POST-DEMOGRAPHIC CONSUMERISM IN ASIA
In 2015, Asia evolves beyond the old demographic models of consumer behavior.
If Asian brands keep aiming at their 'target customer', they're going to miss.
Asian consumers are changing fast – and old ideas about which customers to target just don't hold true anymore.
For decades, Asian brands – just like their counterparts around the world – have obsessively divided customers into a range of demographic segments. Think 18-35s, single women, the middle classes, seniors, Millennials, LGBT consumers, High Net Worth Individuals, and many more.*
In 2015, everyone can sense that Asian consumerism is changing fast. But fewer brands and businesses are daring to rethink the traditional, demographics-based models that guide their innovation and marketing.
The truth? Underlying much of the change we see accelerating through the consumer arena daily is a powerful trend that poses huge challenges – and presents great opportunities – to any brand that wants to connect with and delight Asian customers.
*More recently, a few use psychographics: segmenting consumers based on lifestyles and behaviors.
In 2014, 39% of Chinese citizens in Tier II cities used social media, against just 28% in Tier I cities.Kantar Worldpanel, March 2015
Growth in sales of male grooming products in Asia is outpacing that of beauty products for women. 62% of men disagree with the idea that a groomed appearance is ‘just a woman thing’.Kantar Worldpanel, January 2014
Ojek (motorcycle taxi) in Indonesia, a traditionally working class mode of transportation, can now be hailed by smartphone.
Four snapshots of the counterintuitive Asian consumer arena. One underlying reality: Asia is entering a POST-DEMOGRAPHIC age!
We’ve already written about this epic trend from a global perspective.
And in that Briefing, we outlined how the pace of change is simply too fast, society too fluid, the global brain too accessible, the market too efficient and innovation too democratic for the old, demographic model of consumer behavior to still hold true.
But while POST-DEMOGRAPHIC CONSUMERISM is a truly global trend, it’s playing out in its own way across Asia, driven by the coming together of uniquely Asian cultures, traditions, mindsets and expectations.
Four powerful forces are driving this trend.
- ACCESS: Asian consumers from Bangkok to Beijing have access to the same information – and often the same brands and products. Think Samsung, Coca-Cola, Lifebuoy… This facilitates a new level of shared, universal consumer experience.
- PERMISSION: Asian societies are becoming increasingly progressive and liberal, and urban consumers are ever more exposed to unconventional and alternative lifestyle choices.
- ABILITY: Individual consumers are able to personalize – and express themselves through – consumption to a greater degree, especially with social media allowing consumers to craft their own unique identities in the digital realm.
- DESIRE: The Asian STATUSPHERE is changing fast, with the eroding connection between financial resources and social status making customer behavior less predictable via income level, and changing the balance of power between generations.
So how should brands respond to the rise of POST-DEMOGRAPHIC Asia?
We've identified three immediately actionable, Asia-specific innovation opportunities that MUST be on your radar!
- NEW NORMAL: Old social norms are breaking down, and non-traditional lifestyles are on the rise. In Asia, that means everything from love-based marriages to freedom of speech. Brands that celebrate these new and diverse lifestyles will be rewarded.
- HERITAGE CHIC: In a POST-DEMOGRAPHIC Asia, cultural traditions are being preserved but also reinvented – and often by the people you’d least expect: serve, facilitate and connect with them!
- TRIBEFACTURING: Focus customer targeting around niche groups, or ‘tribes’, with the same tastes/interests/sensibilities. In Asia, these tribes often arise out of necessity above everything else.
What exactly is NEW NORMAL in Asia?
And what are brands supposed to do about it?
We first identified NEW NORMAL as a standalone trend for Asia back in 2014.
The five-second summary? Around the world, social norms that kept people bound to ‘expected’ lifestyles are fading and new, non-traditional ways of living and thinking are on the rise.
