NEWELL Brands has an optimistic view about expanding its business in Asean after experiencing strong growth in demand for consumer goods and stationary products.
George Hartel, regional director, APAC, SEA, India and China at Newell Brands, sees very big potential in Asean generally and Thailand in particular. With over 625 million consumers across Asean and a growing student population, the need for consumer goods and stationary products has never been greater, he said.
“Many people incorrectly believe that mobile devices and computers are killing the stationery business,” said Hartel. “In reality, our writing business has never been stronger in Asean and the rest of the world. We see consumption rates up, we see consumers trading up in the category, and we observe consumers gravitating toward new ideas and responding to innovation.”
He drew on Thailand as an example. “Historically Thai consumers mostly used lower priced ball-point pens, but with innovations such as PaperMate InkJoy quick-dry gel pens, they are now trading up to higher quality, higher performance products which write smoother and leave your notes brighter on the paper,” Hartel said.
“This trade-up by consumers across Asean is driving category growth for retailers.”
The company’s sales in Asean nations have grown much faster than market averages as they launched new innovations that grew categories. Consumers tried them out, often in response to the marketing and branding associated with their “Brighten up every day writing” campaign.
The pen’s design “works great for students, young adults, and professionals across the region,” he said, resulting in sales acceleration over the first half of 2017. The company has launches planned for further innovations for Q3 and Q4.
He said that another driver of growth is developing the category with consumers. For example, the Sharpie brand has discovered new target consumers and capitalised by leveraging key high-consumption moments throughout the year, including through digital marketing. Sharpie Markers brand, for example, gets a marketing push in student-graduation season. The launch of #Sharpiegraduation in Thailand, for example, was embraced by students “who love the work we are doing to make their graduation day very special,” said Hartel.
The company won’t disclose detailed projections for their Asean plans, but Hartel says,
“with over 120 leading brands in the market globally, we see ASEAN as an important part of our future growth in Asia” for Newell Brands.
“Currently, we see a big opportunity to bring together offline and online retail purchases. Mobile technology is enabling such a rapid advancement in consumer behaviour in Thailand and Asean and it will be important for our company and all companies to consider their omni-channel [marketing] approach to Asean going forward. This also includes a combination of digital and traditional advertising to support building brands. All channels – mom and pops stores, modern trade retail, and e-commerce – will be critical to success,” he said.
Bangkok can boast a factory making liquid paper correction pens, a market-leading product in Asean and many other countries globally.
“We are also investing in building out more advanced logistics, warehousing, and manufacturing capabilities in Thailand to service Asean growth and global demand for items made in Thailand,” said Hartel.
In marketing the company invests heavily on in-store merchandising and packaging to break out of the clutter in the aisle and speed up the consumer’s buying decision.
“Our products are usually premium so it is important they stand out in the store and have promoters to support the branding message to consumers,” he said.
Hartel said that the company had led major strategic transformation efforts in sales and marketing over the last two years to bring the best talent into the company and align with the best partners – customers and agencies – across each country.
That combination should drive its global branding and innovation capabilities together with identifying and meeting locally relevant needs.
It has paid off, said Hartel. “The company’s business is growing at the fastest pace in our history in Asean and well beyond our peer set in the region. Our operating model of driving innovation, great marketing, and the right partnerships with customers is a winning formula for success in Thailand and Asean.”