world to go straight to smartphone as part of its ‘leapfrog’ development. Key changes affecting marketing and brands include the rise from almost zero mobile penetration to nearly 50 per cent in just a couple of years. Technology will likely direct a new generation of digital growth, from retail to banking to social communications.
The Spotlight on Myanmar findings are based on everyday buying decisions such as coffee, soft drinks as well as long-term purchase decisions around mobile service and handset sectors. Research shows that the most effective messages come from brands that put their products and benefits front and centre. Key differentiators behind the strongest brands are those that project idealism, desirability and a sense of adventure.
BrandZ research in Myanmar includes 1660 consumer interviews and covers 42 key international and regional brands that are already building a sense of meaningful difference in Myanmar, based on either their global profile or their local activity. Findings show that:
#1. Apple is the most differentiated brand in Myanmar followed by Coca-Cola and Samsung. Apple indexed 232, where the average brand indexes at 100.
#2. Mobile network Telenor is the most innovative brand in the survey, indexing 125, with rivals MPT and Ooredoo coming second and third respectively.
#3. MPT is the most loved brand in the survey, indexing 129, nine points ahead of Samsung and 11 points ahead of Telenor and Huawei.
#4. Samsung’s brand proposition scored the highest at 129, ahead of Apple on 125 and MPT on 118.
#5. Huawei scored highest on brand power – a brand’s ability to boost sales or gain market share due to consumers’ predisposition to choose this brand over another – indexing 436, significantly higher than its global average score of 81. Huawei performs better in Myanmar than it does in its home market, China, on this measure.
“There are huge opportunities for international brands to be successful in Myanmar, if they get their cultural message right and understand the diversity of the country, particularly in the border areas. Our teams have identified comparisons with the India of 30 years ago and indeed some aspects of rural India today. Also valid are comparisons with Indonesia, which also has a large population that lives off the land as well as a huge range of different climatic regions,” said David Roth, CEO at The Store, EMEA and Asia.
The report also highlighted a number of key trends that will change how brands and agencies should approach this market, now and in the next few years, including:
#1. Rapid improvement in infrastructure. It has taken just three years to build a national mobile network; other changes including the arrival of greater electrification and improved transportation links will happen much faster than would be expected in many markets.
#2. Etailing is coming. Despite the current poor retail infrastructure, the rapid growth in e-commerce in other developing markets acts as an indicator that the speed will be similar in Myanmar.
#3. The world’s first mobile-only market. Consumers are increasingly looking to mobile for both information and entertainment. While TV is important, brands need to consider Myanmar as not just a mobile-first environment but also a mobile only market.
#4. Sell the effect, not the spec. Consumers are new to choice in Myanmar so they will navigate the new landscape differently. Brands need to focus on how the product will meet their needs and make it easier to compare functions and prices.
#5. Appreciate the diversity of Myanmar. This is not a homogenous nation. Although 88 per cent of the urban population is Buddhist, there is a huge range of ethnic, climatic and cultural variety, which will be particularly critical in the personal care sector.
“BrandZ’s first research in Myanmar will help international and regional marketers understand the challenge of building strong brands in this new market. Experience in other fast emerging markets shows that first mover advantage and the loyalty it engenders in consumers can last for decades. Myanmar is a long-term commitment but one that will pay off for the brands that get it right,” said Doreen Wang, Head of BrandZ, from Millward Brown.