The Race to the Next Platform in APAC: Democratized Creativity

Social media has redefined the boundaries of connection and community, and with more than 1.73 billion people in APAC using social networks in 2019 as reported by eMarketer, the meaning of social interactions for young people in this region has been stretched, segmented and reinvented.

In this new world of infinite connections, the quantity of social connections has become an important indicator of how young Asians seek to define themselves, not only by what they own or what they do but by their ability to connect, share and broadcast.

In the race to accumulate more social connections than anyone else, creativity in self-expression has become a key selling point, and in many ways, this is a generation that also defines themselves via their creativity. After all, they are the first generation in history to have mass democratic access to the tools of creativity: mobile cameras, cheap editing software, design programs, and blogging platforms.


 

Influencers and influencer marketing in APAC have exploded off the back of youthful demographics, high smartphone penetration and the proliferation of social media.

At the very core of the selfie phenomenon, one of the defining shifts in today’s social culture is a form of self-presentation and expression, where a person conveys an image about oneself to connect with another individual. According to a study by Time magazine, APAC leads the world in selfie-taking and 4 of the top 10 “selfiest” cities are in this region, a find hardly surprising given that over half of the world’s social media users reside here.

The selfie culture has become so dominant that selfie apps or beauty apps like Meitu, Faceu and Pitu have become incredibly massive here.

With 455 million active users (MAUs) using it to post more than 6 billion photos every month, Meitu is China’s biggest selfie app, becoming also a big hit among Western users. In addition to its flagship app, the company has also developed a series of beauty camera apps such as Beauty Plus, Poster Labs and Meipai, each specializing in facial feature enhancement, video editing and many other features.


 

The platform also inherently lends itself to the beauty and skincare category and the tech company has since a couple of years ago, launched MeituGenius, an augmented reality (AR) and artificial intelligence (AI) powered smart mirror, collaborating with travel retail giant DFS in its rollout across APAC.

TikTok, the video app where users create vertical videos that typically run 15 seconds before looping to restart, has been seeing incredible growth since its launch three years ago. With young people’s deftness at using digital tools for self-expression, TikTok is one of several apps that gives them a canvas to be creative. It inspires users to not only watch, like and comment on videos but to also create them. With digestible and entertaining content from comedy skits and dance routines to lip-syncing and pranks, TikTok continues to spread like wildfire especially amongst the Gen Z demographic.

And behind what is trending on the platform are growing subcultures and communities driven by user-generated content around hashtag challenges, duets, cosplay and more. So influential are these microcultures and content creators that they can even turn unknown songs into the biggest hits of the year. In India for example, ‘Teri Pyari Pyari Do Akhiyan (Sajjna)’, a song from a few years ago, has made a massive comeback thanks to a viral dance challenge on TikTok.

In the APAC region, the prevalent value of loyalty towards the family, the company and the nation tend to support a more authoritarian culture, but in this new era of increasingly democratic self-expression and content creation, consumers are turning to peer influencers and key opinion leaders both for validation of their own thoughts and actions as well as for an alternative outlook.

Influencers and influencer marketing in APAC have exploded off the back of youthful demographics, high smartphone penetration and the proliferation of social media. There has also been a shift away from traditional celebrity endorsements to consumers’ increasingly preferred outputs of professional bloggers, video content creators and micro-influencers, who communicate directly and transparently with fans instead of simply talking at them as many celebrities do.

In the APAC region, the prevalent value of loyalty towards the family, the company and the nation tend to support a more authoritarian culture, but in this new era of increasingly democratic self-expression and content creation, consumers are turning to peer influencers and key opinion leaders both for validation.

A more seamless integration of social media, eCommerce and online payment systems in APAC has also fueled the rise of influencers used to directly drive product sales. A company that has been pushing the boundaries of the influencer economy has been Alibaba-backed Chinese influencer incubator, Ruhan.

In partnership with fashion model and influencer Zhang Dayi, Ruhan flipped the traditional influencer marketing model on its head. Instead of creating an eCommerce store and hiring bloggers to promote it, they first helped Zhang grow a massive, loyal following on Weibo, one of China’s top social media platforms. Once they had this large customer base and marketing channel in place, they created fashion products specifically designed to suit the taste of her audience. Within a year, it was one of the top-selling stores on Taobao and continues to rank as one of the top women’s fashion stores.

It is clear that the consumers of today do not just want to consume and engage, they want to participate, create and remix. This opens up a myriad of creative ways in which brands can connect with both consumer and culture, building greater authenticity, credibility and trust in their brands.


This is the second in a five-part series written by Sharon Soh, Head Of Strategy APAC at IPG Mediabrand’s UM, that delves into how platform development will shape the way brands connect with consumers across Asia over the next decade.


The Race to the Next Platform in APAC:

Part One: The Super App
Part Two: Democratized Creativity
Part Three: Ambient Computing
Part Four: Algorithmic Culture
Part Five: The Age of Anxiety

 

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