Consumers in Asia favour brands that engage in social issues — provided these are the causes that matter to them personally. According to Purpose in Asia, a new report from Kantar, 90% of consumers in the region and 93% in Malaysia want brands to get involved in the issues they care about, meaning that an authentic brand purpose is now an expectation as opposed to a bonus.
Aligning with the issues that matter to consumers also makes business sense. 64% of people questioned in Malaysia said they were more likely to buy brands aligned with their views, and a similar number (65%) said they would be happy to pay ‘a little more’ for brands with sustainability credentials.
The study also revealed a disconnect between the causes that dominate global media and international brand campaigns, and the issues that matter to consumers in Asia. While climate change and gender equality were the two high-profile issues most likely to be seen by people in Asia, causes closer to home mattered most to them personally, such as health and well-being or ending poverty.
The results of the study highlight the role of social media in circulating information about causes. TV was still the channel where most people heard about social issues, however, the rise of social media in many countries in Asia is facilitating a more active form of participation. 57% of people in Malaysia said that they had liked posts on social media around an issue they cared about, and 53% have shared a post or article.
And social media was impacting behaviours as a result. 67% of people in Malaysia said they were more conscious of an issue in day-to-day life after seeing a post about it on social media, whilst 30% said they have changed their behaviour as a result.
In terms of how brands should engage with issues, authenticity was key. Consumers were quick to challenge brands that outwardly supported a cause, but at the same time had problems with their own business practices, or brands that misjudged the tone needed to engage in emotionally-charged issues. Developed markets were more sceptical of brands’ involvement. Only 33% of Australians felt that brands were able to authentically engage with issues, in comparison to India where 74% perceived it as trustworthy brand activity.
Consumers believe that brands have a key role to play in advancing the issues that matter to people. Educating consumers about an issue was the top activity cited, followed by initiating and funding programmes to support the issue, and then funding organisations directly.
Joy Lee, Regional Digital Consultant for Kantar’s Insights Division said: “Brands have understood the power of purpose for a number of years now. However, the challenge lies in identifying what resonates across the diverse landscape of Asia, and then engaging in an authentic way. Brands now have permission to get involved and make a difference. The good news is that this isn’t necessarily about making a lot of noise on the global stage. It can also be about supporting local initiatives and driving small but meaningful change where it matters most to people.”