HILL ASEAN Forum 2022 Report: Into the Fandom

Jul. 25, 2022
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How tribes of fans will be the next power in ASEAN society?

The Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living ASEAN (HILL ASEAN) was established in 2014 as the Hakuhodo Group’s think tank in the ASEAN region. HILL studies the lifestyles and thoughts of sei-katsu-sha—Hakuhodo’s unique term for the holistic individual—and shares data and solutions to support brands with their marketing in ASEAN countries. The Institute’s research is informed by the Hakuhodo Group’s core philosophy of Sei-katsu-sha Insight, which views people as individuals with diverse lives.

HILL ASEAN has been taking an annual deep dive into an area of research on new lifestyles, and this year’s theme is the emergence of fandom culture. Members of the HILL ASEAN team recently presented their findings during an enlightening online forum entitled “Into the Fandom: How tribes of fans will be the next power in ASEAN society.

To shed light on the phenomena of fandoms, HILL ASEAN conducted quantitative and qualitative research and interviews with “Fandom sei-katsu-sha” in Thailand, Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam and the Philippines, along with a quantitative survey in Japan.

The universe of fandoms

Devi Attamimi (Institute Director of HILL ASEAN; Executive Director Strategy of Hakuhodo International Indonesia) welcomed everyone to the forum, then provided some background. “Fandom—10 years ago it wasn’t a word most people know, never mind fully understood,” she said. “Fandom has evolved significantly and grown powerful, giving each fan a voice of their own.”

While there are various interpretations of the term, a “fandom” may generally be defined as passionate fans who share a common interest in something like a singer, manga, sport or hobby, along with the community or subculture they form together. With people having spent more time at home these last two years due to the pandemic, increasing numbers of sei-katsu-sha have been actively engaging with fandoms. Devi pointed out that most research to date has focused on Western fandom, so HILL ASEAN’s study contributes to greater understanding of the unique aspects of fandom in Asia.

Devi also reminded everyone that it’s important to consider the regional differences in fandom practices, and drew on HILL ASEAN’s research data to illustrate this. For example, in ASEAN a fandom is a place where fans find a sense of belonging and learn new things, while for Japanese people it’s a place to seek enjoyment and relieve stress. With 87.1% of ASEAN survey participants stating that “It (being in a fandom) changed my life for the better,” the power of fandoms is clearly a force to be reckoned with.

ASEAN Fandom sei-katsu-sha

The next section was presented by Eka Harithsyah (Strategic Planning Director; H-Three), along with Sanu Pratomo (Strategic Planning Manager; Hakuhodo Indonesia) and Louis Chan (Associate; Hakuhodo Consulting Asia Pacific), who discussed the motivations and benefits for being involved in fandom, and the emotions that go along with them.

Eka identified the overall top three topics for fandoms as K-pop, games and cooking, but HILL ASEAN’S research revealed plenty of fascinating individual examples. These included a Vietnamese woman who turned her interest in making homemade pet food for her beloved cat into a business, and an Indonesian man whose invitation to friends to enjoy a new board game together resulted in becoming his country’s number one board game club.
“Quarantine or staying at home didn’t turn ASEAN people into couch potatoes. On the contrary, they’ve been quite active!” Eka quipped.

The three main motivators for joining fandom were to make life more exciting, ease stress or pass time/relieve boredom. However, an interesting regional difference emerged when it came to relationships with others: In comparison to Japan, twice as many of the ASEAN Fandom sei-katsu-sha see connecting with people as an important factor.

Sanu then took over, asking, “What are the most valuable benefits of fandom to these sei-katsu-sha?” The research revealed the following benefits, which help the sei-katsu-sha align their fandom with their true selves and integrate it into their daily lives:
Feelings of positivity and enjoyment: It helps them tap into positive energy in times of need.
Self-improvement and knowledge expansion: They can sharpen skills and discover hidden talents, even to the point where some of them have turned their passion into a business.
Expand social lives and sense of belonging: Even when they can’t find these aspects in their daily life, they can turn to their fandom community and share their joy.

Next in the spotlight was Louis, who walked the audience through the way in which big data was used in the research. HILL ASEAN partnered with QUILT.AI, a technology platform which converts signals from big data into insights on human behaviors and emotions. Data on emotions expressed in posts on the social media (Twitter) accounts of ASEAN Fandom sei-katsu-sha (about 478,000 examples) and their counterparts in Japan (about 93,000 examples) revealed that the top emotions they expressed were “affiliation” in ASEAN and “happiness” in Japan.

