JAKARTA — A new study of Gen Z, Indonesia's largest consumer segment, finds that brands must be more focused on personalised, digital platforms if they hope to connect with the critical demographic. 

Titled the 'Youth Equation', the Hill+Knowlton Strategies report surveyed more than 500 young Indonesians, aged 16-24 from across the country, to understand how Gen Z is responding to the pandemic, how brands should best engage with them.

The study suggests new rules of engagement, where storytelling is still the main tool, albeit on digital platforms rather than events and face-to-face interaction. Visual media platforms like Instagram, Twitter, YouTube and Facebook, and rising platforms like TikTok, Line, Telegram, Discord and Wattpad are most preferred.

"We have found that creative snackable content has been most effective in capturing this new generation’s attention, these include funny aka ‘receh’ memes, parody, slapstick videos, cynical copywriting etc," said Marianne Admardatine, CEO at H+K Indonesia.

Supporting causes is another popular aspect of young Indonesians' lives, with many quick to voice their opinions, especially when it comes to day-to-day issues. Popular examples include Faye Simanjuntak's fight against sexual crimes and child trafficking, and the Wijsen Sisters, Bali-based environmentalists who have campaigned against plastic and trash.

"We also see them leading the charge in correcting their peers and even brands online by sharing insightful counter statements, information, and resources that invite and encourage critical thinking," said Admardatine.

The study further finds that digital platforms and social media are ‘vessels’ of subcultures: from personal passions like music, art, sport, food, and travelling, to interests such as life’s purpose, goals, inclusivity, and peace. If brands want to utilise these subcultures to engage the market, they are advised to understand them and invest time (rather than money) to be part of the ‘movement’.

In common with other countries, meanwhile, Gen Z is found to be keen on supporting brands that have a strong sense of purpose. This includes international brands such as H&M, with its conscious line sustainability collection, to local brand Aqua, the first-ever 100% recycled bottle innovation in Indonesia.

Accordingly, brands are advised to help keep younger consumers socially connected through digital activities that can be enjoyed together. Examples include Netflix Party, Zoom, and Instagram Live, all of which have gained momentum by enabling youngsters to hang out online. Telkomsel, an H+K client, aimed to tap into this by creating a Gen Z-themed product in by.U, the first digital prepaid cellular service in Indonesia.

"Indonesian youth is a generation of quick adopters with varied interests, who are true digital natives," explained Admardatine. "As they enter the workforce with an incredible knowledge of technology, brands must build authentic and transparent connections, find ways to level up their digital presence and tailor content to be relevant to this young Indonesian audience base."