Why Western brands should tap into Southeast Asia for influencer marketing campaigns?

IMA Influencer Marketing in Southeast Asia

An insider’s perspective

by Axelle Lelièvre

The vast economic potential of Asia has been widely spoken about over the years and now, it officially has the world’s largest regional economy.

The entire region is moving fast but one area that is especially rising quickly and that is Southeast Asia. The digital usage landscape has been completely transformed over the past few years to become the world’s fastest-growing Internet region. The internet explosion has subsequently led to the boom of influencer marketing in these regions and also brings a totally different approach to adopting influencer marketing strategies than you would implement for any other market.

The Southeast Asia market has important cultural differences that set the market apart from Western countries but also bears non-similarities which shouldn't be avoided. Southeast Asia presents a great opportunity for Western businesses to tap in and launch first-time influencer marketing campaigns within Asia.

The eleven markets that form part of this region use the exact same social media platforms as Europe and America do, such as Facebook, Instagram, and Youtube, with Facebook being the most used social media channel in Thailand, Vietnam, Malaysia, and the Philippines. 

This may come as a surprise to some businesses as the usage of Facebook has steadily decreased in Western markets after a decade of existence. However, Southeast Asians have now fully adopted the channel and spend up to 4.2 hours on it per day on average.

Instagram has also quickly gained importance and is massively adopted by Indonesians, who account for 55% of total Instagram users in Southeast Asia

Similar to the rest of the world, there is a rising interest in video content. Any business aiming to run influencer marketing campaigns in this region should consider using Youtube, as one-fifth of all video consumption around the world is driven by Southeast Asia’s YouTube users, as well as Tik Tok, which has reached 190M active users in the region. We could even say that Southeast Asians are avid for video content as 50 percent of the region’s YouTube users spend more than ten hours per week on the platform and 40 percent of Tik Tok's global users are in Southeast Asia.

Although Southeast Asians are active on the same social media channels as their Western counterparts, the overall usage is quite different. Southeast Asians influencers create content that resonates with highly local audiences; complete with their own cultural background, language, and social codes. In comparison to Western influencers, they produce more unedited, “raw” content, sharing various views on their passions and interact with their followers in their own unique way. 

In Vietnam and in Indonesia, influencers deliver content to a large, young audience while in Brunei and Singapore, followers are more mature. Language is also a very important criteria. Western users tend to follow influencers speaking either in their own language or English but in Indonesia, Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand, it is crucial for influencers to produce posts and captions in their local languages. Culture, sentiments, and relationships between influencers and their followers are largely tailored across the eleven Southeast Asian markets, and brands need to build strategies accounting for these differences at the risk of cultural misunderstanding.

With successful implementation, the opportunity for a Western brand to tap into Southeast Asia influencer marketing can represent a lot. This year, the region’s influencer marketing industry is worth $638 million, but it is estimated to quadruple within five years and reach $2.59 billion by 2024. Influencers have the ability to widen a brand’s audience and increase its brand awareness. They also have the power to draw customers from online channels to physical stores to make purchases.

The authentic relationships and the persuasion power that exist between influencers and their audience has already redefined the way locals are consuming beauty in Southeast Asia. Beauty product consumers now prefer influencers over celebrities when it comes to beauty-related collaborations, and the inclination is ever stronger when targeting niche audiences. The trend is actually already impacting the market with an average return-on-investment for beauty brands of $11.80 per $1.30 spent.

With 78% of the region’s population categorized as "avid social media users", Southeast Asia societal reality is fueling the growth of influencer marketing. The importance of this growth was clearly observable during the last Spring-Summer 2020 Fashion Week. In New-York, London, Milan, and Paris, Southeast Asian influencers shone in the city streets. They were the top guests of some of the most prestigious catwalks, such as Urassaya Sperbung at Louis Vuitton Fashion show. 

In summary, the economy of Southeast Asia is moving at a highly rapid pace. With some insights on how to approach the digital consumer in the right way, it can be highly lucrative for marketers in Western businesses to tap into, especially with influencer marketing.

InsightAxelle Lelievre