APAC Asia Pacific Agency Leadership

So you want your brand to win over APAC? Step 1: Stop thinking of it as a monolith

By Michelle Koh, Growth Lead

Maker Lab


The Drum Network article

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March 28, 2024 | 5 min read

Commercial opportunities in the APAC market are enormous – but in such a huge market, says Maker Lab’s Michelle Koh, you can’t ignore the enormous diversity of the region.

Bunting-style flags meeting in a cluster

The APAC region is far from homogenous, says Michelle Koh / Kevin Jin via Unsplash

With 55% of the global consumer class living in Asia, the Asia Pacific (APAC) region is the world’s consuming majority.

To captivate this unignorable category of consumers, brands must enter the space with an urgency to thrill. But, with around 40 countries and a multitude of cultures and communities, it is not a monolith. So before you rush in, this is your sign to take a pause.

Decisions to set up shop in APAC must be powered by cultural intelligence and a sustainable marketing practice. Here are three codes to pay attention to:

1. Identify cultural nuances and develop experiences around them

APAC dominates in the sector of social commerce. The proliferation of this industry in the region has its origins rooted in building local communities, hyperlocal audiences, and fan engagement.

Social commerce is built based on the foundations of peer-to-peer relationships and communication. By tapping into the networks around people and their circles, social commerce leverages modern communication tools and behavior to sell.

But the APAC region is home to an estimated 3,000 languages (and it’s not uncommon for a person to be fluent in more than one language), so being attuned to linguistic nuance and variance is key. According to Warc’s ‘The Social Shelf’ report, “rapid development in AI is helping to propel conversational commerce through multilingual conversations.”

2. Embrace hyperlocal identities and behavior

With a reported 1.5 billion gamers in APAC, the region’s gamers are also often declared the most engaged globally. Gaming has expanded its presence from youth culture to the mainstream, with a strong community-building element powering the success and longevity of the industry.

Gaming as a culture is itself multifaceted. Not only do some argue that it contributes to mental wellness in youths, but gamers also access it as an avenue to forge a sense of community and self-expression. The gaming industry has solidified these social ties, from identifying fans that grow up with the games, to supporting local gamers and creators that create new niches around the games.

Like the gaming industry, leveraging fandom is another leading strategy for APAC media and entertainment companies. Local TV content and fan engagement have enraptured regional audiences since long before Squid Game hit Netflix. Korean dramas and Filipino telenovelas have captivated Asian households for decades. By designing with the local fan in mind, companies can study watch behavior and fandom to create hyperlocal engagement strategies, powering original local content and local talent as a formidable category of entertainment.

3. Think local before aspiring to ‘glocal’

The cultural heft of the region is not a singular one. Jess Tang of Dumpling, who runs a newsletter that attempts to see through the superficial and peel through layers of noise to get a better grasp of the region, says: “Common narratives we see today portray Asia as this monolithic giant, with media and brands fixated on its vast land, population, and market potential. While the macro aspects of Asia are undeniable, culture evolution often begins in small and intimate ways. From Jakarta's Sor Ride, which brings a creative dimension to an otherwise stressful local cycling experience, to Mumbai’s Noon, which centers on small batches of native ingredients foraged by local tribes – some of the most culturally impactful experiences aren’t propelled by grand market expansion plans, but rooted in local dynamics and passions.”

APAC is not a homogenous identity. Embrace the fluidity of Asia’s cultural landscape and the many socioeconomic factors that shape its people, their communities, and the way they live, work, and play. To win over APAC, think like a local first.

APAC Asia Pacific Agency Leadership

Content by The Drum Network member:

Maker Lab

Maker Lab is a marketing consultancy established in 2015 with a talent-centric approach, designed to build and run in-house micro-agencies alongside our clients.


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