A cause for celebration in Indonesia and Vietnam

Festivals have long been an opportunity for brands to connect with consumer audiences. Ranjana Singh, Country Head for Indonesia and Vietnam, explains how consumer behaviour shifts during major festivals in Indonesia and Vietnam

“Lebaran in Indonesia is huge,” says Singh, pointing to the festival at the end of Ramadan (otherwise known as Eid al-Fitr). “It's when families get together to celebrate following the purifying month of Ramadan.”

During this period, habits change. People go from fasting to feasting, to spending time in reflection to celebrating. And the same is true in Vietnam – albeit that the festivals are different. Festivals in Vietnam are a huge opportunity for brands.

“In Vietnam, the biggest festival – Tet [short for Tet Nguyen Dan] – is much more comparable to Chinese New Year. It’s huge,” she says. “There’s a whole week of getting together, giving respect to the elders and, again, lots of things change, from eating to buying, gifting, travelling and so on.” Tet celebrates the arrival of spring and usually takes place early in the year (according to the Gregorian calendar).

These are the two occasions in the Indonesian and Vietnamese calendars that excite brands. And these are also the two occasions on which we see the most extreme behaviour changes – and therefore the biggest opportunities.

Complex decision-making in Indonesia

Ramadan is not just a fasting month – it’s a month of reflection; and it’s a month in which habits change. “Brands have no choice but to rethink what they are doing,” says Singh. “Behaviour changes significantly. For example, for the whole year you don't see dates, and suddenly dates are all over the place because they are often consumed to break the fast.”

At the end of the month comes another shift. “At the end of fasting, comes Lebaran. That means returning home, gifting, feasting and so on. You have to work out which brands to promote and which should take a back seat during this period. It’s about understanding that change and learning what to push, when and how to do it,” says Singh.

Part and parcel of the festivities is travel. “We need to work out: what will consumers eat on the way to the festivities, how will they use their mobile phones on the way, can you help them avoid traffic, can you entertain them? There are opportunities for brands, regardless of category,” she says.

It’s a question of evolving marketing beyond just placing brands in a story that revolves around families coming together after a period apart. Brands need to embed themselves in the story itself and become part of it. In that way a brand can work with real emotions. “What works in advertising is what touches hearts – deeply. It’s something personal, something that moves people across entire communities,” she says.

It’s also about cutting through all the noise, doing something new and being brave. After all, in Indonesia, Lebaran means people have more disposable income (as a consequence of the pay structure in that country), so there are more clothing sales, more car sales, and more opportunities for brands who have prepared well. “Brands start planning six months in advance to get ahead of the competition,” says Singh. “Brand differentiation takes preparation.”

Tet similarly results in a huge movement of people – home to towns and villages to meet, eat, gift and celebrate. Again, winning brands tap into the shift in behaviour.

“Emotions are pretty similar during these types of occasion,” points out Singh. “The labels are different – Labaran, Tet, Christmas, Thanksgiving and so on – but the feeling is similar.”

Which channel wins?

How best can brands reach consumers in Indonesia and Vietnam during these festivals? “It used to be television – and still is the largest medium in terms of coverage – but mobile phone use in these countries is now huge. Whether it’s for ecommerce, entertainment, gaming or something else, mobile phone is how brands largely choose to communicate – TikTok, YouTube, Instagram and so on,” says Singh.

“These countries have very young populations. They are savvy with technology, content creation and building followers. And they are influencers. They make their own content that brands can tap into, place their products in an environment that is meaningful for their customers and become part of the influencer ecosystem in a seamless and mutually beneficial way.”

And the positive outcomes are all there in the data. “Deriving insights from data means you can plan more, and you can experiment,” says Singh. “And AI is giving us so many more opportunities. For example, while there might be one national language, there might be many different dialects. Wouldn’t you relate more to an ad if it addressed you in the way in which you speak? I would.”

And brands can go further than that. By harnessing the power of AI, they can adjust recipes, flavourings and messaging as they change the dialect in which they address the consumer. The opportunities to adapt are countless.

Whether flexing the message is driven by dialects, festivals or any other occasion, it all comes back to connecting with audiences, and using all means to do so.

Ranjana Singh


published on

04 August 2023



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