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Adopt, adapt, create: Making Indonesia a self sufficient force

Indonesia, a young nation and younger democracy, has experienced a rapid cultural transformation, with implications that are re-shaping the communications industry.

With democracy has come a growing optimism, and belief in new opportunities.

I Know, I Want, I Can (Aku Tau, Aku Mau, Aku Bisa), has slowly become the underlying motto that drives the country, and Indonesians, now more than ever, feel the freedom and confidence to find, develop and evolve their own cultural identity.

Following the natural first step of ADOPTING the outside cultural cues and stimulus that are available, we more recently saw Indonesian’s begin ADAPTING these acquired behaviors by infusing them with their own local nuances. However, there are undeniable signs that Indonesia is now slowly transitioning to the CREATION stage, where the local essence takes a hold and no longer seeks outside inspiration to drive culture.

The growing acceptance of Dangut for example (Indonesian folk/pop music), previously neglected and even considered “shameful”, was cemented by the fact that one of the closing acts in this 2018 Asian Games was a Dangut one.

The notion of beauty is also changing. Once very western oriented, we saw a growing Japanese and Korean influence, before the current resurgence and acceptance of local beauty. Wardah, a local beauty brand, is a clear example of this; in less than 10 years it has grown to become number three in the Face Care industry.

TV Channels are showing more locally produced content, the Indonesian film industry has seen a surge in viewership. Local tastes are taking over the food industry, and the list goes on across different domains.

Indonesia has a flourishing young population that has grown up with this new found optimism, and consequently local brands are thriving more than ever; 60 per cent of the top 50 most chosen brands are Indonesian. The transformation is happening, and advertisers need to pay attention to it.

The Drivers
The transition of this ‘cultural awakening’ will happen, and is happening organically through people, however it needs vehicles to thrive and accelerate.

The main vehicle or tool is the Internet. Ironically also the most important tool for ADOPTION, the internet helps not only spread culture, but find acceptance and thus pride. For example catapulting the Indonesian OM TELOLET OM social media meme into a worldwide phenomenon.

Other CREATION catalysts are the technology start-ups with GOJEK leading at the very forefront. GOJEK started out as an ADAPTION of UBER to the reality of Indonesia, but it evolved to something much bigger than that, offering services that cater to the specific needs of Indonesians.

e-Commerce platforms acting as a marketplace for large and medium sized companies, also serve as a window for local merchants and creators to not only sell their creations, but also spread culture in doing so.

Companies supporting this creative economy play an important role, providing funding, mentoring, and support to ideas that promote local cultural expressions.

These catalysts accelerate the process by helping to spread and promote the Indonesian culture and sense of pride.

The implications
All this combined activity has created an environment in which local stimulus will resonate and penetrate better than regional or global ones. Regional insights are becoming less relevant and impactful; we see this exemplified by Clean & Clear, a global brand that bucked the trend of the large international beauty brands, and embraced Indonesian diverse beauty, achieving excellent results in the process.

Local brands have also recognised this and are taking it a step further. Kapal Api has tailored their coffee blends to cater to specific regions within Indonesia. For local brands, is no longer enough to be nationally relevant, they are seeking to be province relevant to drive growth.

Global brands that have failed in Indonesia in recent years, by entering the market without seeking to localise their product offering and strategy are numerous. The most notable being the convenience store company 7 Eleven, that had to leave the country because they failed to understand the local youth behaviour and preferences.

Similarly a large international coffee brand that tried to educate Indonesians to drink black instant coffee, failed after spending a lot of time and money to do so.

As Indonesia moved away from an oppressive state to a democratic one, and with the growing confidence and sense of pride; “Imposing alien” behaviors, ideas, business models, or products, will eventually be a not viable option anymore.

Final thoughts
As the fourth largest population in the world, with sustained economic growth, natural resources, and a consumerism mentality, Indonesia has all the ingredients to become the next independent advertising hub such as India or China.

The current ‘cultural awakening’ bolstered by a growing pride of being Indonesian, should send a very strong signal to the industry to start making the necessary changes to respond to this inevitable transition.

Nelson Loaiza

Nelson Loaiza is the Chief Strategy Officer for UM Indonesia.
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