P&G announced yesterday that it is moving its Skin Care and Cosmetics unit to join its Baby Care unit in Singapore. They want the leadership of these consumer brands to be near the biggest world markets with the greatest growth potential.
This is a major step for a US-based, globally-competitive, consumer brand. P&G has moved the brand leadership away from corporate HQ to be closer to the customer of the future. Will more brands follow? They have to. Brands are mature in the western economies but personal income is rising in many of the developing countries. When you look at the population of the developing countries and the rising consumerism, the potential markets are massive and dwarf the western markets. The move makes so much sense, you almost wonder why they waited so long.
This move and the ones likely to follow will accelerate the already accelerating rush to provide research services in Asia. These consumer brands MUST understand the Asian customer. The best way is to live there (thus, the P&G move). But they can’t live everywhere and cultures vary widely across Asia. So, the brands must develop strong research capabilities to understand their consumers. Research firms are rushing to fill the void. No doubt, Asia and other developing countries are the growth market for consumer brands and for the research of the future.
It will be interesting to watch as research firms attempt to apply western research models to Asian realities. How much will research adapt or will it have to change dramatically? Given the macro forces of big data, the internet and geo-cultural shifts, will we even recognize research in a decade?