Millennials in Southeast Asia are living very different lives to those of their parents. With the 90s bringing about the collapse of military rule in many SEA countries and the internet opening up an exchange and platform for new ideas, opinions and inspiration, the millennials woke to a strange, hopeful and optimistic world. They are seen as the generation in transition, often revisiting and redefining values.
These young adults are confident in their ability to find better futures for themselves: an impressive 62 per cent of millennials believe they can make a local difference, and 40 per cent think they can make a global difference. But they are also big on local pride. National traditions have provided young Southeast Asians with differentiation and individuality in today’s crowded cultural morass. Young people are working to authentically understand their heritage and reconcile this with their global aspirations — creating a new identity.
Despite this confidence, they are practical in their approach. They do not want to disrupt or disrespect tradition and society. Often, they find less confronting routes to have their voices heard, with over 75 per cent stating that family values and opinions are crucial to them. They believe in the power of technology and 87 per cent say that technology has made it easier to overcome barriers.
This generation has a greater spirit of positivity about the future and they are pragmatic optimists. But what about the next generation?
Emerging behaviours: the post-millennials
Unlike the millennials in Southeast Asia who grew up in a time of relative economic and political promise, the next generation have been born into a time after the Asian financial crash and this has greatly impacted their attitudes. They believe that the time for idealistic optimism should end and it is now the time to act.
Call to action: the next generation is far more cynical with growing feelings of scepticism about governments, institutions and brands. This demanding group will want to see tangible evidence that institutions and brands provide for the collective good. They are steadfast in their beliefs and actively reject traditional taboos formed by society.
This generation will gravitate towards brands that fit with this philosophy. Brands that are unconventional, go against the status quo and declare beliefs loudly backed up with a call for action to happen will draw the next generation.
Building online walls: the gloss of being ‘always on and connected’ has already started to wane. This will only increase with the next generation as they become savvier in understanding how much information is ‘stolen’ from them online. Prolific use of fake profiles amongst teens in Southeast Asia is one way they are creating walls to protect themselves. Turning off, having more disconnected time and celebrating simplicity in technology is another way this new generation will be different.
They will seek and respect brands that are okay to turn off from their online personas, engage in real communities and respect privacy.
Proud to fail: unlike the optimistic, positive millennials, this next generation will not be afraid to be more sombre and less polished. They won’t want to showcase only their happy, perfect lives but will want to flaunt and be proud of their failures. Failure will grow to be perceived as a badge of honour. It shows that they have earned their stripes and learnt how to be better. Failure for them is showing the world that they are doing new things, adapting and learning — that they are interested in the journey rather than the perfect glossy images common today. They want to see that brands are also on this journey with them.
These post-millennials can be forgiving of mistakes brands may make, as long as the brands show and acknowledge they are imperfect, have learnt and mended their ways.
Emma Gage is CEO of Flamingo Singapore