Gunjan Prasad
Mar 16, 2023

Indonesian Gen Z seeks ‘me in we’

Brands need to ‘walk the talk’ or risk alienating the largest target group.

Bintang Berbeda Bersama Festival
Bintang Berbeda Bersama Festival

Conformism, collective, collaborative and (non) conflict have been the alliterative adjectives used for Indonesian consumers traditionally.

Gotong royong, loosely translated as mutual cooperation for a common purpose, had been the go-to anthem for most marketers and their agencies wooing the Indonesian consumer. Born out of factors such as social hierarchy, customs, overpowering influence of religion, dominance of family, importance of opinions of ‘others’, it continuously spread from one generation to another.

Cut to 2022

Enter the Indonesian GenZ. This demographic now forms 30% of the Indonesian population who are increasingly being quoted as ‘disrupters’ as they look to assert their unique identity and distinguish themselves from the earlier generations.

According to Kantar Indonesia’s recent study, Understanding the changing Indonesians, this generation is seeking the 'me in the we' of a collective society.

“The factors driving the shifts are exposure, accessibility and socio-economic circumstances,” explained Karthik Narayan, executive director, Kantar Indonesia.

The internet continues to open new windows for a generation with growing social media platforms to express themselves. Further, socio-economic improvement – rising income levels and nuclear families mean more disposable income is available to spend on individuals members of a family. Urban migration and physical disconnection with extended families, increasing financial inclusivity, female labour participation and improving education levels are all giving rise to prosperity and are aiding this change. “These changes have been rapid in the last decade, particularly in the last five years where proliferation of internet and access to technology has reached universal levels,” added Narayan.

Whereas Gen X still had the mindset of being friendly responsible and contented, Gen Z is more instinctive, as reflected in their expressions, identity and lifestyle.


As per Kantar’s study, these consumers are shaping Indonesias own creators’ economy. Live streaming and social media has provided them a platform to express, play and indulge in creative pursuits that are casual and bordering into mindless fun and they are feeding to the growing hunger for casual stimulation of their audience. The creations range from absurd humour Tiktok videos, memes to new trendsetters like NFT creators.

YouTube search interest in ‘cara membuat konten’ (how to create content) rose by 90% as more Indonesians take their first steps in content creation. There is a gradual shift from mega-influencers to smaller and more authentic micro-influencers, best able connect with Indonesian youth. 

'Brands shouldn’t treat GenZ as passive consumers of brand messages. They dont want to be talked to — rather actively engage and collaborate with creator communities and fandoms that are emerging as an influencing cultural force amongst the GenZ,” said Narayan.

R3 Indonesia’s country director, Vera Shiska notices the increase in influencer marketing budgets, as Gen Z is looking for credible sources they can trust, and it's no longer just about big names. Nano-influencers are becoming increasingly influential among Southeast Asian marketers. 

Clockwise from top left: Kartik Narayan, Nilakshi Medhi, Guy Kellaway, Vera Shiska Arindam Bhattacharya, Jessica Setiawan.


As young Indoensians strive to break away from the past and carve out a distinct identity, they, like GenZ in other market, are using a unique vocabulary comprising of urban slang words such as jamet, gelay, ghosting, ikon ikon and cepu, that sets them apart. Such words are also amongst the top searched words in Indonesia on Google in 2021.

“Connections are driven by preferences, not geographical proximity. Glocalization enabled by social media and extended time spent at home has made it common for a Putri from Bandung to discuss her favourite KPOP Artist with Yu-Jun from Seoul, or Irfan from Makassar to be Clash of Clans buddy with Stephan in Berlin,” said Arindam Bhattacharyya, chief strategy officer, Dentsu Indonesia.

“Life achievements are determined by the social content and earned followers and fandom one owns. Connections foster completely in the virtual world and then engagement happens through obvious content sharing,” he added.


Considering that they are changing the norms of the society and at times breaking barriers, there can be a tendency for the traditionalists to pass off this generation as easy-going and casual.

But one cannot deny the intense mental stress GenZ has experienced during the pandemic that restricted their mobility. The intense mental fatigue has triggered the need for instant gratification, with social media, live streaming and web 3.0 only accelerating this trend. This gives rise to GenZ seeking fleeting moments of escape and freedom in their everyday lives.

This trend is manifesting in interests like rise of gaming, popularity of short-form snackable content, rise of impulsive snacking, staycations & quick getaways. Search interest for staycations grew by 85%. As per Kantar Worldpanel, in Indonesia the use of eye-make up and lip makeup has a higher value index over general cosmetics amongst younger (13-24 years) consumers.

“Brands should be agents of mood uplift and enable moments of escape for its consumers through their content, user experience. Gamifying brand campaigns, entertaining activations to make consumer interactions playful and leveraging the technological possibilities with AR and VR are what marketers should be looking at,” said Narayan.

What do the brands do?

