We have entered a new decade and things are not looking bright for businesses. ADA (part of the Axiata Group) spoke to decision makers and the consensus is grim – over 76% of marketers say they will struggle with sluggish consumer growth. ADA has released a thought leadership piece that is based on ADA’s data of over 280 million consumer profiles, coupled with a survey of over 200 decision makers, brands, marketers, and industry observers within the region who shared their expectations on business growth for 2020.

As China’s entanglement in the US trade war deepens, fears are mounting – will Southeast Asia (SEA) be impacted, or does it have a trump card to play? To help marketers navigate this period of economic uncertainty, ADA’s report, 2020 Outlook for Southeast Asian Marketers: 4 Steps to Outmaneuver Your Competition states there are industries that continue to flourish during times of economic uncertainty.

From their consumer base of 280 million profiles, ADA looked at how SEA consumers have reacted to socio-economic changes in the past. They found that across all categories, consumer spending takes a dip with some exceptions. Malaysians still enjoy eating out although they cut back on other luxuries; Filipinos cut back on travel and data usage; and Indonesians’ overall spending declines but more modestly.

Meanwhile, the survey of over 200 decision makers, brands, marketers, and industry observers found that:
• Only 10% expected positive rapid growth in their countries
• Just 8% reported having sufficient budget for 2020
• Surprisingly, in spite of these challenges, about 50% expect their business to be positively impacted

This means that while the expectation for 2020 to be slower than past years, SEA’s marketers are modestly optimistic on some growth, despite having to do more with less in a difficult economic situation.

Srinivas Gattemneni, Chief Executive Officer, ADA, said, “Our survey revealed that 54% of marketers are expecting the region to experience slow to modest growth – this is consistent with the current global economic outlook. However, the majority are positive that they will be able to make the most of this, albeit in creative ways. ADA exists to make our customers and people win; hence, we wanted to share this outlook complete with industry tips and insights to help them outmaneuver their competition.”

So, how will brands win during economic uncertainty? ADA shared how marketers can steer through the year and win, with four simple steps:

1. Data -> Insights -> Outcomes = IDEA?
A common mistake many marketers make is to assume that once they have the data, it will reveal all the answers. When really, they need to gather insights from the data which then leads to action, which then turns into clear business outcomes. Easier said than done, of course, hence, the IDEA framework:

IDENTIFY the problem in as precise a manner as possible
DATA analysis is then applied to reveal specific and actionable information
EXTRACT unique insights and perspectives from the information
ACTIONABLE strategies and solutions are created to deliver results

2. Brand building means more than ever
With the increasing pressure around marketing’s role to contribute to performance, and the advent of digital which allows you to track what seems like everything, there has naturally been a move towards shorter-term performance-based activity. Hence, brand building and storytelling combine for a distinctive and powerful campaign.

3. Emotions drive us as consumers, even in a downturn
By tapping onto the emotions of your target audience, you will have to tug on their heartstrings – and marketers will have to do this via brand building and storytelling, amplified by creativity. Great imagery, and outstanding creativity will evoke emotions.

4. “Steal the spotlight”
To really win in 2020, it all starts with an IDEA. From there, build your brand through storytelling – great imagery, and outstanding creativity, which will evoke emotions. This allows you to clearly express who you are as a brand, and win your customers share of heart, beyond their share of wallet. Your great campaign could be humour-filled, heartwarming, or even nostalgic. But it will be uniquely your brand.

“2020 is set to be an interesting year. Brands who understand consumer trends during times like these, and are armed with the right data, insights, and strategy, can use this opportunity to steal the spotlight. While some companies will tighten their belts, others will invest in cherry-picked efforts to surge ahead of their competition,” added Gattamneni.


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