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Content marketing in Asia: 3 myths busted!

Content marketing in Asia: 3 myths busted!

It’s always quite amusing when someone posts an edict on Asia based on one conference visit or by meeting 10 people within a three-day flying visit to Jakarta/Bangkok/Mumbai. It’s a very common affliction that seems to be the unfortunate by-product of being in one of the world’s fastest growing market by most measures.

Don’t get me wrong. Sometimes, you get really good insights from a fresh pair of eyes such as Mike Smith’s “Business Success in Asia: The Eight Lessons I’ve Learned or Shaun Cunningham’s “The Secret Side of Hong Kong“. But most times, it’s eyebrow-raising stuff.

Content marketing is starting to take off in Asia and agencies are now busy setting up shop in the region and making themselves heard. So, I think it’s about time to bust some content marketing myths that I keep hearing and set the right expectations from the beginning.

1) Content marketing is new in Asia
Wrong. A large number of clients that we work with understand thought leadership and content and not tooting your own horn all the time. This has been the case when I first started in B2B publishing 15 years ago and have produced white papers, webcasts, roundtables and even books that did not mention the client’s brand bar a small logo at the corner. Some even eschew the logo altogether and just want to be in the exclusive company of their hard-to-track prospects.

Do they know that it’s called content marketing? No. Even now, the term “content marketing” would draw a blank stare but mention research+white paper+lead generation and we start talking budgets. We’re just very practical that way.

2) Asian clients do not set aside their budgets for content marketing
Wrong again. Refer to (1) for the first part of my answer.

Asian businesses are famous for being practical and prudent, for better or for worse. For example, most locally-owned Asian banks are loved by analysts for their boring balance sheets but you will not find them hiring 5,000 staff one year and firing 10,000 the next. Slow and steady is their game and that has led them to fantastic opportunities at times of crisis such as DBS with SocGen and OCBC with ING.

Any marketing budget spent needs to have a clear deliverable in terms of leads or even revenue generated from that spend. Click-through-rate? Shares?  Number of Facebook fans? Meh. That’s all fine and dandy but tell me what I can generate in sales. A typical conversation is more likely to be: “I’ll spend $20,000 with you and I think I can get about $2million in sales from that investment this year.”

Larger companies can afford to look at a longer-term play but in the current economic environment, the reality is that everyone has to prove their revenue contribution to the company.

Asians do not speak a different language, we communicate just fine with dollars and sense.

3) A translator is necessary to operate in Asia. 
Half-right (you’re nearly there!). Yes, yes, you understand the cutely intricate nuances of the different Asian languages and the fascinating, exotic cultural quirks of the darling natives. But you don’t throw a translator to fix that. You need at least two. One to start with the translation and then someone local, on-the-ground, embedded within the same industry that your prospect is in and ruthlessly frank to destroy that translation. Really.

We’ve worked with international translation agencies with fantastic client lists. However, we found that with the specialised industries – technology and finance – that we operate in, we needed to get someone familiar with these two industries to edit that translated copy.  And that someone usually does not translate for a living at $100 for 1,000 words because in booming, skills-scarce Asia they’re busy carving out a profitable niche for themselves.

Context matters in most Asian languages. For example, protocol-heavy Javanese has four different levels depending on the relative status of the speaker to the listener. Sure, you won’t use it to talk about security authentication but don’t assume your translation agency is better than Google Translate.

Final note:  The point of this post is not to stop the “How does Asia compare to XYZ?” posts as that is just wishful thinking. Every market is a unique snowflake and it is through such sharing that I’m sure we all will learn more from each other. I would love to hear your thoughts here or drop us a line at

Here’s a to a prosperous 2015 for us all!

Tags: B2B Marketing, B2C Marketing

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