Global demographics are shifting, and BBDO’s Hans Lopez-Vito explains how brands can adopt an inclusive, diverse and intersectional approach to consumer engagement as part of their business growth strategy.

Brand purpose is no longer just a buzzword; it’s a critical component of any successful marketing strategy. And nowhere is this more evident than in Asia, where the youth are leading the charge for change.

In my previous article for WARC, ‘The rise of brand purpose in Asia: Understanding its impact on sustainable growth’, I highlighted key findings from our latest study. As we enter Pride Month, I am compelled to delve further into the topic of LGBTQ advocacy and its place in building a compelling brand purpose brand narrative for the region.

Our research indicates that attitudes towards LGBTQ advocacy and brands are highly nuanced and vary significantly from country to country. Consumers in some countries are very accepting of the LGBTQ community, whereas others are not as open. Some parts of Asia want brands to help them champion LGBTQ advocacy, while others believe brands should not bother at all. To help marketers navigate these nuances, we used our study’s findings to put countries into four meaningful clusters:

  • The active advocates
  • The passive supporters
  • The sympathetic niche
  • The hesitators

LGBTQ acceptance and advocacy data

The active advocates

Thailand is the country where consumers have the most open outlook in the region when it comes to the LGBTQ community. Not only do Thais have a very high level of acceptance towards them, but their desire for brands to advocate for the LGBTQ cause is 56% higher than the average recorded for all Asian countries.

This presents a unique opportunity for brands in this market to align themselves with the progressive values of consumers and support important causes like LGBTQ rights and inequality.

Johnson’s Baby ‘The Other Mother’s Day’ campaign is an excellent example of a purposeful campaign that drives positive change in society while connecting with the audience.

The campaign challenged traditional definitions of motherhood by demonstrating that anyone can be a mother, regardless of gender, lifestyle or income level. More importantly, it did so in a direct and provocative manner that suited the already open mindsets of the Thai population at large. Not only did this campaign touch hearts and fuel conversations in social media, it also aligned a classic brand like Johnson’s with the new mindsets of the new generation of parents in the country. 

The passive supporters

India and the Philippines fall into this cluster. On a personal level, consumers in both countries tend to be very open to the LGBTQ community. Specifically, Indians and Filipinos are 37% and 16% more accepting, respectively, of LGBTQ people compared to other Asian markets. Yet, they are less supportive than the average Asian of the idea that brands mirror their beliefs and actively advocate for LGBTQ acceptance.

There may be a few reasons for their hesitation. One is that consumers there do not want to antagonise the traditional religious institutions that remain highly influential in both societies. The data also suggests that Indian and Philippine consumers believe other causes such as environment/sustainability and democratising access for products have more urgency in their day-to-day life.

Despite this, brands in India and the Philippines have an opportunity to reinforce the fast-changing mindsets of consumers and to help advance the conversation albeit in a culturally sensitive way. eBay India’s ‘Things Don’t Judge’ campaign successfully celebrates the LGBTQ community with a clear message of support. However, it did so by weaving this message into a broader conversation about other more mainstream societal issues, giving the campaign a level of subtlety which is appropriate to the culture without losing the power of the message.

The sympathetic niche

The Japan and Korea markets are part of this cluster because acceptance for the LGBTQ community by society at large is sadly way below the average recorded for the region (37% less in Korea and 20% less in Japan). Nevertheless, there is a small proportion of progressive voices in these countries (e.g., women in Japan) who empathise with minority groups and thus want brands to also advocate for the LGBTQ cause as well. This offers opportunities for counter-culture brands aiming to stand out in these markets.

In markets like these, taking the cue from the approach of eBay India – which takes the edge off without losing the importance of LGBTQ messaging – would be a good way to go. 

Another approach is to let the brand tap into the prevailing subcultures that already exist in these markets to deliver a more targeted message of support. A good example is Mercedes-Benz’s support for LGBT+ Pride Month in Taiwan. While this is a different market altogether from Korea and Japan, this can still be an inspiring example because similar movements already exist, even in places that hold on to conservative values which brands – as a way to start their journey of LGTBQ advocacy – can support.

The hesitators

Brand-led conversations about LGBTQ issues in the China market remain a ‘no go’ area. Acceptance of the LGBTQ community is just somewhat below the Asia average (by less than 13%). But the desire for brands to advocate for them is the lowest in Asian (50% less than the Asia average).

The barrier in hesitator countries like China lies not so much with consumer attitudes only as these may loosen over time; there are also real regulatory limitations on how much brands can do when it comes to LGBTQ messaging, not to mention potential legal ramifications.

The recent troubles faced by Swiss watchmaker Swatch in Malaysia echoes the risk: thousands of LGBTQ-themed watches released in Malaysia were seized by government authorities (note: homosexuality is illegal in the country). Thus, brands are advised to proceed with caution from such advocacies in markets like these.

Gen Z leading the way

While consumer attitudes towards LGBTQ acceptance and advocacy vary significantly by country, there is one sub-group of consumers that exist across borders and share a more open mindset that champions this cause: Gen Z.

The openness of 18 to 25-year-olds and their active support for the LGBTQ community is strong, even in countries with the most conservative of cultures. In China, Gen Z’s attitudes are an especially stark contrast to the more traditional mindset of their older counterparts.

The youth of Asia will lead the way data

What these findings mean for brands in Asia

As global demographics shift, it is vital for brands to adopt an inclusive, diverse and intersectional approach to consumer engagement as part of their business growth strategy. Intersectionality means portraying the full range of diversity of consumers in communications – not because brands should specifically target only LGBTQ consumers, but because doing so resonates strongly with the sensibilities of the new generation of Asian consumers in general. The alternative is a brand that will slowly become less relevant with younger consumers who will increasingly shape Asian society.

Jason Rosario, Chief Diversity, Equity and Inclusion Officer at BBDO Worldwide spoke about these trends and his thoughts capture the true opportunity for brands operating in Asia: “We live in an increasingly diverse world. As global demographics shift, it is important for brands to adopt an inclusive, diverse and intersectional approach to consumer engagement as part of their business growth strategy. The alternative is a brand that will slowly become less relevant. We know that Gen Z consumers are the most accepting consumer segment as it relates to the LGBTQ+ community and this study demonstrates how mission-critical it is for brands to align themselves in advocating for this community as well.”


The ‘Brand purpose in Asia’ report is a 45-page study that looks at the growing relevance of brand purpose in Asia through consumers from markets such as mainland China, Korea, Japan, Thailand, the Philippines and India. It is the 13th edition of BBDO Voices. #Hashtag: #BrandPurposeAsia

Other BBDO Voices studies:

  • The edition on Women
  • The edition on Love, Romance, and Intimacy
  • The edition on White Collar Migrants
  • The edition on Tying the Knot
  • The edition on Social Connections
  • The edition on Celebrities
  • The edition on Morality
  • The edition on Money
  • The edition on The Single Life (revealing trends such as life after divorce)