So what does this look like in Asia? Of course, in many Asian societies, tradition and socially conservative values still hold strong. So NEW NORMAL can mean acceptance of ideas and lifestyles that are already OLD NORMAL elsewhere. Examples include freedom of speech, gender roles, individuality (as opposed to family attachments), and love-based marriages.
Brands can win the love of new customers by celebrating, and advocating, these NEW NORMAL lifestyles. Sure, sometimes this will mean controversy. But remember, consumers love brands who make a stand for a cause they care about!
The estimated purchasing power of China’s LGBT community is USD 470 billion.Community Marketing and Insights, August 2014
In Hong Kong, more women are staying single. From 1991 to 2011, the proportion of married women declined from 65% to 55%.Census and Statistics Department, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, January 2015
Campaign invites individuals to celebrate Chinese New Year the non-traditional way
Returning to the family home during Chinese New Year (CNY) is one of the biggest traditions in the Chinese world. This year, however, Levi’s LIVE IT UP campaign, launched in January 2015, invited ‘hipsters’ to have a great time partying this CNY. The campaign emphasized CNY as a time for young people to have fun, rather than observe family duties.
Jewelery brand promotes love-based marriages
In India, NEW NORMAL manifests itself in the the growing acceptance for love-based marriages. Arranged marriages remain more common, but increasingly, parents are growing more open to love-based marriages, too. Young professionals are also actively seeking them out.
December 2014 saw Indian jeweler Tanishq launch a campaign promoting love-based marriages. In the short film, a progressive-thinking grandmother is seen to advocate love-based marriages for her granddaughters.
Magazine launches merchandise supporting the LGBT community
For a more progressive society like Hong Kong, LGBT support and acceptance form a big part of NEW NORMAL.
‘HeHe’ used to be a term used to signify laughter on written media, but it has become an internet slang in Hong Kong referring to homosexuality.
During the week of Gay pride parade in November 2014, the best-selling youth magazine 100Most invited two elderly movie stars to poke fun at Umbrella Revolution protest leaders by changing their iconic ‘Freedom Now’ tee to ‘HeHe Now’.
Due to great consumer response, in February 2015 the magazine launched another series of mascots based on the same concept for the traditional Chinese New Year market. Stocks sold out in three days.
BFM Radio Station
Independent radio station promotes non-biased reporting
One brand that has not only embraced but also advocated NEW NORMAL in Malaysia is BFM – a local business radio station. They are free-to-air, and champion non-biased reporting and moderation, historically lacking in Malaysian society. They advocate independent thinking by running their own entrepreneurship programs, as well as providing a platform for the ‘moderate minority’ to air their thoughts and opinions.
NEW NORMAL controversies
For all that ways of thinking and living are changing across Asia, the mindsets of plenty of citizens are yet to catch up. Celebrating, and advocating, NEW NORMAL lifestyles may come with controversy, as the following innovations demonstrate. But then again, consumers love BRAND STANDS!
Chinese New Year campaigns
Let’s go back to the Levi’s example we mentioned a couple slides back. January 2015 saw Levi’s come up with a campaign LIVE IT UP, promoting the individual aspect instead of the traditional family element of Chinese New Year (CNY).
However, we saw many other brands create campaigns advocating ‘family” and ‘going home’ for the Spring Festival. February 2015 saw Apple run a CNY short film in China, whereby a young woman records an old song using Apple products for an elderly relative. OPPO, a local Chinese mobile phone brand, also produced a short film encouraging young people to remember their families this CNY.
All India Bakchod
Roast comedy show garners contradicting opinions in India
January 2015 saw The AIB Knockout, a new show introducing roast comedy, wherein the stars say brutal, funny and sarcastic things to each other. It was a joint effort between Bollywood producer/director Karan Johar, two younger stars Ranveer Singh and Arjun Kapoor, and the team from All India Bakchod (AIB), a YouTube comedy channel. This event was held for charity and was attended by around 4,000 people.
The video went viral on YouTube within hours, and garnered contradictory responses. Some parties said the show was ‘against Indian culture’, that respected actors/actresses should not be setting such a bad example. However, people from the industry and many AIB fans were appreciative. It was eventually removed from YouTube, and the country today remains divided over the video.
