Southeast Asia Influencer Marketing: Culture Mapping
While there is no publicly available information to fully address how different cultures transform the influencer marketing landscape in Southeast Asia, data was available that broadly helped to shed light on the impact of different cultures in the region, and its current and future marketing landscape. Below is an outline of the research strategies used to better understand why information requested was publicly unavailable, as well as a deep dive into the general findings.
Different Cultures in Southeast Asia and Their Impact
- Southeast Asia consists of ten countries with diverse levels of digital culture. While Myanmar (formerly Burma) is considered an emerging internet economy, Singapore has a relatively developed and sophisticated internet landscape.
- Vietnam and Indonesia have the largest and youngest internet user population in the region, while Brunei and Singapore are on the other end of the scale with a more mature and richer internet population. However, in the digital culture of Southeast Asia Google, Facebook, YouTube, and Twitter dominate the digital platforms which are unlike the challenges global marketers face in regions like China, Russia or Japan.
- Although it has been found that English is widely spoken in countries like the Philippines, Singapore, and Malaysia, it is deemed necessary to serve content in the local language to market in other countries like Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia, and Thailand.
- According to Econsultancy's findings published in 2019, it has been found necessary to be hyper-local, fitting the relevant cultural context, language, and state of digital development in order to be successful in digital marketing in the region.
Marketing Landscape in Southeast Asia: Current and Future
- In Asia, influencer marketing found success on the back of youthful demographics, high smartphone penetrations and the spread of social platforms. However, on the other hand, it has also been seen that the sudden rush in popularity has led to controversial practices by influencers (e.g., buying followers, limited endorsement transparency, and brands taking advantage of influencer partnerships).
- According to a new report from Socialbakers titled "Must Know Influencer Marketing Trends Report for 2019," Instagram influencer-sponsored posts grew by 189% in Asia from 2018 to 2019.
- As far as the growing landscape of influencer marketing, specific to Southeast Asia is concerned, "Southeast Asia is the next big region for digital and influencer marketing;" which is backed by the fact that 58% of Southeast Asia’s 635 million population is online and over half of them are active social media users.
- The influencer landscape of Southeast Asia is also skewed towards female millennials as female influencers between the ages of 25 to 34 years gather the largest share of followers. They represent 23% of all total influencer followers and they receive the largest share of interactions (25%).
- According to Yuval Ben-Itzhak (CEO, Socialbakers), consumers in the region are increasingly seeking out reviews and trusted voices leading to the demand for authentic and relevant influencers.
- However, providing consumers with unfiltered authenticity from influencers can be a mistake on the part of digital marketers in the region.
- In terms of the audience who has been most successfully targeted in these markets through influencers, more than 50% of millennials say they have made a purchase based on an influencer's recommendation.
- Also, beauty is one of the most important domains addressed by influencer marketing in Southeast Asia. Indonesia accounted for 38% of social media chatter around beauty. Malaysia and the Philippines reported 29% and 27%, respectively.
Although we could find insights relating to cultural traits that shape digital marketing strategies, the influencer marketing landscape in Southeast Asia and its potential in the future, we could not find provide an exact analysis about what impact different cultures have in influencer marketing in Southeast Asia and how will it transform influencer marketing in the region. Additionally, there was no publicly available information on the weaknesses and strengths of culture-driven influencer marketing in the region. To better understand the steps taken by the research team in determining that the exact data was not available, we present our research strategies below.
We looked into market and industry research reports focused on the influencer market and digital marketing in Southeast Asia. The team consulted sources such as Markets and Markets, Market Research, Mordor Intelligence, GM Insights, Technavio and industry research reports published by reputable consultancies (e.g., McKinsey, BCG, PWC, etc.). These reports broadly focused on digital marketing with a specific focus on influencer marketing. We then tried to find out information related to cultural traits across different the countries in this region, and how they shape or impact the influencer marketing landscape. Although there were insights on the landscape, they were mostly focused on size, growth, future growth potential, and type of influencers rather than providing information on the nuanced and subjective aspects of different cultures and their impact.
Next, we looked into reports, articles, white papers, media releases, and promotional content put out by agencies or companies who manage influencer marketing in the region on behalf of big brands. These sources included sites such as StarNgage, Madeviral, and NoxInfluencer. With this strategy, we aimed to find out their assessments regarding the market and how they were communicating about the specific cultural uniqueness of the region. However, the information available was mostly on the companies' successes and how they handled specific clients and increased their reach and following. They did not divulge much on the strategies deployed about cultural nuances affecting in the region.
Since academicians, especially social scientists, are often keen to know how the cultural traits of a region impact business in a region and how those impacts can be addressed through effective marketing, we looked into academic sources such as Academia, ResearchGate, and Semantic Scholar, etc. We also looked into sources that were dealing with digital marketing and evolution; these sources included sites such as WARC, MarketingWeek, Adage, Adweek, etc. Although all of these sources acknowledged the influence that influencer marketing could have in the Southeast Asian region, the findings were not granular enough to map the cultural significances acting as drivers.