The need for strong local culture

The EVP of client experience at Weber Shandwick Korea on the many cultural preferences of Gen Zs and millennials.

Much has been written about the evolution of the streaming sector in 2022. Subscribers are disconnecting. Market share is falling. For some observers, this shift represents a natural pendulum swing after years of pandemic-driven growth. For others, declining subscriber growth for streaming market leaders is a sign of consumer activism at work.

But, there’s another way to view the shift – and suggests all brands should be paying attention to 2022’s streaming evolution. There’s a strong possibility that consumers haven’t been moving away from global platforms but toward a less global world. One where local voices—across culture, brands, and suppliers—is top of mind.

Prioritising local markets

In the years approaching the pandemic, global research revealed that a majority of Gen Zs preferred a nationalist approach to public policy instead of a more globalist outlook.

Significantly, this contrasted heavily with the more global perspective preferred by most millennials. Traditionally, Gen Z and millennials have been strongly aligned on politics. However, as the pandemic has unfolded, the Gen Z perspective has become both more understandable and more widespread.

With travel severely limited over the past two years, widespread ongoing disruption of supply chains, and escalating distrust of institutions throughout the world, it’s becoming increasingly common for consumers of all kinds to prioritise local brands, suppliers and voices.     

Revisiting the example of streaming—as global streaming platforms have lost subscribers and market shares, new local and niche-content streamers have started to emerge at a growing rate. A leading brand in Thailand, for example, recently launched a streaming service purely for Thai-language audio content.

Building stronger connections

It’s increasingly clear that brands will require different strategies to engage consumers—particularly global or multinational brands operating within Asia. To engender trust and lasting relationships with Asia Pacific audiences, brands will likely need to demonstrate a strong relationship with local culture.

It's important to emphasise that Gen Z and millennials combined represent the largest and most financially powerful consumer demographic in Asia by a considerable margin. And going forward, that influence is only likely to grow. By demonstrating connection to local cultures and communities, communicators can appeal to both Gen Z’s nationalist preferences and the preference that both generations share for purpose-driven brands.

For some brands, such a shift in communications will be a natural extension of their brand identity, if a shift is needed at all. However, for many in Asia, it may represent a significant reversal of policy. One of Japan’s most storied and celebrated manufacturers of music technology, for example, began its career with a view to global audiences by sourcing its name from an American phonebook. Similarly, countless international brands have entered Asia hoping to leverage the existing value of a global brand identity.

Demonstrating genuine, mutual respect

In the current era, such globalist outlooks may prove a liability. A 2021 study found that in China and Pakistan, brands perceived to have local understanding were viewed as more authentic and more favorably by consumers. Tellingly, the same study revealed that a brand’s perceived global ties had no bearing on consumer preference in China.

The heart of the issue? Two years into an era of unimaginable disruption, many of us remain afraid, guarded and exhausted. Like many demographics around the world, Asia’s consumers have been bombarded with sudden shifts in policy, endlessly evolving news updates and an ongoing struggle to secure the once-immediate needs and comforts of an older world. 

Put simply, Asian consumers are looking for brand experiences with minimal risk of surprises and disappointments. And for many, signs of genuine local connection will be a key indicator as to whether a brand is worthy of their time and trust.

In terms of media, it's reflected in markets throughout Asia. While the market for American blockbusters has been growing in India over the past decade, 2022 has already established two new domestically-produced films as two of the highest grossing films of all time at the India box office. When history’s most successful film franchise debuted an Asian-driven installment in 2021, it launched at the top of the box office in South Korea, Japan, Taiwan and Singapore.

As the future unfolds, brands throughout Asia and beyond may wish to build new relationships with their many different communities and connect with their stakeholders anew. 


Lucy Han is EVP, client experience, at Weber Shandwick Korea. 


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