The Next Challenge for Global Marketers: The N11

Ten Tips From PHD's Mike Cooper for Succeeding in the Non-BRIC Emerging Markets

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Mike Cooper
Mike Cooper
Smart global brands already have a strong offering in China and India. But the markets that keep them awake at night and preoccupy the lion's share of their planning time are the next wave of emerging markets, dubbed the "N11."

That's a term coined by investment bank Goldman Sachs to describe Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, South Korea, Turkey and Vietnam. These countries actually present far more interesting opportunities for marketers to generate the biggest returns. You could say, if you dared, that the BRIC markets are so passé. So 2009.

For a start, the N11 have recovered from recession much quicker than their rivals in the developed world, and strong growth rates are being predicted for the next 10 to 15 years. By 2030, the World Bank forecasts that the middle classes of South and East Asia will account for 8.9% of the world's population and 7.7% of global income. Nigeria, for instance, is expected to overtake South Africa as the largest African economy by 2050.

Savvy marketers making the move into the N11 -- not only behemoths such as Unilever but brands like Ikea, Google and Red Bull, to name but a few -- are well aware of the business opportunity. But what they -- and their agencies -- also need to understand is the level of resource investment and perspective adjustment that will be required to gain traction in these emerging economies.

While each country offers its own vagaries, there are a number of "cost of entry" commitments that any brand seeking a presence in the N11 must consider:

  1. Be there. Don't just pretend to be there, or be there half-heartedly.
  2. That goes for your agency, too. Don't be fobbed off by an agency suit that tells you he can service your business in Vietnam from his Bangkok office. In my experience, he can't. At least not properly.
  3. And when we say agency, we mean media as well. Most markets have a large rural population, with many audiences in extremely remote locations. In Bangladesh, for example, 75% of the population lives rurally. Targeting them is not as simple as running a TV ad and hoping it works. On-the-ground media teams are essential.
  4. Customize your hiring criteria to reflect the unique N11 need. Some of these destinations are not everyone's cup of tea, or rather, chai. Young, adventurous, flexible and, most of all, curious people tend to thrive most. But whoever they are, they have to want to be there, rather than the company forcing them to be there.
  5. Market the N11 internally, too. Make the N11 an attractive proposition for your top talent. Ensure they know that, increasingly, having Asian experience fast-tracks careers.
  6. Share your learnings. It's essential to have a "network-minded" person in place in an emerging market who's good at keeping up with colleagues across borders, sharing information and tapping the network for extra brain power.
  7. Dig that data and really understand the consumer behind the numbers. Things are not always what they seem, as I vividly remember discovering when I once worked in China. A client and I were visiting a housing estate in Beijing to learn about media habits firsthand. On the way to the houses, we walked across wasteland littered with rubbish, rubble and rats. However, when we got inside the rundown homes, we saw the families all had broadband connections and three TVs. That experience taught me early on that it's imperative to make the consumer three-dimensional.
  8. Leave Western arrogance at the door. Don't be an Ugly American (or German, or Brit or -- well, you get the picture). Marketers who enter the N11 assuming that "developing" means "deficient" -- specifically in terms of media usage -- will underestimate their audience and undermine their own efforts.
  9. Park your bulldozers at the border. Don't be one of these loathsome marketing professionals who tries to mold the market to "how we do things" in London or New York. Naturally, this aggravates the locals and, more importantly, makes for diabolical marketing strategies. In a global world, collaboration is the name of the game.
  10. Remember, patience is a virtue. Western marketers are often irked by the slow pace at which deals move. But patience is paramount to building relationships in the N11 and Asia in general. I learned this early in my career working in China, when I had lunch with a Chinese TV executive. He turned up looking very serious and wearing his suit label prominently displayed on the outside of his lapel, to ensure I knew which brand it was. The lunch was extremely dull -- not helped by having to communicate via a translator -- and I found myself wondering what the point of it all was. Suddenly my lunch partner leaned across the table with a conspiratorial look on his face, clearly intending to ask a question that was too important to risk being lost in translation. Imagine my surprise when it turned out to be "So then, do you like Benny Hill?"

Clearly, what I had seen as a waste of time, he had viewed as an opportunity to size me up, and see if I would be willing to invest time as well as money in the relationship.

Mike Cooper is worldwide CEO of PHD Network and co- author of 2014: The Future of the Media Agency and Fluid: Harnessing the Rising Speed of Influence.
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