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Why beer brands must do more to connect digitally in SE Asia

Increasing disposable incomes, greater foreign investment and tourism spend, combined with a growing population have all contributed to Southeast Asia’s beer consumption growing at one of the fastest rates in the world.

The quantities are huge. If you look at Southeast Asia’s largest consumer of beer, Vietnam, a staggering 3 billion litres of beer were put away in 2012, a 0.4 billion litre increase from 2011.

What’s more, over the last five years Vietnam has seen its beer sales climb at more than double the pace of its gross domestic product, a pattern mimicked at a slightly lower level across the rest of SE Asia.

Clearly there are huge opportunities for both domestic and foreign beer brands in Southeast Asia, but why must brands focus their efforts on digital, when field marketing has been working well so far?

Firstly, SE Asia is home to an increasingly digitalised audience, with a youthful population that has only ever known a life with the internet.

In fact, our data shows that such is their reliance on the internet and connectivity 60 per cent of Southeast Asian’s feel physically uncomfortable if they do not have access to their smartphone.

Beer brands must be able to connect with their audiences on the platform they know and adopt a marketing strategy that embraces digital media.

However, field marketing for beer brands still has a stronghold in Southeast Asia, and rather than replacing it, digital marketing can do well to enhance it through O2O (online to offline).

If, as our data shows, 68 per cent of Southeast Asian’s prefer to have brand and product information in their mobile phone for the ease of sharing, it is the perfect platform for beer brands to share promotional offers, adverts and other information.

Here digital marketing can also be used to create highly targeted online ads that drive target audiences to venues they know their beverage is sold.

On top of that, various beer brands rely on buzz and curiosity to pique interest, digital marketing can be used to generate excitement and attendance surrounding promotional and sponsored events.

While not an immediately pressing issue, it’s also worth noting the whispers surrounding online grocery services as they look set to become Asia’s next multi-billion dollar industry. Beer brands should prepare themselves for a digital shift.

But, while essential, connecting with a digital audience is not as easy as it sounds.

In a project we worked on with Sabeco, Vietnam’s leading brewery and the producer of 333, Bia Saigon and Saigon Special, we saw how they wanted to connect with their current and potential target audience via Facebook through a series of promotions, but like many brands needed greater understanding of who their audience actually was.

By establishing how many of their Facebook ‘fans’ were ‘true’ (as opposed to those who liked the page then disengaged or those from click-farms) we were able to provide Sabeco with valuable insight on how they could gain greater engagement with their ‘true fans’ and leverage further impact from future digital campaigns, reducing time and money spent on ineffective digital marketing campaigns.

Brands must be aware of this and must really understand who their audience is to gain the best ROI from their digital communication investments.

Thue Quist Thomasen

Thue Quist Thomasen is the Head of Group Solutions and Marketing at Market Research Consultancy, Epinion where he has been applying fresh perspective for almost 8 years. He and his team have worked with national and international beer brands in and around SE Asia.