Amidst the pace of change and innovation happening in a diverse market like Asia, WARC’s Asia Editor Rica Facundo takes a look back at last year’s stories to examine what will stand out this year for the region.

Anyone who has ever covered or managed a diverse and dynamic region like Asia will probably tell you the same thing: there’s a lot going on. And the changes and opportunities feel like it’s accelerating even faster than ever.

Multiple markets are each innovating to the beat of their own drum amidst a global and profound shift in the dynamics of global connectivity. 

On the one hand, the map of global demand, once heavily tilted towards advanced economies, is being redrawn. McKinsey estimates that emerging markets will consume almost two-thirds of the world’s manufactured goods by 2025.

On the other, the frontier is changing, with the digital economy becoming a force to reckon with. SEA’s digital economy is approaching US$200 billion GMV in 2022 – three years earlier than expected.

As WARC’s Asia Editor, it’s my job to keep pace and shine the light. But with so much happening, I increasingly ask myself: What can the rest of the world learn from Asia? How can we lean in more deeply into what makes our marketing ecosystem different? As I look towards 2023, here are just some of the stories I’ll be keeping my eye on.

The many shades of ‘glocal’

The changing nature of global connectivity is putting greater importance on taking a local first approach to marketing. But the bifurcation between global and local is not black and white, with many shades and combinations in between.

Sometimes it’s a hybrid state.

“While global aspirations and regional cohesion are growing in Asia, this doesn’t come at the expense of local identity,” Virtue’s Elly Lau, Zoe Chen and Huiwen Tow wrote for our latest Spotlight on Multicultural Marketing.

Other times, it’s a question of geography, focusing on rural cities instead of the metropolis where access to the internet and infrastructure development enable brands to reach new but misunderstood cohorts, such as the rural youth in India.

How can brands win in Asia’s new competitive landscape that’s not only global and local in nature but regional and even rural? From homegrown darling Love Bonito to GCash, what can we learn from their playbook?

State of influence

Earlier in my career, one of my favourite tenets (and still is!) of social media marketing is that it is an intimate consumer touchpoint. Over time, this challenged the very power dynamic of brands, forcing them to play less by their brand guidelines but by culture. A decade later, this dynamic has become even more decentralised, democratised and ‘bubble up’, as our latest Marketing Toolkit has described.

When I hear talk about the rise of ‘communities’, I can’t help but think how Asia, as a collectivist culture, is so primed to take advantage of it. UM’s Liz Shie and Jesca Bantayan write about this “people powered media landscape” of Southeast Asia.

Zooming into fandoms, HILL Asean’s Devi Attamimi writes that “dominant Asean cultural traits such as ‘socially driven’ are influencing the Asean fandoms’ characteristics”.

While community and creator-led marketing are making waves globally, what makes the state of influence different in Asia? How will this impact growing categories such as gaming and e-sports?

Asia’s new storefront

The pandemic accelerated the great online migration, thereby profoundly altering the retail frontier and bootstrapping the digital economy. I look at this period of time as laying down the ‘internet pipes’ in a massively growing digital economy. What could these pipes look like?

One version of this is the rise of e-wallets, which act like the ‘synapse’ of omnichannel retail, providing a goldmine of data and insights to marketers. It’s a tangible medium that can facilitate further innovation in the digital economy, especially if you look at adjacent innovation in Web3 technology and developments in the metaverse, writes Culture Group’s Michael Patent and Acacia Leroy.

Another version of the pipes is messenger commerce, a function that is not new but is starting to get more sophisticated with bigger players beginning to tune in as Meta’s Dan Neary writes. One just has to look at the moves that Whatsapp is making in India as a signal.

Of course we can’t forget retail media – the big thing to watch for this year. While still nascent in the region compared to the rest of the world, the existing ecosystem of superapps and marketplaces is fertile ground for what mobile-first retail media networks could look like.

What are the other ‘pipes’ emerging in Asia’s changing digital commerce ecosystem and how does it affect how brands reach consumers?

Redefining good business

Last but not least, we look at what it means to do ‘good business’ in Asia across a changing cultural landscape of profit, planet, data ethics and diversity expectations, especially as we enter into a period of even more economic uncertainty.

We tackled conscious consumerism and sustainability in our Southeast Asia and India Spotlights, where the underlying finding was that the biggest challenge is how to turn sustainability values into a mainstream product and service adoption in Asia. To address this challenge, Kantar’s Trezelene Chan explains how brands can encourage the mass adoption of sustainable values in Asia.

Changing tides around the need for diversity and inclusion are sparking necessary debates on national identity, especially in Australia, which is incredibly diverse. Thang Ngo writes that “multicultural audiences are no longer a separate, minor niche; there is no longer multicultural marketing – it’s all marketing”.

Then we look at rising data consciousness in Asia, where citizens previously didn’t take notions of data privacy as seriously as the West. Dentsu’s Jonathan Edwards provides a ‘data culture’ framework to understand where cultural attitudes meet changing privacy expectations and how this influences the value exchange.

How do these changing tides influence how brands position themselves? Or not only how to acquire customers but to retain them because they trust the brand due to data protection and personalisation?

These stories are just the tip of the iceberg. If you’re interested in finding out more or contributing, reach out to me.