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Brand purpose set to become top priority for Asia's Gen Z consumers

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By Danielle Long, Acting APAC Editor

February 14, 2023 | 6 min read

APAC consumers are looking to brands for leadership and solutions to the social, economic and environmental challenges facing the world, according to new research.

brand voices BBDO

BBDO's report into brand purpose in Asia

Brand purpose will become "de rigueur" for brands and marketers across Asia Pacific as consumers come to expect leadership and solutions from the companies behind the products they buy.

APAC consumers now expect brands to show leadership and provide solutions for the environmental, social and economic challenges facing the region, and the world.

The findings, from BBDO's latest ‘Brand Purpose in Asia’ report, which studied consumers in China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, Philippines, and India, reveals the significant growth in the relevance of brand purpose in the region.

“Asian consumers are looking to brands and companies to be part of the solution rather than the problem,” says Hans Lopez-Vito, COO of BBDO Asia. “Our findings show promoting a brand or company’s values helps drive shareholder value.”

Despite its booming economies and rapidly expanding markets, Asia’s nations face several significant challenges and obstacles including the impact of extreme weather events, a lack of gender equity, transparency and accountability in government, income inequality, and discrimination against LGBT communities.

The report suggests these challenges, which pose a risk to economic prosperity and political stability, represent a significant opportunity for brands and marketers looking to align with purpose.

The report highlights how brands can drive social currency by using purpose, along with key consumer insights to enable marketers to connect with APAC consumers.

Lopez-Vito cites P&G India's #SharetheLoad campaign, created by BBDO, as an example of how brands can help impact society.

"Advertising needs to be bold and reflect the world we live in. In the past we've seen brands with purpose make a big difference, but also improve their bottom line. We’ve clearly seen that purpose-driven brands have a big impact on Asian markets, but the effect goes beyond regional borders. In the Middle East, last year, we saw how a brand even restored local elections through a campaign dubbed the 'Election Edition'. This just goes to show that brand purpose has the power to effect real change in the world,” added Hans Lopez-Vito.

The report revealed four key trends to emerge:

1. Climate change is driving an acceleration of the importance of brand purpose.

Environment and sustainability issues are the leading social topic Asian consumers want brands to champion the most today. As the effects of global warming intensifies, more consumers will look to brands to embrace a sense of urgency and be part of the solution rather than the problem. When this happens, brand purpose will significantly impact brand and customer relations much more than now.

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2. Brand purpose will become de Riguer for marketers as Gen Z consumers come of age and take over society.

While traditional mindsets and narratives still persist in the region, those under 25 demonstrate progressive voices on issues like LGBT+ acceptance and advocacy. They will expect brands to be their voice, and brands that do not stand for a social purpose will lose social currency.

3. Brands will have the same levels of accountability as government bodies.

This is especially true in the developing regions of Asia where consumers are 20% to 40% more likely to have sought out brands due to its perceived impact on society. Here, citizens expect brands to step up and fill gaps which public governance systems often cannot. In this sense, consumers in developing parts of Asia will continue to expect brands to embrace the same agenda as governments.

4. Brand purpose will have Asian characteristics.

Brand purpose in Asia can never exist in a vacuum. Among those who bought a purpose brand within the three months prior to the survey, 6 out of 10 also bought it for its functional characteristics. To be relevant to the region’s consumers, a brand purpose narrative will always need to be rooted in what the product or service is supposed to functionally deliver. It also needs to be supplemented by rational/functional content along the customer journey.

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