The need for a strong local culture

Much has been written about the evolution of the streaming industry in 2022. Subscribers are going offline. Market share is down. For some observers, this change represents a natural pendulum swing after years of growth due to the pandemic. For others, declining subscriber growth for streaming market leaders is a sign of consumer activism at work.

But there’s another way to look at change – and suggests that all brands should pay attention to how streaming will evolve in 2022. It’s quite possible that consumers have not moved away from global platforms, but towards a less overall. One where local voices – through culture, brands and suppliers – come to the fore.

Prioritize local markets

In the years approaching the pandemic, global research revealed that a majority of Gen Z preferred a nationalist approach to public policies instead of a more globalist perspective.

Significantly, this contrasted sharply with the more global perspective preferred by most millennials. Traditionally, Gen Z and Millennials are strongly aligned in politics. However, as the pandemic has unfolded, the Gen Z perspective has become both more understandable and more prevalent.

With severely restricted travel over the past couple of years, widespread continued disruption to supply chains, and growing distrust of institutions across the world, it’s becoming increasingly common for consumers of all kinds to prioritize to local brands, suppliers and voices.

Back to the streaming example – as global streaming platforms lost subscribers and market share, new local and niche content streamers began to emerge at an increasing rate. A leading brand in Thailand, for example, recently launched a streaming service just for Thai-language audio content.

Build stronger bonds

It is increasingly clear that brands will need different strategies to engage consumers, especially global or multinational brands operating in Asia. To engender trust and lasting relationships with Asia-Pacific audiences, brands will likely need to demonstrate a strong connection to the local culture.

It is important to note that Generation Z and Generation Y together represent the largest and most financially powerful consumer demographic in Asia by a considerable margin. And in the future, this influence will only grow. By demonstrating a connection to local cultures and communities, communicators can appeal to both Gen Z’s nationalistic preferences and the preference both generations share for purpose-driven brands.

For some brands, such a change in communications will be a natural extension of their brand identity, should a change be required. However, for many in Asia, this may represent a significant policy reversal. One of Japan’s best-known and most celebrated music-tech manufacturers, for example, began its career for a global audience by taking its name from an American phone book. Likewise, countless international brands have entered Asia hoping to leverage the existing value of a global brand identity.

Demonstrate sincere and mutual respect

In the current era, such globalist perspectives can prove a liability. A study 2021 found that in China and Pakistan, brands perceived to have local understanding were viewed as more authentic and more favorably by consumers. Tellingly, the same study found that a brand’s perceived global connections had no bearing on consumer preferences in China.

The heart of the problem? Two years into an era of unimaginable disruption, many of us remain scared, on guard, and exhausted. Like many demographic groups around the world, Asian consumers have been bombarded with sudden policy shifts, ever-changing news updates, and an ongoing struggle to secure the once immediate needs and comforts of a world older.

Simply put, Asian consumers are looking for branded experiences with minimal risk of surprises and disappointments. And for many, signs of a genuine local connection will be a key indicator of whether a brand is worthy of their time and trust.

In terms of media, this is reflected in markets across Asia. As the market for American blockbusters has grown in India over the past decade, 2022 has already established two new films produced in the country as two of the highest-grossing films of all time at the Indian box office. When the most successful film franchise in history debuted with an Asian installment in 2021, it launched to the top of the box office in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan, and Singapore.

As the future unfolds, brands across Asia and beyond may wish to build new relationships with their many different communities and reconnect with their stakeholders.

Lucy Han is EVP, Customer Experience, at Weber Shandwick Korea.