Year in Search 2020 Malaysia: Looking back to move your marketing forward

This post was done in partnership with Google Malaysia.

As the pandemic continues to challenge the world, Malaysians have learnt to adapt to a new “normal” by turning to the internet for answers to questions they have never had to ask.

With Search seen as a trusted advisor, and a vital source of information and support, finding out what Malaysians are searching for can give brands a better understanding on how to connect with their audiences in a more meaningful way.

In this “Year in Search 2020 Malaysia” summary report, Lars M. B. Anthonisen, head of marketing for Google Singapore, Malaysia and South Asia Frontiers, talks about five key trends that have emerged over the past year, offering you a glimpse into the evolving habits and needs of Malaysians to help you place your consumers first. 

1. Higher purpose: Malaysians have become increasingly aware of their social impact and are searching for ways to better support one another

Forcing a global reset that tests our humanity and values, the ongoing pandemic has caused Malaysians to reassess the effects of their actions on the community and environment – and they expect brands to do the same.

Largely because of social distancing and isolation, there is now a heightened need to connect with others in different ways – whether it’s giving back by donating (searches for “donations” are at a five-year high), supporting a local business, or being more environmentally conscious (+35% “reusable” searches).

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Considering up to 46.6%* of Malaysians believe that contributing to the community is important, I truly believe that integrating sustainability and the spirit of giving back will be vital for brands moving forward.

By making meaningful connections with the local community, and reaching out with strong values and a prominent online presence through tools such as Google My Business, brands will be able to better connect with their consumers and gain their loyalty.

Watsons, for example, called on the nation to help rebuild the Malaysian economy in its #FeelGreatwithLokal campaign by asking customers to support home-grown brands affected by the pandemic.

*Source: Global Web Index, Wave Q3 2020, Malaysia.

2. Whole selves: As life becomes increasingly demanding, Malaysians want to have their specific needs met as much as possible

With most people working from home, me included, the different facets of our personal and professional lives have now begun to merge as many of us struggle to balance our roles: working parents are now daycare centres, homes have become gyms, and bedrooms have turned into offices.

Even learning and education have moved online (we have seen a +17x in “Google Classroom” searches), as more people begin to adopt the use of technology to study, develop or hone their skills.

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This has resulted in a need for products and services that can help meet a consumer’s needs by optimising their time (+20% “productivity” searches) and maintaining their wellbeing (+500% “benefits of meditation” searches) – with a preference for brands that are a good fit to a consumer’s life by making things quick and easy.

Clear and visible information online is now just as important as adjusting one’s marketing solutions to ensure a brand’s services are relevant to a consumer. A great example of this is Decathlon’s use of Search behaviour insights and YouTube to create 60 different versions of its video that was automatically shown based on a viewer’s search history.

3. Sweet relief: Due to the disruptions caused by the pandemic, Malaysians are seeking out joy and happiness more than ever

The constant cancellations of celebrations and plans have caused Malaysians to look for alternative ways to experience happiness. From physical activities such as growing a garden (+49% increase in searches for “houseplant”) to experimenting in the kitchen and pursuing new forms of companionships – be it human or a pet (+80%“multiplayer video games”, +17% “adoption” searches) – the need for comfort and to de-stress are the main driving forces behind Malaysians seeking new and different forms of downtime.

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But what does this all mean? As consumers now choose to embrace brands that are able to create a safe space and spark joy in their lives, taking into account their unique experiences and challenges can help brands reap the benefits.

Try attracting interest by having fun and making it easier for your consumers to share joy. McDonald’s Malaysia, for one, made things intriguing by telling fans not to search for its video “Jangan Search Ayam Goreng Viral”, knowing full well that’s exactly what Malaysians would do – successfully creating renewed hype up to 200% higher than its initial target.

4. Future proofing: There is a heightened interest in managing things that can be controlled as Malaysians seek to de-risk their lives for the future

After a tumultuous year that has turned lives upside down, Malaysians believe they will be able to safeguard and strengthen their economic prospects by boosting their skills (we have seen watch times increase by +4x finance videos on YouTube); gaining support from the government (+50x “government grants” searches); and seeking assurance from brands that can provide better peace of mind.

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The pandemic has also caused a renewed focus on wellbeing with many Malaysians becoming more proactive and pre-emptive in the management of theirs and their loved ones’ health (+141% “vaccine” searches, +100% “ways to boost immune system” searches).

To me, brands that are able to empower their customers while reducing risks will stand out among the competition.

In addition, helping consumers make crucial decisions by providing quick and essential information through tools such as Search Ad Extensions can make all the difference.

An example of this was Lancôme Malaysia who used image extensions to draw attention to its products and online sales, including items such as call-outs, price extensions, and affiliate locations that not only make things easier for your customers, but provide you with greater visibility on the Search results page – making your brand easier to find.

google mar 55. Individual matters: With everyone affected differently during these uncertain times, Malaysians want to better understand and emerge stronger as individuals and as an overall society

Everyone experiences a crisis differently and the COVID-19 pandemic reaffirmed this as social movements occurred collectively around the world.

With issues other than health gaining a deeper spotlight, Malaysians have become more aware and are now placing a higher value on individual needs, beliefs and experiences. They are now interested in better understanding  society and its complex issues (+4.2x “apa itu demokrasi” searches), confronting mental health stigmas (+40% “kaunseling rumah tangga” searches), and prioritising overall wellbeing.

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In light of this, inclusivity, empathy, and tone matters when considering each consumer’s individual journey. I found it is no longer enough just being aware, brands now have to acknowledge these issues in order to form meaningful connections.

Using tools such as Google Trends can help keep you up to date with your consumer’s ever-changing needs, while Responsive Search Ads can help your brand remain helpful by only serving relevant ads.

Discover more consumer insights and industry trends to inspire a brighter year ahead by downloading the full report at

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The writer is Lars M. B. Anthonisen (pictured above), head of marketing for Google Singapore, Malaysia and South Asia Frontiers.