Sending Local Signals: The Semiotics of Independent Agencies


So we know what the big global agencies think about themselves, but what about the independent agencies in Asia? Do they have a different perspective on what they can do for their customers? In the last edition of Asia Research Magazine, I took a look at the websites of the big four market research agencies, and now it\’s the turn of the independent agencies.

Acorn Marketing and Research Consultants first opened in Singapore in 1985 and claim to be the only independent and truly Asian marketing research group with operations in nine countries. They also claim, “We choose local managers who grew up in their own cultures”. The landing page of their website is certainly dominated by Asian faces and quotes which reference curiosity, local culture, Asian knowledge and their understanding of and connection with local consumers.

The main headline talks of ‘incisive knowledge’ and elsewhere there are more references to social context and the statement “We know Asia”. The overall feel is a mixture of local connection and knowledge. This feels slightly different to the big four agencies who also talk of knowledge, but in the context of research rather than local culture. Acorn feel like the Asian Everyman with a good dose of Guru thrown in.

Asia Insight have a similar Asian feel, with added soundtrack and Asian visuals. They are “one of Asia’s leading independent full-service market research consultancies”, claiming to work across 14 Asian cultures and with the tag line “Insights that Inspire”. With prominent Asian imagery, including different Asian languages, this website has some similarities with Acorn, although there is somewhat greater use of text on the main pages.

Overall Asia Insight give the impression of a local agency with a creative feel as well as an understanding of research. Much like Acorn they mix Everyman and Guru, but with a little bit of Artist thrown in.

BDRC Asia seem to want to copy the colour and feel of the TNS website (is that really a good idea?), although they have managed to choose an even more lurid shade of pink. They have retained the boxes too, but have kept the rounded corners unlike TNS’s latest design update, suggesting a little more flexibility.

The landing page is very text heavy and difficult to navigate, with language which focuses a little more on ‘business’ and ‘clients’. Overall there is no clear theme of what BDRC bring to clients, and the site lacks the Asian feel of Acorn and Asia Insight. In the bottom right of the website (the last place where anyone would look), BDRC proclaim their tagline of “providing intelligence”. BDRC would clearly like to be a Guru, and I hope they will soon seek buy levaquin online some intelligence on how to design websites!


Cimigo have offices in seven countries by my count. The homepage of their website proclaims they are the “voice of the customer” allowing the navigator to click through to ‘country pages’ (for each of the seven countries) or to client or consumer focused pages. In reality, the country pages link to Facebook pages, with each country page having its own local feel and imagery, although perhaps they need more friends than the one or two friends who appear on every country page.

Cimigo’s claim is that, “We answer the most difficult marketing questions to deliver inspirations to your brand”. Clicking through different pages, the “voice of the customer” is the main focus of their positioning, although much of the website imagery consists of stock photos (a little more localization similar to the Facebook pages would improve this). Overall, Cimigo are a mix of Explorer with a little Everyman, Guru and Seducer.

Like other regional agencies, InsightAsia focus on their local knowledge. Unfortunately, they also claim, “Discover the difference between information and insight”. Although wordy, the website is strong on colourful Asian imagery and clicking through to the ‘About us’ page, the focus is again on local ties, with the statement “Founded in Asia, Focused on Asia”. The local focus makes InsightAsia another Explorer combined with Everyman and Guru.

Kadence’s website is dominated by a light shade of green, claiming “global market research and insights”. Kadence focus on size and scope rather than local knowledge, and according to their website they are, “A dynamic market research and insight agency with the passion to drive success for your business”. Perhaps I am getting jaded, but this could be snappier and “insight”, along with the claim of every agency to deliver “insight rather than data” are tedious when you read them for the tenth time. Kadence combine the scale and safety of a ‘global’ agency (invoking the Ruler) with the claimed knowledge of the Guru.

Many of the second tier of agencies are focusing on selling their local knowledge and connection to local culture before their research expertise (BDRC Asia and Kadence are the exceptions). Acorn, Asia Insight and InsightAsia mainly achieve this through the use of Asian imagery and an emphasis on their heritage. Cimigo achieve this by attempting to connect with local consumers through Facebook. This makes some of these websites a little more distinctive than those of the global agencies, perhaps because they have a more focused target and therefore a less corporate feel.

My one wish is that market research agencies can get beyond talking about ‘insight’ and really walk the talk in how they show themselves to the world.