Three Lessons For Brands Growing In Indonesia

Indonesia’s future is a bright one. Maybe you’ve seen the headline statistics: An economy that’s set to break into the top ten in the world by 2030. A consumer class that should triple in size to 135 million by 2030. An urbanizing workforce that – unlike most aging Asian populations – will remain young through at least to the mid-2030s.

What these projections don’t show is the smart way forward for brands looking to grow in Indonesia. That remains a tall order. To succeed, businesses need to reconclide the country’s obvious potential with a host of infrastructure challenges, political uncertainties and cultural tensions.

We believe the savviest brands will choose to work with these cultural tensions, not ignore them – and in doing so, inspire Indonesians to create a more prosperous, dynamic society.

Brands don’t just play a part in the lives of individual consumers. They also play a role in the fabric of cultures and societies. They pursue cultural strategies that take a stand on, or even helps resolve, societal tensions. In the US and Europe, for instance, Starbucks resolved a tension between our cravings for solitude and our cravings for the company of others by creating a “third space” between home and work where people can actively choose solitude or socialization.

With cultural strategy in mind, we’ve examined the data – including our annual Global MONITOR survey of Indonesian consumers – and found three big cultural tensions that brands should keep in mind.

1. Personal empowerment


Indonesians are much more likely than consumers elsewhere to believe they can change their own lives: 81% of Indonesians in our Global MONITOR survey believe that if they work hard enough, they can achieve what they want out of their lives. (Compare this to a global average of 67%.)

At the same time, Indonesians feel disempowered when it comes to effecting larger-scale change. Only 58% feel they can make a difference to the world around them through their personal choices and behavior, lower than the global average of 63%.

So there’s a gap. Can your brand champion the idea that ordinary Indonesians can improve their country, environment and the world, just as surely as they can improve their own lives? Can yours become the brand that embodies a new spirit of Indonesian empowerment?

2. Letting the outside world in


On one hand, Indonesians are curious about the world beyond their shores: According to the 2014 Global MONITOR survey, 65% say they’re always looking for different cultural experiences that will broaden their horizons.

On the other hand, Indonesians worry about letting the outside world change them. A full 73% of Indonesians worry that the local values they cherish are being eroded by other cultural or global influences – the highest percentage among the 24 countries we survey for Global MONITOR.

There’s an opportunity for brands to mediate between curiosity and anxiety – to filter foreign ideas in a way that makes them more relevant and friendly to Indonesian values. Beyond that, there’s an even bigger opportunity to change Indonesia’s perspective on its role in global culture. What can your brands do to champion the idea of an Indonesian culture that’s influential, and not just subject to influence?

3. Achieving greater happiness


In survey after survey, Indonesia comes out at the top, or near the top, of the list of the world’s happiest countries. While a positive attitude towards life is of course valuable, it can prevent people for trying for more in their lives, for fear that they might put the happiness they already enjoy at risk.

Thanks to rapid urbanization and technological innovation, Indonesians’ lives are changing, whether they like it or not. How can your brands help consumers in Indonesia achieve even greater happiness in their lives by helping them secure their present happiness as they venture out of their comfort zones? How can your brands help bridge the gap between present happiness and an even better tomorrow?

About the Authors: Jeremy Sy is The Futures Company’s Director of Consulting for Asia-Pac, based in Singapore; David Walter is a Futures Company consultant based in New York.


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