At the 2012 Business of Design Week (BODW), Suzanne Santos, Product & Brand Ambassador of Aesop gave an interesting lesson on brand building in Asia. Her key point: stay true to your brand and don’t try to fit into a certain format or follow certain ideals.

In her role for 25 years, Suzanne has been part of building a brand experience that is very different from many skincare competitors; Aesop does not sell any photoshopped beauty ideals, they don’t use glossy packaging and they don’t use advertising  – at all. Instead they have put their product confidence at the center and prioritised a unique and unified store experience above all.

So how did the brand grow to its current status? The brand was built on “real” word of mouth.

We don’t have and will never have a Facebook presence. The brand was built on wom long before viral marketing existed

But social media is not the only matter on which Aesop stands firm in their beliefs. Coming to Asia, Susanne explained how many advised her to modify the brand image to fit the Asian context. But Aesop stayed true to its brand ethos and values, on the way turning down many retailers who wouldn’t meet the standards. Rather than accepting offers from multi-brand department stores, Aesop believed in the importance of unique branded spaces (see the one in Sheung Wan above) — and this is now differentiating them from the competition.

We (Aesop) are loved in Asia for our difference, not sameness

So what’s the lesson here? Coming to Asia, more brands should believe in their own unique identity instead of reinventing themselves in terms of story and aesthetic. Sameness is the last thing the modern consumer is looking for – also in Asia.
Secondly, more brands should  have a clear point of view on how they want their brand to be experienced. In a competitive market like this, brand building is crucial and the only way to create a base for longterm success.