Brands have to acknowledge this need and embrace this cohorts need to subscribe to a common identity through symbols (language, visual symbolism, culture codes) popular amongst the generation.  Talking to them following age-old rules of advertising and communications will not cut through and also stands the risk of alienating them.

Piggybacking on this insight, Nescafe  — a legacy coffee giant — decided to use the language of music and the yearning of the Indonesian youth to experience concerts, to come up with “Nescafe Music Nights” — a live-streamed concert in partnership with Youtube. They got the most popular Indonesian artists to entertain the youth within the comfort of their homes, while also subtly building credentials for the new product, which promised a café-like experience at home. The Nescafé Music Night campaign embraces the need to place brands authentically where the consumer is. It allowed the brand to present itself as suitable for a social sharing moment, at a time when the consumer is doing just that – while watching a free concert of their favourite artists,” said Guy Kellaway, communications director of Nestlé Indonesia.

In another case, working on GenZ’s need for instant gratification, Nestle used popular Indonesian apps, Gojek and Grab to create an awareness-to-conversion solution to drive sales for KitKat during Ramadhan. Close to the breakfasting time, consumers who were searching for food options on the apps were exposed to the brand communications clicking which led directly to purchase and the product was delivered just in time for of breaking fast.

This was a category first approach at Ramadan, a time where there is significant clutter on mainstream channels. By offering the product through a service platform (food delivery), that was time-relevant (break-fasting), and through food co-creation allowed KitKat to be visible, relevant to the platform and adding a new consumption moment,” added Kellaway.

Legacy does not count for much for GenZ – brands need to remain contemporary and use their voice not just to sell but also to act as harbingers of change. “Brands need to engage in an honest relationship with them rather than coming across as having a commercial interest in this target audience. Meaningfulness is delivered by offering a fulfilling experience where both the rational and emotional needs are fulfilled,” said Kantar’s Narayan.

Brand claims are constantly ratified via myriad sources – brands that do not walk the talkcannot win the Gen Z share of wallets. Also, the relevance of meaningfulness and purpose of the brand has grown amongst the next generation of consumers (Gen Z and Gen Alpha). The whole inward-looking and validation from inside is one big determinant.

“Brand trust is a big question mark and thus it becomes difficult to configure the brand essence in their mind construct,” said Dentsu’s Bhattacharyya.

Brands also need to adapt to the shortening” of everything including the customer journey that GenZ is experiencing. As their society lens gets shorter in attention span through a mobile screen or molecular KOLs, their  whole life experience is affected, which also influences their choices. “From luring GenZ with short stories and shorts, and reels or short videos to shortening down the purchase decision, everything is ‘short’. Infact, now platforms allows one single point, where awareness to purchase can happen at one single point of communication in a single platform,’ said Bhattacharyya.

Case study: Bintang Beer

Bintang has been one of Indonesias top legacy beer brands and most recognisable icons of the archipelago. However, astute marketers realise that they for future growth they cannot sit on their laurels but need to move with the times. It's latest campaigns have actively tried to reach out to a new generation looking for unique experiences. 

“Bintang has been Indonesias favourite beer brand for 70 years and we continuously evolve along with our consumers. Embracing the shifting mindset of young Indonesians where they are keen to embrace their own unique identity, we decided to celebrate differences through our ‘Bersama Bintang, Berbeda Bersama’ (Open a Bintang, allow differences) positioning. We talked about how to celebrate differences together through various topics like younger versus older generations, stereotypes of formal versus informal workers, different music tastes, et cetera,” said Jessica Setiawan, marketing director of PT Multi Bintang Indonesia Tbk.

The company also launched Bintang Crystal to cater to the consumers who prefer a less bitter beer. “With pandemic under control, we have started to bring the Bintang experience to life, with Bintang Chill events and partnerning with ‘We the Fest”, the key idea being that we want to evolve and change just as our consumers have, even though we are a heritage company,” added Setiawan.

Publicis Indonesia segmented its legal drinking age (21+) audience into age groups —  GenZ, GenY and rest of the older audience and then built a strategy based around this data, factoring in screen preference and personalised content suitable for each age group. The campaign was followed up with a social media activity called ‘Cheers Reels’, inviting  the audience to share Indonesia’s Independence Day celebrations with other people of varying ages and backgrounds. A Berbeda Bersama Festival was also held online and offline featuring Indonesian musicians from various genres and eras with 65,000 viewers on YouTube.

“GenZ had gone through an extensive period of uncertainties and stress vis-a-vis mental wellness, job security and financial health. Physical distancing and remote living had them lead extremely lonely and isolated lives. But what also shone through was their resilient and optimistic spirit as they embraced technology as means to come together,” said Nilakshi Medhi, head of strategic planning, Publicis Groupe, Indonesia.

“A key emerging insight for our GenZ audience is the need to find their own individuality without confirming to the norm. While Indonesia remains a communal country, yet increasingly GenZ is increasingly craving to highlight and showcase its own personality, interests and passion points."

Campaign Asia

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