Stuck at home during the pandemic with limited forms of connection and entertainment, the world moved online in unprecedented ways. This was especially true in Southeast Asia where an additional 37 million individuals gained access to the internet during the first year of the pandemic, according to the World Bank.

While the myriad of challenges in the past two years have had an indelible impact on brands and how the public views them, there has been a global shift toward authenticity and purpose which has changed users’ content expectations.

They no longer desire heavily stylised and curated spaces but instead seek real communities with shared passions. Some of those shared passions include content that evolves around family, education, finance, and sports.

Our data corroborated this: over the past 12 months, we saw an increase in the following content categories across Southeast Asia: Babies & Family (+210 per cent YoY), Education (+180 per cent YoY), Finance (+380 per cent YoY), Sports (+800 per cent YoY), Gaming (+320 per cent YoY), Automotive (+180 per cent YoY), Beauty (+190 per cent YoY), and Food & Drinks (+160 per cent YoY).

Brands within these sectors have shifted their content to connect with consumers in a new and dynamic way – understanding that we’re now facing a new phenomenon where relevance is seen as the latest cultural currency.

Not only does relevance have the powerful ability to turn consumers into brand advocates, but it also generates top-of-mind recall. But you can’t just buy cultural currency.

Also Read: The business of social responsibility: Why brands are redefining their social conscience

Here are some tips on how brands can earn it to spark joy and truly engage with their audiences:

Tip #1: Be “flawsome”

Today’s audiences are tired of overly polished and curated content. They want brands to be comfortable showing their vulnerabilities and imperfections. As such, we embrace the term “flawsome” – where brands begin to embrace their ‘flaws’ or their authentic selves in a way that is aligned with their brand values.

But it isn’t about brands highlighting their disadvantages or portraying themselves in a negative light. In fact, it’s quite the opposite.

It’s a way for brands to make themselves more accessible and relevant by being their authentic selves aligned to their brand values – ultimately turning it to their advantage.

Tip#2: Tap into cultural currency and what’s trending today

Whether it’s tapping into unique subcultures or what’s trending today, it is important for brands to ensure that they connect with their target audience in a relevant way. Today’s brands have the opportunity to democratise creativity, calling on consumers to produce their own content aligned with the brand’s voice.

By inviting users to be a part of the brand story, the audience becomes more engaged, transitioning from being a passive viewer toward becoming an active ambassador of the brand. This provides brands with relevancy and a competitive edge, while uniquely positioning them in customers’ lives and hearts.

Tip#3: Embrace shoppertainment

As more people shop online, we’re seeing a convergence of content and commerce which we call “shoppertainment”. What used to be a very one-way transaction has now become a more delightful experience as brands deliver content that entertains.

There’s been a massive shift from people searching for products to products searching for people and through shoppertainment, brands can find the right audiences and drive consumers from the discovery stage to the purchasing stage with ease.

In addition to leveraging cultural currency, positivity can also help brands to better connect with their consumers. With physical interaction diminishing, people are turning to technology to experience joy – they want to be entertained and engaged meaningfully.

Also Read: How consumers are prioritising sustainability beyond the single lens of eco-friendly products

While there is an overabundance of content, people are looking for content that is valuable and relevant to them– whether it’s for personal gratification, staying up-to-date with the latest trends, improving the state of the world, personal or professional development, or discovering something completely new and wonderful.

While what is “meaningful” can mean different things for different folks, people, in general, gravitate towards content that makes them feel entertained, seen and understood. Brands that are able to deliver such joyful experiences can better relate and connect with their consumers.

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Image credit: irinashatilova

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