How can marketers navigate a new audience as preferences change

How can marketers navigate a new audience as preferences change

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Over the past year, global events and digital advancements have sparked a remarkable transformation in consumer behaviour. With shifting preferences and priorities, individuals have embraced technology and re-evaluated values, making it a challenge for marketers to navigate a changing landscape.

To help fuel the conversation and understand these changes, South China Morning Post Advertising+ recently hosted a CMO luncheon as part of its Remarketing series, which examines how brands are driving growth in the region.

The Changing Consumer/ Brand Power Dynamic roundtable brought together nine senior-level marketers from a broad range of companies including HSBC, AIA, Kerry Properties, Prudential, John Swire and Sons, Henderson Land and Bank of China, representing approximately HK$5 trillion (US$637 billion), or 13%, of the total market capitalisation of companies listed on the Hong Kong stock exchange.

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“This is really important, as Hong Kong and our region look to marketing and fresh ideas to fuel more growth,” said Kevin Huang, chief operating officer, South China Morning Post. “As Hong Kong’s financial secretary Paul Chan said recently, consumers are changing their spending habits. Hong Kong needs to rethink how to market itself and become increasingly creative and competitive.”

And the first step to achieving this is understanding the changing dynamic between brands and consumers – especially relevant given recent global events. According to the roundtable speakers, several broad consumer trends are emerging.

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Trust in a cautious world

One take-home message from the discussion is that trust is now the new currency for doing business, with audiences becoming increasingly cautious.

“A lot of the trends we’re seeing in customer research at the moment are similar to those we saw four or five years ago, but just accelerated in terms of digitalisation and much greater consumer awareness on the importance of health and wellness” said Stuart Woollford, head of group brand, AIA. “Customers are looking for speed, ease, certainty and trust.”

“I think all good brands must provide a beacon of hope, a beacon of trust and a beacon of certainty in a very uncertain world,” he said.

Experience and connection come to the fore

Other roundtable participants concurred with Woollford, adding that consumers are now prioritising experiences and connections, unlike in the past.

"Tourists are now searching for new experiences and well curated contents on the social media," said Cherry Tsui, head of marketing, Bank of China (Hong Kong). "We've adapted it to our marketing strategies and created social contents more relevant to the trends."

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Consumers focus on what’s important to them

Agreeing with Tsui was James Tong, director of public affairs, John Swire & Sons (H.K.), noting that despite a surge in post-Covid travel, nicknamed, “travel revenge”, people are now travelling in a different manner. “They are travelling with purpose to see things like nature,” he said.

Priscilla Ng, group chief customer and marketing officer, Prudential, also noted the change.

“The evolving needs of the family is one of the key new trends we’ve observed,” she said. “Then there’s spending time with family and mental health – these are becoming a priority.”

Other participants at the event also noted people today want to work with organisations that are a force for social change and that good brands must seek media partnerships with reputable and trustworthy media such as the Post to help audiences navigate uncertainty.

In the face of these changes, what is it that brands need to do? They must get ready – and now is the time for marketers to adapt to a new commercial landscape.

“The face of the population has changed, and we are also seeing a change in the psychographics,” said Michelle Lam, senior director of sustainability and communications, Kerry Properties. “For us as property developers, we have to reconsider designing our products to address the evolving needs of our customers.”

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This article is sponsored by SCMP Advertising+.

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