Myanmar, a small republic country also known as Burma, bordered by China, Laos, Thailand, Bangladesh and has ethnic diversities like Burmans, Karens, Shan, Han Chinese, Mong, Yenbye, Kachin, and other groups. Burmans occupy more than 55% of the country and the rest are other ethnic groups.1 Marketing in Myanmar can be challenging in terms of language and communication. Though Burmese is the official language, Chinese, English and Hindi are also dialects used in e-commerce business operations. In addition, Kachin, Kayah, Karen, Chin, Mon, Rakhine, and Shan are regional languages spoken in Myanmar. However, English became the official language during the colonial period and hence an elementary knowledge of English is required by marketers. Therefore, a marketer must be cautious in presenting his promotional post and ideas to the Myanmar audience. Hence, it is recommended to use English for B2B marketing and Burmese and other languages for B2C promotions.
Nature and Cultures
Once a marketer has finalised the language(s) of marketing communication, he or she must understand the different religions, cultures, and buyer personas of the target audience. Although the country does not have any official religion, more than 87% of the population follows Theravada Buddhism.2 The majority of Burmans and Shan are Buddhists. The rest of the population are Christians, Muslims, Animists, Hindus, and others. In terms of age demographic, more than 50% of the population are under the age of 30.3 Moreover, more than 70% of the total population are from the rural areas and nearly 30% of the country is urbanised.4 Therefore, Myanmar requires both traditional and digital marketing to reach out to various demographic groups. Traditional marketing like print, radio, TV, and outdoor advertisements are observed in rural and semi-rural areas whereas traditional as well as digital media is accessed both in the urban and remote areas of the country.
The total population of the country holds 54.23 million people among which 22 million are active internet and social media users.5 From 2006 to 2020, Myanmar has increased its social media penetration from 20% to 41% which is an applaudable milestone in the digital market.6 An audience of 18 to 24 years old uses more social media followed by the age group of 25 to 34.7 As a rather rural country, it records the lowest interest penetration. Nonetheless, 22 million users who use the internet in the country are active social media users in which Facebook is the only platform accessed by 21 million users with 97.31% procurement in the nation.8 It is advisable to promote services, spread brand awareness, and run campaigns on this social app that reaches a large digital audience in Myanmar. Instagram and LinkedIn take the subsequent places respectively, while Facebook Messenger is the only social chat app used in the country. Though the country allows access to those apps, they are not actively used by the larger audience or young generation. However, other social apps can be alternate or rare promotional platforms in the digital empire. Nevertheless, conventional advertising reaches a large rural-urban audience. Luxury products, premium goods, services, and brands are advertised through traditional marketing channels on TV, radio, print, newspaper, and outdoor advertisements as these reach massive audiences.
Digital + Traditional Marketing Practices
Most of the country is covered with rivers, plains, plateaus, and farming lands. The primary occupation of the country is farming and agriculture, especially in rice or paddy. The second most popular occupation is being an indirect agriculturist in the movement of goods and harvested produce to the cities in order to reach end-users. Coming in third place, apart from agriculture, fishery, and forestry, is the industrial and manufacturing sectors. The tertiary sector is not pervasive in the country; however during the movement of goods, services, and transportation in all the above phases, traditional marketing reaches massive audiences and draws the attention of a large group of people. Therefore, it is recommended to use traditional marketing to draw and convert conventional audiences. It is also suggested to practice traditional marketing initiatives and later involve other newer marketing tactics.
Top challenges in the country
As Myanmar is a vibrant country with different cultures, communities, mindsets, and buyer personas, penetrating into the market and getting prospects can be challenging. Here are some of the general issues faced by new Myanmar marketers.
- The potential high cost risk as the country lacks marketing awareness
- Different products with varied target consumers require customised solutions; there is no one size fits all marketing plan
- Brand building is quite different and less trustable in the country
- Due to diverse ethnic groups having varied personas, initiating the business or marketing culture is quite challenging
- Fewer resources and poor knowledge of the marketing landscape
- Barriers in language, culture, nationalism, and religion
- Myanmar’s internet penetration being the lowest in the world
- Marketing has good weightage through local tie-ups but must be addressed through the local people
Solutions and latest strategies
In spite of the above challenges, Myanmar has an emerging digital nature to access mobiles, digital devices, and also set up service or digital agencies in the country. There are several digital agencies and companies listed on Sortlist and Myanmar digital marketing sites that enable new businesses to be highlighted, to connect with the desired audiences, and to build networks. The country is also observing a good increase in digital penetrations since 2018. Moreover, a new business entity entering the Myanmar market can run his or her business seamlessly when the following marketing strategies are analysed and practiced to reach the country’s audience.
Latest formulated strategies to reach present and future Myanmar audience:
- Use A/B Testing to run marketing campaigns
- Know your audience through Artificial Intelligence (AI)
- Run programmatic ads
- General phone calling to a reach out to rural audience
- Video consumption is evolving – provide rewards and offers
- Low internet penetration but high engagement through HD and infographic images
- Banner ads on gaming apps
- Start influencer marketing practices
- Build a brand in the market
- Target by location – urban versus rural
- Get personal – provide the human touch through conversational content
- Track footfall – monitor the performance and revise strategies
- Leverage on audience searches and online activities to advertise where they are online
- Good attention to vertical scroll ads
- Grow global B2B and local business network
- Use mobile advertisements to get a wider reach
- Introduce native advertising practices
- Launch the concept of augmented reality
- Rewards for online purchases through digital advertising
- Draw traditional market audience to digital platforms
In a Nutshell
Myanmar, with a rural landscape and minimal urbanised areas, is evolving and penetrating through online mediums of communication and accessibility. Though Myanmar, having the world’s lowest internet penetration, has its challenges, there is an online sphere for digital marketing firms and other support sectors. By implementing the above latest strategies and by drawing the conventional marketing modes of audiences to the digital platforms, the country can evolve, develop, and excel in its business operations not only in this sector but also in all aspects of services.
- Maung Htin, AungDavid I. Steinberg, Michael Arthur Aung-Thwin. Myanmar. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Myanmar/Climate#ref52574
- Maung Htin, AungDavid I. Steinberg, Michael Arthur Aung-Thwin. Myanmar. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Myanmar/Languages#ref52575
- Maung Htin, AungDavid I. Steinberg, Michael Arthur Aung-Thwin. Myanmar. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Myanmar/Demographic-trends
- Maung Htin, AungDavid I. Steinberg, Michael Arthur Aung-Thwin. Myanmar. Retrieved from https://www.britannica.com/place/Myanmar/Languages#ref52571
- Simon Kemp (18 February 2020). Digital 2020: Titled Digital 2020: Myanmar. Retrieved from https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2020-myanmar
- Molly Moore (Jun 2, 2020). Active social media users as a share of the total population in Myanmar from 2016 to 2020. Retrieved from https://www.statista.com/statistics/883751/myanmar-social-media-penetration/
- Simon Kemp (31 JANUARY 2019). Digital 2019: Myanmar. Retrieved from https://datareportal.com/reports/digital-2019-myanmar
- (May 2020) Social Media Stats in Myanmar. Retrieved from https://gs.statcounter.com/social-media-stats/all/myanmar