Asian Consumers Still Very Traditional: Survey

A new study finds that traditional values continue to hold sway among Asia’s consumers, who value the family, believe in hard work, and are financially conservative.

AsianScientist (Sep. 3, 2013) – Even as personal incomes have increased exponentially, in tandem with the region’s economic growth, a new study finds that traditional values continue to hold sway among Asia’s consumers – and companies would do well to appeal to these values in building their brands in the region.

The inaugural Pan-Asian Wave Consumer Study: Asian Marketing Trends and Consumer Insights, conducted by the Institute on Asian Consumer Insight (ACI) at Singapore’s Nanyang Technological University, has found that Asian consumers value the family, believe in hard work, and are financially conservative. They desire respect for the tremendous progress they have made, and yet shun flashy expressions of wealth.

ACI’s inaugural study for the Asian region polled almost 7,000 consumers from ten key economies in the region, in an extensive investigation of their needs, values, priorities, and beliefs. The six-month-long study was conducted in 14 languages, and received sponsorship from Blackberry, Coca-Cola, DBS Bank and Unilever.

Four distinct Asian consumer profiles

The study found that despite tremendous geographical and religious diversity, Asians, by and large, share a strong emphasis on family, with a high orientation towards savings, thriftiness and future planning, and hard work. Nonetheless, four distinct segments of consumers were identified:

  • Inner-Directed Traditionalists (19 percent of population), who value religion and tradition, tend to be thrifty and less materialistic;
  • Outer-Directed Strivers (29 percent of population) tend to have lower education and incomes. They value work success highly, seeking endorsement in the form of fame and material wealth, just like the celebrities they admire;
  • Survivor Oriented (13 percent of population) consumers tend to be older, less educated, with lower incomes, and are financially less optimistic; and
  • Mainstream Asian Values (39 percent of population)

Inner-Directed Traditionalists make up more than half the consumers in Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, as these populations are highly religious. Outer-Directed Strivers made up 59 percent of India’s consumers and 25 percent of those in China. Survivor-Oriented consumers are found mostly in Japan and South Korea, reflecting these countries aging populations.

“Singapore consumers tend to value creativity and the need to be different and unique. They are also more supportive of gender equality. And perhaps in response to the hectic lifestyle here, Singaporeans yearn for more free time for themselves,” said lead researcher Professor Batra.

In India, celebrity culture is markedly more highly valued. Consumers there tend to place a greater importance on the need to impress others, and on following and even seeking celebrity status for themselves. Indian consumers are also found to spend the most time and money on arts, music and culture.

Consumers in China, India, Thailand, and the Philippines show the greatest willingness to spend on self-treats and luxury, quality brands, while those in Indonesia, South Korea, Japan, and Hong Kong are less willing. Interest in foreign cultures and brands is highest in China, Hong Kong and India, and lowest in Indonesia, Japan and Malaysia. Fun, enjoyment, leisure time are more strongly desired in Japan, South Korea, China, and Hong Kong than in India, Malaysia and Thailand.

Divergences across age groups

Comparing consumers under 25, and those above 45, there is little difference in attitudes towards the importance of education; hard work; high savings and debt-aversion; value-seeking; consuming inconspicuously; fun, enjoyment and leisure; and the importance of one’s larger social groups.

But younger consumers notably show less emphasis on duty; religion and tradition; thriftiness and financial insecurity; gender inequality; ethnocentrism and local brands. Instead, they place greater value on work success and recognition, money and possessions, impressing others, admiring the rich, following celebrities, luxury, and higher-quality brands. On top of online shopping and socializing, they are more interested in arts and culture, foreign cultures and lifestyles, and creativity and self-expression. Surprisingly, the young are not big advocates of environmental causes and pro-social behavior.

“Asia is undergoing a massive transformation. And Asian consumers are going to have new hopes and dreams. Their values are changing and there are growing tensions between tradition and modernity; saving versus spending, fitting in versus standing out from the crowd,” said Professor Bernd Schmitt, Executive Director of ACI.

ACI, a research institute focusing on studying Asian consumers, was jointly launched in 2012 by NTU and the Economic Development Board to help Singapore capitalize on the long-term trend of Asia’s growing wealth.


Source: NTU; Photo:
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