What’s better than street food in Ho Chi Minh? ESOMAR’s Asia conference (well, nearly). Overall, it is a conference with a fantastic spirit. I enjoyed presenting our paper Brands Without Borders (read the summary here, or get the whole paper here), which I wrote with my American counterpart, Philip McNaughton.

The conference, though, is still dominated by Westerners and Indian people – nothing wrong with that, but I was hoping to see greater representation of home grown South East and North Asian thought leadership.

Picture of Presentation at At ESOMAR APAC 2013

Having said that, there were a few gems. Here are my Best Of’s…

1. The last frontier of Asia – Coke’s insight into Myanmar. Only 7 people at the conference had done any research in the market. (This leaves North Korea as surely the LAST frontier?)

2. Semiotics of Indian masculinity – Satyam Viswanathan from 3rd Eye did a lovely job of breaking the down age of men, and helped us understand the current cultural anxieties. Most importantly, it gave great context to the most recent crimes against women in India.

3. The modern nomad in Asia – 214 million people around the world are in a state of acculturation (i.e. living overseas & on the move). Crazy. Thanks Stephanie Herold from Clear

4. Understanding cultural differences through the lens of archetypes – delightfully simple way to help interpret diversity vs. more academic machinations. In a region where clients and agencies give lip service to “cultural insight & immersion”, archetypes poses a practical & digestible way in which can help translate the values & character of a brand. Thanks Anjali Puri, TNS, India

5. Dave McCaughan – an old mentor of mine from McCann WorldGroup Japan shared his latest update in a long-running obsession with Soft Power: the ability for countries to engineer their nation’s perception through celebrity & pop culture

The rest of the conference was of limited interest. It felt like quite a few agencies were trudging out their credentials and old presentations. Rijn Vogelaar from Blauw Research did a good job of summarizing his Superpromoter book from 2009, and Ipsos showcased their scary new predictive equity quant tool. Overall it supported my suspicions about the region and the state of talent and industry development.

Having seen the standard and quality of the work – I’m now more passionate than ever to start kicking up some dust in this region. No doubt there is great talent in the region, but for some reason they aren’t getting visibility or aren’t motivated to come to the big conferences. We need community now more than ever if we are to raise the bar – for ourselves, clients, and future generations of insight people in the region.

I’ve linked here to the articles themselves, but feel free to tweet me (I’m @AndiHo) to chat about them any time.