Study: Indonesians and Malaysians more concerned about brand purpose than Singaporeans

It has become a known fact that consumers increasingly seek purposeful brands and want them to stand up for social causes that are in line with consumers' values. This trend does not seem to be slowing down and 63% of consumers believe brands need to stand up and be accountable after everything that has occurred since the last year, according to a study commissioned by distillery in partnership with research platform Millieu.

Out of the 1,500 respondents surveyed in Singapore, Malaysia and Indonesia, those in Malaysia and Indonesia seem to place more emphasis on brand purpose. About 86% and 83% of Indonesian and Malaysian consumers, respectively, are willing to pay more for brands with purpose compared to their Singaporean counterparts (66%). At the same time, 88% of Indonesians and 79% of Malaysians are more likely to avoid brands based on their societal stance compared to 68% of Singaporeans.

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For Malaysians, PETRONAS, Nike and adidas are the top brands that come to mind when recalling where brand purpose has impacted purchase. In Indonesia, the top three brands are Aqua, Garnier and Unilever. In Singapore, The Body Shop, H&M and Uniqlo are the top brands recalled. 

In an age where sustainability is becoming increasingly important, the research found that social and environmental issues were the most pressing, with consumers in Indonesia (50%) and Malaysia (62%) highlighting plastic waste as the biggest crisis that brands can help to address. In Singapore, sustainable living (73%) was the most important social concern followed by plastic waste (68%). In general, 67% of consumers have purchased a brand specifically because of their positive values towards society or the environment. This was especially the case for 80% of Indonesians and 68% of Malaysians. Meanwhile, the same number of Indonesians and Malaysians also boycotted or avoided a brand because of its negative societal stance or impact.

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Having a brand purpose is not only beneficial on the consumer front but also in attracting and retaining talent. According to the study, 66% of individuals would not work for a company if their social values do not align. Only 9% said a brand's values would not impact their decision to work for the company. Nonetheless, consumers nowadays are also smart in discerning which brands are authentic when it comes to standing up for a cause. Majority of those surveyed (64%) said brands often say one thing about their values but do another. At the same time, 75% of respondents believe that the public should hold brands accountable for their actions and values.

Distillery APAC's director, Simon Hearn, said the research's results have been eye-opening for the team as it did not expect to see such a significant disparity in consumer expectations and demand for purpose between Singapore and neighbouring countries of Indonesia and Malaysia.

"In Singapore, we’re not as exposed to as many social and environmental challenges on a day to day basis compared to other Southeast Asian countries. This research emphasised that brands who want to really build stronger connections with consumers in countries like Malaysia and Indonesia, need to put more purpose at the heart of their business and communications," he added.

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