Myanmar Set to Become the Worlds First Mobile-Only Market

myanmar peopleWPP Millward Brown, Myanmar (also known as Burma) and its former capital Yangon have released the BrandZ inaugural Spotlight on Myanmar study. The report uncovers critical business insights into the country, which is rated as the world’s fastest-growing economy, and looks at the evolving psyche behind Myanmar’s 51m consumers.

The report concludes that the country could turn out to be the world’s first mobile-only market. Consumers are increasingly looking to mobile for both information and entertainment. While TV is important, the report says that brands need to consider Myanmar as not just a mobile-first environment but also a mobile-only market.

In a nascent marketplace where local brands hold their own against foreign competitors, Apple has emerged as the most differentiated brand, while local telecom player MPT ranks as the most loved. Brands like mobile provider Telenor have also earned recognition for innovation, despite being a recent market entrant.

The report states that Myanmar’s rapid transformation also means businesses need to ready themselves for game-changing scenarios propelled by technology and infrastructure advancements. The country is set to become the first in the world to go straight to smartphone as part of its ‘leapfrog’ development. Key changes affecting marketing and brands include the rise from almost zero mobile penetration to nearly 50 per cent in just a couple of years. The study finds that technology will likely direct a new generation of digital growth, from retail to banking to social communications.

The Spotlight on Myanmar findings are based on everyday buying decisions such as coffee and soft drinks, as well as long-term purchase decisions around mobile service and handset sectors. Research shows that the most effective messages come from brands that put their products and benefits front and centre. Key differentiators behind the strongest brands are those that project idealism, desirability and a sense of adventure.

BrandZ research in Myanmar includes 1,660 consumer interviews and covers 42 key international and regional brands that are already building a sense of meaningful difference in the country, based on either their global profile or their local activity.

The study reveals that Apple is the most differentiated brand in Myanmar followed by Coca-Cola and Samsung. Apple indexed 232, where the average brand indexes at 100. Mobile network Telenor is the most innovative brand in the survey, indexing 125, with rivals MPT and Ooredoo coming second and third respectively.

Telco MPT is the most loved brand in the survey, indexing 129, nine points ahead of Samsung and 11 points ahead of Telenor and Huawei. Samsung’s brand proposition scored the highest at 129, ahead of Apple on 125 and MPT on 118. Huawei scored highest on brand power –a brand’s ability to boost sales or gain market share due to consumers’ predisposition to choose this brand over another – indexing 436, significantly higher than its global average score of 81. Huawei performs better in Myanmar than it does in its home market, China, on this measure.

“There are huge opportunities for international brands to be successful in Myanmar, if they get their cultural message right and understand the diversity of the country, particularly in the border areas,” said David Roth, CEO at The Store, EMEA and Asia. “Our teams have identified comparisons with the India of 30 years ago and indeed some aspects of rural India today. Also valid are comparisons with Indonesia, which also has a large population that lives off the land as well as a huge range of different climatic regions.”

The report also highlighted a number of key trends that will change how brands and agencies should approach this market, now and in the next few years. These include a rapid improvement in infrastructure. It has taken just three years to build a national mobile network; other changes including the arrival of greater electrification and improved transportation links will happen much faster than would be expected in many markets.

Also important is the fact that eCommerce is imminent – despite the current poor retail infrastructure, the rapid growth in eCommerce in other developing markets acts as an indicator that the speed will be similar in Myanmar.

“BrandZ’s first research in Myanmar will help international and regional marketers understand the challenge of building strong brands in this new market,” said Doreen Wang, head of BrandZ. “Experience in other fast emerging markets shows that first-mover advantage and the loyalty it engenders in consumers can last for decades. Myanmar is a long-term commitment but one that will pay off for the brands that get it right.”