Why Opening Up Is Making Indonesians Feel Trapped and Angry: Brand Empathy Required (with Riri Rustam)

Eye-to-Eye, TapestryWorks’ agency partners in Indonesia, have conducted another round of research to gauge sentiment among consumers after the lifting of PSBB (lockdown). The results make for sober reading and reflect the reality that while people are now more free to go about their daily lives as normal, the reality is that people feel more trapped than ever. You can read about earlier research here and here.

The survey was conducted from mid-June until early July, following on from a similar survey conducted in early May (read the findings here). The survey was completed by over 400 respondents, with a very similar profile to the earlier survey (skewed to urban-living, older, female and middle-income participants).

The balance of positive and negative sentiment has not really changed from two months ago, when people were just getting used to life at home. Having said that, there are some small shifts in sentiment across different age groups (see the chart below). More importantly, the types of negative sentiment expressed are different.

Indonesians have moved from boredom and the frustration of wanting to express their true feelings to feelings of anger and concern at the likely negative consequences of opening up the economy. Related to these sentiments, despite a more open economy than in May, the feeling of physical and emotional entrapment has grown along with concerns that things are not really getting better at all.

Responses show that Indonesians are not convinced that opening up is a good idea, and many will continue to restrict their behaviours despite the government’s policy. Despite their own concerns, many also doubt that others will also take the same cautious view.

Looking to the future, Indonesians hope to feel more connected, free and a sense of renewal. However, they also anticipate the frustration of being unable to express themselves, but also the fear that other’s self-expression will create lead to a crueler, angrier and more destructive society.

These findings suggest that brands need to be even more mindful than ever to acknowledge the concerns and frustrations of consumers and provide a helping hand to guide them through difficult times. For Indonesian brands, here are five important ways to help consumers and resonate with their increasingly challenged and troubled lives:

  • Provide the bare necessities and stay away from lofty aspirations
  • Protect consumers by communicating safety, comfort, and value
  • Use your brand’s identity to help people feel part of the group
  • Simplify people’s lives and express humanity and empathy
  • Show your appreciation of customers and stakeholders and work to reduce stress and provide calm

Find out more about Eye-to-Eye’s work here.

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