Contradicting responses over ad supporting same-sex relationships
February 2015 saw Philippine clothing and lifestyle brand Bench launch a Valentine’s Day campaign entitled Love All Kinds of Love, advocating same-sex relationships. In one of its print materials, two men are seen smiling with their hands clasped.
The campaign billboard that went up alongside Metro Manila’s major highway, however, had the man’s hand obscured due to concerns from regulators. This prompted an outcry from netizens who caused the hashtag #PaintTheirHandsBack to trend on Twitter. The creative community also sent samples showing how the photo should be restored.
“We have caught glimpses of NEW NORMAL in India. It has caused controversies each time and become a national topic of discussion. It’s an observation that people are “morally confused” between the old conventions and the new, changing scenarios of the modern world. Society does not know which side to support.”Pooja Solanki, India
Tradition is becoming the new chic.
And for groups of people you wouldn't expect!
Asian societies are being swept up in a wave of globalization, causing the evolution of traditions and cultures.
Some fear the erosion of their cultural heritage, and are scrambling to hold on to it. As a result, traditional cultures are being reinvented in novel, modern ways to keep up with the times.
And in the POST-DEMOGRAPHIC world, the people most concerned about tradition might not be the groups you would expect.
The upshot? Brands that reinvent and reimagine culture and tradition for new groups of people – with the help of technology, or through sheer creativity and imagination – will win a special place in the hearts of their customers – and win entirely new fans, too!
Across Asia, 70% of 18-35 year olds fear for the ongoing erosion of traditional values. Thai youths are particularly concerned about losing traditional values. They score 119 on the index, with 100 being the average.Generation Asia, Y&R, October 2014
Among 18-35 year olds in Malaysia, 82% believe in preserving cultural connections through family values. The figure is lower – at 57% – for 36-60 year olds.Generation Asia, Y&R, October 2014
Mobile app helps Muslims locate and identify halal products
Available to download from April 2014, HalalMinds is a free app helping Muslims to find and identify halal products on sale in Japan. Users can scan barcodes when shopping to determine whether groceries are halal or not, with the app searching a database of around 500,000 products. HalalMinds also features a compass showing Muslims the direction to face for daily prayers, as well as a halal restaurant locator.
Reinventing the traditional art of ‘Wayang Kulit’ with Star Wars
In the Malaysian arts scene, the art of ‘Wayang Kulit’ (shadow puppets) has been on the decline.
Peperangan Bintang is trying to revive the art – particularly among younger consumers – by incorporating Star Wars characters. The shows have been very successful with children. February 2015 also saw Peperangan Bintang create a new project in line with Chinese New Year, mixing the Chinese goat with wayang kulit.
Icons of SG for SG50
Campaign promotes icons Singaporeans can identify with
The biggest buzzword in Singapore this year is SG50: the nation’s 50th anniversary celebrations. The Icons of SG page showcases things that define Singapore and make the country what it is. From ‘laksa’ to the ‘Great Singapore Workout’ and the ‘ice-cream uncle’, these are icons many Singaporeans can identify with and want to preserve. On the web page, netizens can click on the icon, share, and comment.
Limited edition book raises awareness of a vanishing traditional art
In January 2015, Tsui Yuen, a popular Hong Kong-based author, launched a limited edition book collection sold inside handmade zinc mail boxes. These zinc mailboxes were widely used in Hong Kong apartments built some 50 years ago; apartments that are now disappearing from the city as old buildings are pulled down during urban renewal. Tsui Yuen partnered with local craftspeople to launch the book packaging, aiming to raise public awareness about this vanishing tradition.
Think beyond traditional demographics by catering to niche tribes of people with the same tastes/interests/sensibilities.
SELF-EXPRESSION vs. BARE NECESSITIES
In Asia, self-expression can give rise to new tribes. But so can necessity!
