Southeast Asia – Myriad markets

Multinational personal care companies including Procter & Gamble, Unilever and AmorePacific are expanding production and distribution in southeast Asia, in particular Vietnam, opting for big marketing campaigns and targeting the emerging male consumer demographic. However, each national market in the ASEAN region is distinct and brands should be wary of taking a lazy, uniform approach

The markets for cosmetics in the countries of southeast Asia have many common characteristics but there are wide variations in consumer wealth, as Karryn Miller reports from Hanoi

The needs of personal care product consumers in tropical climates and sub-tropical climates can be very similar, especially with regard to skin care. So it is understandable when lazy marketers view the ten countries that make up the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) region as one. However, because each national market is quite distinct, with a myriad of cultures and an uneven spread of wealth, taking a uniform approach to marketing and product development poses significant risks of failure.

There is indeed a huge disparity of wealth throughout the region, making it contrast significantly in this regard with Europe. Landlocked Laos, for example, had a GDP per capita of $2,700 in 2011 according to the CIA’s The World Factbook. Neighbouring Thailand’s GDP was more than triple that at $9,700 per head. Meanwhile wealthy Singapore had a GDP of $59,900 in the same year. With such a broad range of incomes not all countries are treated equally when it comes to product offerings and marketing.

Currently, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines are the largest consumers of beauty products. According to market research firm Euromonitor International’s 2010 figures, ASEAN cosmetics sales figures totalled $12.2bn. Of this amount 30% of sales were in Thailand, 23% in Indonesia and 21% in the Philippines. Cosmetics sales in Laos, Brunei, Cambodia and Myanmar combined accounted for less than 2% of the total sales amount, while Malaysia made up 12%, Singapore 7% and Vietnam 5%.

Despite these disparities, with such a large overall sales pot it is maybe not surprising that multinational personal care product companies are not only expanding production and distribution within southeast Asia, they are also moving core units into the area.

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