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Brand Strategy Marketing

Gen Z consumers in South East Asia want to see action and accountability from brands


By Amit Bapna, Editor-at-large

April 7, 2022 | 4 min read

Even as the buzz around brand purpose and cancel culture hit the mainstream, Gen Z consumers tend to have different consumer behavior in different markets. This is a very critical reality that marketers need to keep in mind while crafting their strategies for the South East Asian (SEA) markets, according to a report.

Understanding Southeast Asians Gen Z consumers better

Understanding Southeast Asians Gen Z consumers better

Marketers tend to pack the consumer cohorts under buckets like Gen Y and Gen Z but is this classification that simple and does it hold across markets, even within a region?

Apparently not, as per the findings of a recent report “Decoding the Z Mind” conducted across Gen Z consumers in Singapore, Thailand, Indonesia, and The Philippines. Brands should not treat Southeast Asia as a cohesive region especially when engaging with Gen Z, it says.

The research conducted by consumer marketing communications agency DeVries Global looks at the cultural differences and diverse viewpoints of Gen Z in this region, against a backdrop of rising global demands for responsibility and accountability from not only governments but also businesses.

Key takeaways

  • It’s all about action and accountability if a brand has to truly live up to Gen Z's expectations on brand purpose and responsibility. And this has to go beyond making charitable donations.

  • This generation in Southeast Asia demands for brands not only use their voice for good but also take concrete action in their business practices.

  • Contrary to the notorious association of Gen Z with cancel culture, 84% of respondents were willing to forgive and support a brand again after a mistake if the brand takes action and accountability and 42% would forgive if the brand takes real action to correct the mistake.

  • Interestingly, the purchase decisions of Gen Zs in Southeast Asia are not just transactional or functional. 58% of respondents see brands as an extension of themselves, and one in two will make the effort to research a brand’s values before making a purchase.

  • This is especially so in Indonesia and The Philippines – four in five Gen Zs in these markets even agree that they are likely to follow a brand on social media if their values are aligned.

  • However, it only takes one wrong move for Gen Zs to hit unfollow. The study reveals that every Gen Z respondent from Thailand has unfollowed a brand over a post that does not resonate with their values.

  • There is a consensus that brands have to stand for something. 54% of respondents agree that brands must take a stance on current social issues. However, there is a nuanced difference market-wise.

  • While over 70% of Gen Z in Indonesia and The Philippines agree that brands must have a voice in such issues, views in Singapore and Thailand are more balanced, with 37% in Singapore and 41% in Thailand disagreeing.

Mostly from a global standpoint, Southeast Asia is often treated by brands as a single entity.

"However, SEA is perhaps the most richly diverse region in the Asia Pacific and it is critical for brands to recognize and understand that there’s no one fail-safe formula that applies when communicating with Gen Z here, says Li Ting Ng, director of innovation and client experience, DeVries Global Singapore.

"It is critical thus for brands and marketers to understand and effectively play to these cultural nuances while crafting the strategies," adds Ng.

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