SINGAPORE: ASEAN marketers should not restrict themselves to targeting specific groups as a new study highlights the role the smartphone has come to play in keeping families connected across a fast-changing region.

Research by the Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living ASEAN, involved a quantitative survey of 5,400 people in six cities – Bangkok, Ho Chi Minh City, Jakarta, Kuala Lumpur, Manila and Singapore – and a qualitative study among 24 families.

The New ASEAN Family report found a pattern of younger family members leaving rural areas to work in cities and using smartphones to stay connected with older family members back home, often through social media.

The vital role this device now plays in family life was evident in the institute's observation, reported by Marketing Interactive, that people were "more interested in human interaction than improved housing".

"The house may have no air conditioning, no running water, or be missing a wall, but everyone in the family owns a smartphone," the report said.

Singapore and Malaysia were furthest down this road, with 87% of respondents in the former and 73% in the latter owning a smartphone. For Thailand, the figure was just over half (53%), with the rest further back – Vietnam (41%), the Philippines (39%) and Indonesia (36%).

This "connected family" differs from those in more developed countries in the region, according to Goro Hokari, institute director at Hakuhodo Institute of Life and Living ASEAN, who noted that "influence on purchases can be observed not only between parents and children, as with nuclear families in developed countries like Japan, but also between relatives – which is rare in Japan".

Marketers therefore ought to consider how to communicate to entire families rather than a narrow target market. They can, for example, develop family-based promotions that can be easily disseminated via the family chat groups now available on various apps.

And incentives offering families a chance to get together in person can also be important.

"An example of providing a place to get together would be giving away a bus tour to a nearby resort for the whole family as a prize, or a karaoke room or bulk package of food to be enjoyed by all family members," said Hokari.

Data sourced from Marketing Interactive; additional content by Warc staff