Although COVID-19 has meant most global travel is on hold for now, it didn’t stop a creative meeting of the minds for the sixth annual Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living (HILL) ASEAN Forum 2020, which took place on June 25 via weblink. This year’s event centered on the intriguing topic of “Conscious ASEANs,” with more than 1000 viewers joining in from Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore, Cambodia, Hong Kong and Japan.
HILL is the acronym for Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living. Established in Tokyo in 1981 as a special think tank to study and gain understanding of people, the success of the first HILL has led to other branches, first in Shanghai and then HILL ASEAN in Bangkok in 2014.
Devi Attamimi, Institute Director of HILL ASEAN, introduced the theme of the forum—“Conscious ASEANs.”
Devi pointed out that each individual is, “a complex creature that is influenced by so many aspects in life. We are society and society is us.” After reminding the audience that the future of society defines the future of business, she segued into a summary of HILL ASEAN’s latest comprehensive study, “The Rise of Conscious ASEANs: Why Should You Care?”
So, what exactly is a Conscious ASEAN? Devi described them as media-savvy consumers who use their purchasing power as a way to make a positive contribution to environmental and social causes.
Devi noted that the conscious lifestyle concept is extremely topical right now. For one thing, it closely aligns with the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goals, most of which can be achieved through conscious living and business. Moreover, Covid-19 is forcing the world to re-examine the way it lives and does business, and HILL ASEAN’s research strongly suggests that the pandemic will lead to ASEANs becoming even more conscious of lifestyle choices.
After showing a short video about the Conscious ASEANs study, Devi invited the audience to consider if ASEAN people have created their own version of a conscious lifestyle. In order to answer this question, HILL’s team undertook quantitative surveys, home visits and key opinion leader interviews. The number of people who say they are aware of and living a conscious lifestyle was surprisingly high at 78%.
Wannarat (Am) Wisawasukmongchol, Associate Strategic Planning Director of Hakuhodo Bangkok, was up next. She delved into three key ideas to emerge from the study, defining the Conscious ASEANs and differentiating them from consumers in other markets:
Near and Dear: While socially-conscious Westerners tend to look at global impact, ASEANs are triggered by issues affecting them and those around them.
Good Vibes Only: Conscious ASEANs prefer actions that Am summed up as “something fun, positive, and easy-going over the extreme and serious.”
#INSTAGOOD: This term encapsulates how Conscious ASEANs want fun ideas that are good not only for society, but also for their social media profile.
Many in the audience were probably surprised to hear that, according to the HILL study, 81% of Conscious ASEANs are willing to pay more for brands they perceive as being “conscious.” Other noteworthy statistics introduced by Am included the fact that “conscious lifestyle” is one of their main purchase criteria for 80% of this demographic, while 86% will recommend and endorse “conscious brands.” Her session also included several capsule case studies of just some of the myriad real-life stories that emerged from HILL’s study.
The next speaker was EJ Mangahas, CEO of Hakuhodo Digital Vietnam, who shared HILL’s special name for this unique and growing segment of ASEAN consumers: “The Consciouslites.” He stressed the importance of remembering that the ASEAN Consciouslites “are not the same as social activists, because they are individuals who deeply care about the positive impact of their actions on their communities and their environment.”
According to EJ, the Consciouslites have a different view from Western and Japanese consumers, and thus a unique approach is required to win them over. The Consciouslites see brands as being both part of the community and part of the solution to solving issues, and they will support and endorse companies seen as doing good. Since traditional CSR programs are limited in scope, a new approach is called for when it comes to attracting these discerning Consciouslites.
He then introduced the audience to CSI (Conscious and Sustainable Initiatives) as the way forward. CSI calls for brands to shed misconceptions, such as thinking they must be involved in multiple platforms. Brands should pick just one issue to get behind, EJ said. “The expectation from Consciouslites is for the brand to turn this into more than an advocacy—to really embody every aspect of this issue.”
Bearing all this in mind, once they have chosen their issue, brands should address it in a fun and interesting manner, and involve all stakeholders in the process to win over the Consciouslites. “Because they care, so should we,” EJ said in closing his presentation.
The final speaker was Tomoka (Moka) Takada, Regional Strategic Planning Director for HILL ASEAN. She introduced Hakuhodo’s strategies for marketing to the Consciouslites under the Global 4P Framework, with 4P representing “Purpose, People, Plot and Program.” Drawing on these four elements, Hakuhodo can facilitate clients in coming up with a strong CSI for their brands.
Under this new framework, we start off by questioning the reason for the brand’s existence with Purpose. Once this purpose is clearly defined, we identify the People who will be excited and passionate about it, and find the optimal way of telling the brand’s story under Plot. “And lastly, Program. Instead of one-direction messaging, we would like to design an experience based on the Purpose, People, and Plot we created,” said Moka in summing up.
Moka closed the proceedings by thanking all the participants, who were undoubtedly left with plenty to reflect on from this highly informative and engaging forum.
For more information on the study and the forum, please visit the HILL ASEAN website.