Australia using Asia for ‘political point-scoring’ not genuine engagement say regional bosses

Asia panel mumbrella360 2015Australia has ‘lost its vision’ for Asia and uses the region for political point-scoring, the head of PR agency Edelman in Southeast Asia and Australasia has said.

Sitting on a panel of regional bosses Iain Twine told the Mumbrella360 conference in Sydney today that Australian businesses are increasingly retreating from Asian countries and, despite it being ‘in our backyard’, are not rating when compared to American and British businesses.

“I’m a little bit down on Australia’s future in Asia, sadly. Australia uses Asia as a political machine and a political points scoring opportunity, rather than a proper economic trade strategy. It’s really sad and disappointing,” he said.

Iain Twine

Iain Twine

“Australians businesses – even in a place like Singapore – are really down the level. If you look at the work of Amchams (the American Chamber of Commerce), and also the Brits, sadly they’re much better than we are. And it’s in our backyard.”

Matt Godfrey, Asia president of Y&R, said Australians have forgotten why they entered the region.

“In the 90s there was a firm view in a number of brands about exploring into Asia, and Australia was going to be the headquarters of the expansion. And I think we’ve lost that vision,” he told the Mumbrella360 audience.

“Where are the great Australian brands? Where did they go? What are we manufacturing which is truly amazing and world class, and has the ability to go out? And maybe 20 years ago there was more ambition for that. Now it’s few and far between.”

Iain Twine on how Australian brands are doing in Asia.

The panel agreed on the difficulty of any western company to establish a brand in China.

“Thinking you’re going to go in there, and because there’s a billion people it’s all going to be happy days… there are a lot of shipwrecked companies along the way,” said Tony Ward, Asia head of research group Survey Monkey.

“The thing about Asia, is that they have a different planning horizon,” he continued.

“We have this 13-week mindset, on this quarterly treadmill. I think with countries like China and Japan… Komatsu has a 100 year strategic plan. Most companies in Australia have a one-year, maybe a five-year if they were totally crazy. The time frames are different.”

Godfrey said China seems like a lucrative place from the outside, but making businesses work isn’t always easy.

“You just can’t go in with a pre-described business model. You’ve got to go and look at the market and say: ‘how can I make a business here? It’s easy to lose money.”

Twine agreed: “Assuming you can go in there and all of a sudden fill your boots with Chinese multinationals is a loss leading approach.”

Cheuk Chiang, Omnicom Media Group Asia Pacific CEO, said relationships with local brands are essential.

“My advice is to any Australian company that is actually interested in launching in China would be that it’s very important quickly establish a local partnership to give you that scale,” he said.

“A one-size fits all does not work. It sounds bleedingly obvious, but Chinese culture is very, very different. It’s built over long term. You certainly can’t make a quick buck in China.”

Sam Buckingham-Jones


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