China Insights

Animation and branding in Asia

Panos Dimitropoulos

Human & Cultural Practice Lead, Asia and Developing Markets

Brands 25.08.2016 / 11:40

Shake hand with chalk

Animation is a popular and culturally appropriate medium in Asian branding. To understand this, we need to look first at animation as a communications medium and a cultural vehicle, and then as a branding expression.

The Meaning of animation

Animation is a representation medium with its own distinctive meanings.

Different cultures at different periods of time have different preferred story telling mediums that are more relevant to them reflecting their specific cultural context and social conditions. Representation mediums don’t communicate only by what they depict (content) but also by how they depict (style). Their defining style and properties (colours, lines, background/foreground properties and compositions that they can specifically make) dictate and complement the meaning of their content.

Animation is just another representation medium used to tell stories - other such mediums are language, photography and drawing.

Language (prose): has linear organization (beginning, middle and end) communicating order, structure, logic and directness.

EN Sailing Ship Language

Photography (coloured): the closest there is to how we see the world communicating realism, pragmatism and commerciality.

Sail Ship Photo

Drawing (black and white sketch): involving skilful handwork and inspiration communicating craftsmanship, tradition, as well as sophisticated design.

Sail Ship Drawing

Animation: richly visual, associated with childhood and used for depicting fantastical words communicating innocence and fantasy but also enablement and idealized state of being.

Ship In Animation

These meanings find strong associations in Asia turning animation into a relevant cultural vehicle

Within a strong tradition in communicating and portraying the world through highly visual means (ideograms), animation finds experienced and familiar grounds for being decoded and in some cases seen as a contemporary continuation of such tradition (emoji and avatars).




Japanese animation stands as a highly influential and representative export of the most dominant Asian culture imposing an almost philosophical view point of the world as well as shaping the region’s contemporary aesthetics.

Sailor Moon

In relation to the above, animation contributes to kawai (= ‘cute syndrome’, i.e. escapism by reenacting moments of childhood nostalgia) which is extremely popular with Asian grown ups (e.g. more adults visit Shanghai Disneyland than children) as they try to preserve fragments of their lost innocence.

King With Glasses

In a region that is more or less constantly improving and evolving socially and financially, animation (with its vibrant colours and rich compositions) stands as the medium that encapsulates the euphoric and idealistic momentum of the Asian Dream becoming true.

Scifi Hello Kitty 

At the same time tradition stands firm with purity of self being a fundamental principle still embedded deep in contemporary Asian DNA; animation - with its childish, innocent connotations - reflects this constant pursuit for balance between hectic lifestyles and virtuous living.

Animation and branding

Brands tap into this relevant cultural vehicle to create equally relevant cultural strategy expressions

The use of animation in branding captures all the above and, targeting the imaginative/emotional plane of consumers, it overall communicates perfection and an ideal state of being as a result of what the brand offers. Through animation, a brand promises absolute consumer enablement supported by perfectly crafted benefits that elevate the brand experience into the highest of levels, a level far superior to mundane everyday reality.

Animation is the only medium suitable enough for expressing such perfection and level of elevated experience – as opposed to more realistic ways of representation (i.e. photography) that when stand alone are 'demoted’ to reflect more mundane conditions.

Different styles of animation are used to express different brand values.

For example,

“Purity” through simple, straight white lines on blue background:

Pocari Sweat

“Energy” through intense neon coloured details on black background:

Energy Guitar

“Stimulation” through vibrant colours and complex compositions:

Fanta Excitement

“Enablement” through photography and animated elements mixed together:

Combination Of Photo And Animation

“Technological/scientific Proficiency” through electric blue predominance, sci-fi / VR aesthetics/compositions:

GE As Brand Of Science

“Playful Humour” through clean outlines and comic book aesthetics:

Banana As Brand

Want your brand to make an impact in Asia?

Cultural Strategy can help your brand grow and stand out by acquiring cultural value and emergent relevance. We identify the broader cultural role that fits your brand’s personality. We then pinpoint the exact expressions necessary to bring it to life in a manner that becomes meaningfully memorable.

Source: Kantar Added Value

Editor's notes

* To reach the author, or to know more information, data and analysis of culture-related branding consultancy, please contact us.

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