Catalyst Asia Intelligence Briefing -- 10 August 2012

Olympic overdose?

We have end-to-end coverage of other types of competition: the contest to understand consumer culture in Asia, the struggle to see behind the curtain of Chinese social media censorship, as well as some coaching on overall emerging market strategies.  In addition, we have multimedia content and a new mobile app for fans of economics, and a fascinating history of Ketchup.

Asian Consumer Cultures

Studies, opinions, arguments…are consumers in emerging Asian economies seeking to Westernize, Globalize, or Localize.  Three pieces on consumers in China, Vietnam, and Indonesia cover all three.

-        In What Chinese Consumers Want, Tom Doctoroff makes his case that despite the success of some foreign brands, consumers there are not seeking to become more Western.  Instead, he believes that brands are successful when they craft a global message, “so that they can become vessels of Chinese culture.”

-        Businessweek recently covered P&G’s efforts to capture the hearts, minds, and schools of consumers in Vietnam, where incomes and demand for Western products is on the rise. The company’s outreach includes supporting charitable/social work, re-purposing existing products, and staging public hand-washing demonstrations.

-        Finally, the Wall Street Journal notes that companies that cater to the needs--and price points—of Indonesia’s poor (or base of the pyramid) have been rewarded.  Consumer demand for necessities among this group remained stable even as the global economy was in a tailspin.  This demand has helped companies like Nestle Indonesia, which generates +$1 billion annually. 


Who watches the watchmen?  Teams at Harvard and the University of Hong Kong have created advanced software tools that allow them to observe in great detail (and in real time) the censorship of social media by the Chinese government.  There are some 500 million social media users in that country.

-        The Harvard team recently reported that 13% of all postings are censored.  And, counter-intuitively, they note that censors demonstrated a low level interest in taking down posts critical of the government; instead the team found posts about protests and public gatherings to be the most likely to be pulled down.

-        The Hong Kong researchers, meanwhile, have managed to build a dynamic profile of the most sensitive words and topics, creating a—most likely unwelcome—view into what is of greatest concern to the government at any given time.

Emerging Markets

-        Can you stomach one more headline sporting an Olympic metaphor?  Winning the $30 trillion decathlon is McKinsey & Co’s review of the to 10 capabilities businesses will need to succeed in emerging markets.  These are helpfully grouped into three categories: Throwing accurately, Jumping in, and Running the distance.

-        You can compare the above to the recent Boston Consulting Group study of how to win—and lose—in emerging markets.  BCG uses the experience of Japanese consumer goods companies as a lens to view the dos and don’ts of emerging market strategies.

Food for thought

What can the story about the history of ketchup tell us about globalization?  Probably not what you would expect: This examination of the culinary origins—and transformation—of Fujianese fish sauce supports, in a roundabout way, the argument that China was until the 17th century the richest nation in the world by any standard you can think of: wealth, living standard, lifespan, etc.

Going to the video replay (sorry, got caught up in the sports theme): we like this interview on behavioral economics—and why organizations should apply quality controls to corporate decision-making—from Nobel laureate Daniel Kahneman. [Requires Flash]

Finally, while we don’t think it will challenge Angry Birds for the number of downloads, we are happy to see the US Census Bureau is launching a mobile app to provide instant access to 16 key economic indicators.

Catalyst Asia Intelligence Briefing -- 6 September 2012

Catalyst Asia Intelligence Briefing -- 20 July 2012