ASEAN Fandom communities

Then it was over to Jade Ilagan (Managing Director; Brand-Y, a member of IdeasXMachina Advertising) and Christian “Chris” Duong (Associate Strategic Planning Manager; Hakuhodo Vietnam), who enlightened the audience about fandom communities.

Jade likened fandoms to a galaxy or ecosystem, with the fandom itself at the core and the fans orbiting around it at various levels and degrees of participation. At its essence, a fandom is a safe space for all, and the bigger the fandom, the more fans can accomplish together.

Chris then explained the role of brands in relating to fandoms, noting that it isn’t about a partnership or sponsors, but rather about becoming part of that fandom.

Jade rounded out this section with four main aspects of fandoms that rate highly with ASEAN sei-katsu-sha:
Equality: Providing full enjoyment without judgement, with a welcoming vibe that makes new members feel comfortable
Creativity: Encouraging skill-building, which may even lead to business opportunities
Family: Gaining new people they can trust, which is a particularly important aspect of the ASEAN Fandom
Force: Gathering with like-minded individuals, connected by common goals which they all can enjoy

The power of ASEAN Fandom

Devi returned to address a crucial question: “How will tribes of fans be the next power in ASEAN society?” She characterized fandom sei-katsu-sha from the ASEAN perspective as “me, you and our fandom” and from the Japanese side as “me and my fandom.” Both groups value fandoms for providing purpose, action and social ties in their lives. However, as noted earlier, when it comes to relationships with others, those in ASEAN tend to use it to fill gaps in their life, while the Japanese view it as a way to disconnect from everyday life.

Putting all this together, Devi introduced the concept of fandom as “MATTER-VERSE”—an ideal community that fulfils the most cherished hopes of sei-katsu-sha, meaning: Their existence matters, they are doing something that matters and they have a space where their hopes can be fulfilled.

“They are forming new economic structures, where the currency has moved beyond money and goods,” Devi explained. Fans have more power in their lives, participating in a spirit of co-responsibility in a universe where each member of the tribe connects to what matters to them. In other words, fandoms have become a utopian economic zone and living space.

Future predictions for ASEAN Fandom

The next presenter was Wannarat “Am” Wisawasukmongchol (Associate Strategic Planning Director; HILL ASEAN), with future predictions for brands on what they might offer ASEAN Fandom sei-katsu-sha and what sei-katsu-sha could invent for brands. She described some intriguing possibilities, such as fandoms with their own currencies, the establishment of fandom academies where fans share their knowledge for free, and even fandom residences with shared living spaces. In terms of technology, we may see AI services which help sei-katsu-sha explore their perfect fandom and which assist marketers to identify potential brand collaboration opportunities.

“This will be the sphere where brands and fandoms co-exist, not just to survive and thrive, but to provide mutual benefits for each other,” Am said.

Marketing implications and Hakuhodo’s solutions

The final speaker was Tomoka “Moka” Takada (Regional Strategic Planning Director; HILL ASEAN). Moka described two main scenarios for brands in relation to fandoms, with accompanying tips for each one:
Co-growth with the fandom
–Find your brand match: Create sincere and responsible connections with a fandom that truly resonates with the vision/purpose of your brand.
–Share a goal and take action together: Identifying and sharing a common goal with a fandom can win hearts.
–Let fandoms “ignite” through brand action: Remember that ASEAN Fandom sei-katsu-sha are looking for ideas to make their fandom world even brighter and more exciting.
Build brand fandom together
-Be inclusive and make your fan a brand owner: Let them get involved in thinking, imagining and discussing the brand.
-Be the brand that matters: Define challenges/visions for the brand that sei-katsu-sha will want to commit to.
-Be a solution to the issues unfulfilled: Envision the purpose of the brand and be the solution ASEAN sei-katsu-sha are seeking.

Moka recommended making a long-term commitment when collaborating with a fandom, as a brand that fans can look up to and identify with. “Be a solution to unfulfilled issues, and use brand and brand assets to commit to long-term action,” she advised.

Moka finished up the forum by introducing the “Brand MATTER-VERSE Creation Workshop,” Hakuhodo’s solution for building a passionate, engaging and energetic fandom for brands in three steps: First specify a brand purpose that matters to both the fans and the brand, and then spark ideas to create a brand matter-verse and identify actions to be taken. Using the brand purpose, Hakuhodo will then brainstorm effective strategies to sculpt the action idea into a concrete plan—in other words, turning the brand “matter-verse” into reality.

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