The truth is that aspiration will be an endlessly powerful force for Asian innovators to tap into, fueled by the relentless pursuit of riches, likes and self-expression.

The race for riches

The drive to improve and attain a better life in Asia is unrelenting. No surprises there – working hard to improve one’s life is a long-standing virtue, deeply embedded in culture. On top of that, Asians are chronic status seekers, and they love the status fix that comes with the pursuit of better living. So people work hard, economies grow, and middle classes emerge by the millions.

But one consequence of relentless growth? The standards of living that consumers aspire to just keeps getting higher. Meaning many are locked in an unending race for more.

Once, migrating to the city was the dream. Now, it’s yearly holidays to Europe, flights on Singapore Airlines Suites Class, and an Instagram feed of VSCO-ed experiences ;)

And now – as discussed above – newly-emerging middle classes are chronically insecure, terrified of falling backwards, and concerned about the impact of globalization on their livelihoods! They’re looking to brands for help.

The race for likes

After consumers attain a certain level of economic standing, the race for riches has become as much about the status fix that comes with it. Today, that aspiration bubble is amplified a thousand times over by the pervasiveness of social media in Asia. Yes, it’s that second deep driver – connectivity ;)

1.5 billion Asians are on social media, and TIME Magazine says Makati in the Philippines is the world’s selfie capital, and Jakarta the tweeting counterpart. Thanks to Instagram Stories, all of Indonesia can watch how Sandra Dewi, a popular local celebrity, had a Cinderella-inspired fairytale wedding at Tokyo Disneyland.

The race for self-expression

But while social sharing is amplifying the status bubble, these digital platforms also give individuals a voice and a means to channel their aspiration (and frustration for seemingly never attaining it) in alternative ways.

The China Information Network Center says 325 million people in China, half of the country’s total internet users, share their daily activities on various live-streaming platforms, and contribute to China’s USD 5 billion live-streaming industry (Credit Suisse, Sept 2016).

For these Chinese consumers, live-streaming is a way to escape mundane 9-to-5 lives, develop a new sense of oneself and project it to others, and pursue new forms of mini-celebrity.

So, your brand play? Ground your innovations around this race towards aspirational standards of living and new forms of status, and all the frustration it may involve. Empower all these people, who are on a never-ending quest to attain better, more exciting, more enviable lives, and help them get there easier and faster. At the same time, ease the journey by providing alternative platforms and avenues for individual consumers to channel their aspirations.

But first, get inspired by these brands which are doing just that!

Take action

Which race are your consumers engaged in – riches, likes, self-expression? Probably all three? How can you help them get to where they want to be? Or at least lessen the frustration of seemingly never arriving?

Think about all the new technology at your disposal – can you use it to supercharge your aspiration innovation? See how, thanks to the rise of virtual reality, the VIRTUAL EXPERIENCE ECONOMY means no experience – no matter how bizarre or unattainable in real life – is off limits.

And once consumers feel empowered to attain a better life, remember that the pace of innovation and change is still unrelenting. The next wave will be about helping them cope with that – build capabilities and bridge gaps so consumers are not forever playing catch up!


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