Marketing Strategy Guide for ASEAN Countries that works!

Marketing strategy for ASEAN countries is not as difficult as it sounds. Before we dive deeper, let me clarify that ASEAN is known as different names (more or less) e.g. South Asia, SEA and even more.

This marketing strategy guide is intended for all major south east asian countries and I will go deeper into some countries where required.

I will mention key metrics also as I am trying to create the best to-the-point guide available on marketing strategy for Southeast Asia.

Countries covered in this guide:

  1. Singapore
  2. Indonesia
  3. Malaysia
  4. Thailand
  5. Vietnam
  6. Philippines
  7. Brunei
  8. Other ASEAN countries

I will use the term ‘ASEAN’ for all above countries.

Necessary Platforms:

Which platforms are necessary or must to have for ASEAN? Yes, it’s an important question that I think is mandatory to answer.

All mainstream platforms are huge in ASEAN especially Meta (Facebook, Insta, WhatsApp), Google search, YouTube, X (Twitter), LinkedIn and Reddit.

Some other platforms that are widely used include TikTok, LINE, and WeChat.

I’ll drop a small example about Indonesia, YouTube ads can reach 65% of Indonesia’s total internet user base.

Notice I mentioned LINE and WeChat. Don’t get consumed by the idea that these platforms are necessary, but keep in mind that if you are in niche market then it might be worth it to offer these methods to be contacted by them especially for Chinese audience who travels often in ASEAN.

There are 30 million registered Line users in Indonesia, that’s 10% of total population of Indonesia. Other ASEAN countries show similar trajectory.

Budget allocation for each channel:


Google Search, DuckDuckGo, Yandex, and Bing are big in Southeast Asia. That means it’s important to see how well you are doing on these platforms. Of course, the top winner is still Google search.

How much to allocate for SEO in ASEAN depends on your business model and industry, as one size doesn’t fit all.

As a rule of thumb, if your business is not persuading decision makers or transactions through SEO then only keep it at 10% of your marketing budget. That 10% will be mostly spent on people search for competitors, alternatives, comparison and research user intent.

Let me give you an example of tea. If you are big in tea or coffee CPG, your priority would be to appear for your brand terms (not difficult) at the top of Google search. You are not driving conversions online (especially in small cities or villages) but it’s important for your brand reputation.

Another important part of the puzzle other than brand terms is to appear for terms like:

-Which tea is best to use in Indonesia (research)

– Is tea brand A better than tea brand B (comparison)

– How to buy brand A tea in Jakarta (transaction)

There you go, above I’ve given the strategy for SEO. As a general rule of thumb ~10% budget allocation is a reasonable start, but same might not be the case if you are doing something else, an example would be selling web hosting, SaaS, ecommerce – in that scenario you can spend ~25% on SEO activities.

Key metrics:

Watch these SEO metrics closely

  • rank for brand term
  • rank for generic closely related terms
  • %total exposure for brand terms
  • %total exposure for generic closely related terms
  • %traffic from search

Social media marketing

Top platforms in ASEAN, still, are Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok, Snapchat, X (twitter), LinkedIn and Pinterest.

Others are used too like WeChat, QQ etc but they’re not as big.

How much percentage of my marketing budget will I allocate to social media for ASEAN?

Again, it depends on what you do. If you customers’ shopping experience largely relies on social media you can spend upto 50% (including ads). 

If your brand’s shopping experience is not driven by social media then you can keep it around 25%.

Most active users on social media by percentage in chronological order are Singapore, Brunei, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Indonesia, Laos and Cambodia.

One more thing, try to get hold of some viral recipes that the cunning algorithms of these platforms will have no choice but to give your content attention it deserves. Some over the head ideas are competitions, meme, funny ad, gamification etc – really put your creative department to workout something low-risk high-reward for your social media gains.

Key metrics:

Watch these social media metrics closely

  • Unique user impressions
  • Total traffic
  • %growth

Online Ads

Online Ads is known by different names like PPC, SEM, Programmatic ads, digital ads, performance ads, remarketing ads, display ads, media buying etc, so I am not going to focus on what each of them covers but will give you a bird eye view whatever is classified as an online advertisement regardless of different names for the same thing.

Google, YouTube, Facebook, X (Twitter), DuckDuckGo, LinkedIn, TikTok, Instagram, Reddit, and Pinterest are the most popular platforms in Southeast Asia. If your ads strategy is built on the same, then you’re in luck.

Now, bigger question, how much should you spend on online ads?

Best Answer, less if you don’t rely on transaction and persuasion.

Another best answer, more (a lot) if you rely on transactions and persuasion through ads.

Where does your budget fit? I’d say somewhere in the middle. One strategy is to see if your direct competitors are everywhere online. That means you need to do something for online attention especially if you don’t have an alternative and your competitors are getting all the attention for that good old brand cognition and brand recognition.

If you think by spending 3x, your inventory will be picked from the shelves in 1st week of the month and you will be booking more orders in mass then yes start allocating more.

Email marketing

If you are in b2b then your best bet is email marketing. Allocate more towards it especially cold emailing.

If you are b2c, then it’s better you rely on inbound email marketing even though not a huge chunk.

What do I mean by inbound email marketing? Sign them up in bulk through list building newsletter, and signing them up for webinar.

If done right, email is a winner, but always operate in a low-risk territory.


If you are not english first and have employees in ASEAN speaking local language, then ramp up localization efforts.

Translate/Rewrite your website (or app, newsletter etc) in ASEAN’s native languages.

Learn their habits

ASEAN countries have different habits that are widely followed. As an example, in Malaysia and Singapore, knowing someone boosts people’s confidence to become your customer. This is the case with most SEA.

What can you do if you don’t have many connections in ASEAN? You can display your team pictures, titles or more on your website to gain their trust. What else you can do? Hire capable local people and empower them to spread your message.

If you want me to build your ASEAN Strategy, then book a call and we can make it work.

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