BANGKOK – For evidence of the success of German companies in South-East Asia, one needs to look no further than the local media where German business is consistently creating positive news coverage about its growth and ambition in ASEAN’s emerging markets.
And now, with Germany’s dominance of European economic affairs through the euro zone crisis, the country’s global and regional reach continue to grow.
In Thailand and Vietnam, where we counsel several leading German companies, millions of consumers and businesses benefit daily from German technology and expertise.
Almost as soon as they can talk, the people of South-East Asia are introduced to German consumer products, with global brands such as Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Audi and Porsche having enormous aspirational traction. Puma, Adidas, Braun, the list goes on.
Building on this awareness, German businesses have for decades sought to integrate themselves in the development of the communities they serve in the region, providing massive infrastructure investment, capital for enormous industrial developments and also intellectual property used in education and social upliftment.
One of the main drivers of the success of German companies in key markets in the region such as Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia and Indonesia has been the careful management of their reputations.
German companies are highly proactive in building and constantly enhancing their reputations in all walks of life, giving a consistent, ethical character to their communications and corporate messaging.
In one never publicized instance in Thailand a huge German company declined to invest in an energy project because of ethical concerns. Faced with sometimes violent opposition from the local community and fears that the local environment would be seriously impaired by the development, the company took a decision to forgo the very tempting cash windfall it would have enjoyed by going through with the project, and quietly withdrew.
For professional communicators the challenge in managing brand reputation for major German companies is to balance exposure and profile with the commitment to protect the brand from unnecessary scrutiny or even controversy.
One of the most compelling platforms contributing to the growing reputation of German businesses in the region is their focus on education and training of their workforces. Thousands of Asian students and employees have benefited from college, university and in-house training courses in Germany through exchange programs and scholarship opportunities.
However, while German companies are proudly German, they also largely seek to portray an international brand character that builds on the attributes of their home country yet is flexible enough to adapt rapidly and effectively to local business and social conditions.
Germany’s ties to the region are by no means limited to business and investment. For more than a century cultural ties have burgeoned between Germany and the countries of South-East Asia. Right across the spectrum of the arts and entertainment and even cuisine, Germany is centre-stage in the capitals of the region.
These firmly established ties offer a unique opportunity for German corporations to further engage in their host communities and communicate their commitment to the long-term prosperity and sustainability of their ventures, not to mention promote the power of their brands to an avid and increasingly affluent target audience.