Niche tribes often arise out of consumers’ desire to express – and be recognized for – their tastes and identity. Today, everyone can be unique, and people are getting more creative in expressing who they are, what they like and what they believe in.
It’s time for brands to give more attention to these niche tribes. Can you tailor your current offerings to fit the tribe’s specific needs and preferences? Or can you help them in their quest for highly unique self-expression?
Meanwhile, other uniquely Asian tribes arise out Asia-specific needs: see more below!
Hotel offers luxurious accommodation for dogs only
Opened in Singapore during November 2014, the Wagington Hotel caters exclusively for pets. Suites are available for dogs, with the most luxurious suite costing SGD 245 per night. The hotel’s facilities include a swimming pool, spa and fitness training suite, with canine services on offer such as luxury in-room dining and aromatherapy massages.
Extreme urban explorers on the rise in Asia
Exthetics (the word combines ‘extremity’ and ‘aesthetics’) is an activity in which Hong Kong-based urban explorers discover the city’s ‘extreme’ places, creating photo and video content. Places frequented include abandoned buildings, construction sites, and the pinnacle of skyscrapers.
In September 2014, Adidas worked with Exthetics for its This is Me campaign, challenging participants to outdo themselves and express who they really are through selfies. Palladium Boots also worked with them in a campaign promoting city exploring.
Don't forget Asia's TRIBES OF NECESSITY
As the region continues to be riddled with issues and limitations, people are finding ways to make the best of the system. People innovate because they have to, in order to survive and thrive, and this has given rise to some tribes unique to the region. So how can your brand cater to them, acknowledge them, or help make their lives easier?
Online marketplace aggregates Indonesia's Instagram stores
Due to the mobile-first nature of Indonesia’s internet users, Instagram is fast becoming the number one platform for e-commerce in the country. October 2014 saw online marketplace Shopious launch an online platform that aggregates Instagram fashion stores from across the region. Functioning like a catalog, it automatically curates products available from sellers on the social network into categories, allowing users to shop the social network more effectively and buyers to reach a wider (non-Instagram using) audience.
Digital service connects overseas workers with their families back home
Google Philippines launched its ‘Balikbayan‘ campaign during December 2014 to help connect overseas Filipino workers (OFWs) with their families back home during the Christmas period. Through a specialized microsite Google explained to OFWs how they could make video calls to loved ones with Hangouts, stay in touch via Android messaging apps, and connect with other OFWs thanks to Google Plus.
Motorcycle taxis available via mobile app
January 2015 saw Indonesian firm Go-Jek launch a free mobile app allowing people to order motorcycle taxis from their cellphone. Motorcycle taxis or ‘ojek’ let people beat the traffic in cities such as Jakarta, and the Go-Jek service lets users and corporate clients order ojek from their cellphones without the traditional hassle of bartering for prices.
Traditional demographics can be TRIBES too!
The key is that these traditional demographics often have non-traditional lifestyles now! How have their expectations and attitudes changed?
Indian police introduce safety app for women
In January 2015 Delhi Police rolled out the Himmat mobile app, which caters to women who want to travel independently around the city. If a woman feels in danger, she can shake her phone or press a button to send an emergency alert to the police and SMS to up to two friends or family members. The app also posts a status update to the woman’s Facebook and Twitter accounts.
Aima maternity hospital
Hospital offers men the chance to experience pain of childbirth
In November 2014, the Aima maternity hospital in China launched the Pain Experience Camp: a scheme giving men the chance to endure the pain of childbirth. The simulation uses pads which are attached to the abdomen and give a series of electric shocks of varying intensity for up to five minutes. The free sessions are held on a twice-weekly basis.
LG Wine Smart
Flip-style smartphone is designed for elderlies
In September 2014, Korea-based LG unveiled the LG Wine Smart cellphone: a flip phone that doubles as an Android smartphone. Designed for the elderly, the handset features a 1.2GHz processor, an 8-megapixel camera and a dedicated Instant messaging button, alongside a ‘safe keeper’ function that alerts friends or family if the user falls.