How Brands In Southeast Asia Are Forming Authentic Partnerships To Grow In 2022

Opinion piece by Antoine Gross, General Manager, Southeast Asia, One of the most effective ways to deepen trust and demonstrate authenticity is for a brand to work with others who have shared values.

How Brands In Southeast Asia Are Forming Authentic Partnerships To Grow In 2022
Photo by: Illustration vector created by Freepik

One of the enduring legacies of the global pandemic is the role it has played in the humanising of brands and businesses.

Despite all the negative effects of COVID-19, we saw businesses and communities work together to support customers and employees. Consequently, brand purpose and values are becoming increasingly important to customers and this means marketers will need to focus on creating authentic, trusting and long-lasting relationships with their consumers.

Aside from the fact that this is the right thing to do, it is also having an impact on a brand’s bottom line. Research recently commissioned by Distillery, in partnership with research platform Millieu, found that 86% and 83% of Indonesian and Malaysian consumers, respectively, are willing to pay more for brands with the purpose (with Singapore at 66%), whilst 88% of Indonesians and 79% of Malaysians are more likely to avoid brands based on their societal stance (Singaporeans at 68%).

One of the most effective ways to deepen trust and demonstrate authenticity is for a brand to work with others who have shared values. Partners, who can range from brand-to-brand partnerships to social media influencers (i.e. KOLs), content creators, charities and more, can introduce a service or product to an established audience and absorb some of their partner’s shared purpose.

Here’s how some Southeast Asian brands are leading the way when it comes to forming authentic and effective partnerships.

Keeping it real (with real-life influencers)

Celebrity influencers will continue to have their role to play in marketing activities (I personally enjoyed listening to Benedict Cumberbatch speaking Chinese as part of Tmall’s Singles’ Day marketing push this year). However, they’ve definitely lost a bit of their shine during the pandemic when their mostly aspirational lifestyle was either curtailed by restrictions or seemed out of place and insensitive.

Instead, we saw an acceleration in the ascendency of micro and nano influencers in Southeast Asia; ‘everyday’ influencers who have small but highly engaged audiences. Certainly, it’s where leading Asian online retailer ZALORA is seeing some very real results. In September this year, the company launched The ZALORA Community Influencer Program which encourages influencers and customers alike to endorse and earn via their social media platforms, rewarding them with the commission on sales.

According to ZALORA’s Regional Affiliate Marketing Lead, Leonard Chang, they were inspired to launch the program after seeing the many creative ways that its fans were already engaging with the brand via social media.

“Our customers are the heartbeat of our business, and we always enjoy seeing the creative ways they share and engage their individual communities with our brands and products. The ZALORA Community Influencer Program rewards not just big influencers, but encourages and supports the next generation of influencers, nanos and micros, to earn and through their participation in the marketing ecosystem. Through their genuine stories and passion for our brands and products, we expect the ZALORA Community Influencer Program to inspire more authenticity and connection between brands and their customers”.

Partnering for good

In their recent report ‘The Consumer Transformed: Reimagine the retail and consumer landscape: Southeast Asia’, PwC noted that “heightened consciousness of sustainability and social impact” is one of four key trends solidifying in Southeast Asia. A great example of a brand-to-brand partnership for social impact, came earlier this year when Love, Bonito partnered with Mattel to create the “Dream it, do it!” Barbie collection. The campaign was created to launch LBCreate a social-impact programme to support women and girls by providing educational resources and more to help them create a career they aspire to. Four Barbies with a cross-section of body types were created and dressed in Love, Bonito clothing and made available to customers whose order (over a minimum purchase amount) included a specially designed ‘Girl’s Can’ T-shirt. The initiative succeeded in funding the education of

100 girls in low-income communities in Asia for a year through Room to Read Girls’ Education Programme.

Content partnerships

Quality publishers attract a loyal audience by being authentic, trustworthy and relatable. By forming content partnerships with them, brands can reach consumers at a moment when their product has context. These partnerships can come in many different forms such as product comparison articles, gift guides and reviews which all include affiliate links that can then be tracked to see which publishers are driving new customers for the brand. It’s a win-win for customers, brands and publishers. The customer gets value from a deal on a contextual product or service, the brand acquires a new customer, whilst the publisher retains its editorial integrity.

Content partnerships, or commerce content as they are increasingly being referred to as, are a very distinct proposition from advertising and also gives a publisher control over which brands they choose to work with so they can find the right fit for their core audience.

The good news is that partnerships, like those outlined, are now easy to manage at scale thanks to partnership management platforms such as Automating partnerships in this way makes it far easier to manage, contract and reward partners at scale, giving brands the ability to immediately see which partners are performing and adjust accordingly.

This means marketers are freed up from time-consuming manual tasks to concentrate on devising innovative, strategic and purposeful partnerships to help deepen consumer trust.

Antoine Gross, General Manager, Southeast Asia,