Striving for self-expression in the time of Corona

It’s not just a matter of the economic downturn, it maybe is something deeper…

We started doing a qualitative research when PSBB (Pembatasan Sosial Berskala Besar – or partial lock down) to control the spread of Covid-19, started in Indonesia.

In the qualitative research, we found out that consumers felt stressed and confused, naturally. There were positives that they felt like being able to spend time with the family, able to learn new things and skills. But there were challenges around working and learning from home, as well as worries of the economy situation (more on this in /en/news/articles/life-in-the-time-of-corona/).

We followed this study up with a quantitative online survey, where we still used Storyworks® to uncover people’s deeper emotions (contact us if you wish to know more about Storyworks®).

We found a more pessimistic view, in general, compared to other quantitative study using Storyworks®  in Indonesia.

Indonesians are generally known as happy people, always able to find ‘lucky spots’ in many unfortunate events. The study still showed that through the visuals that projected positive energy, togetherness, and even laughter.

However, the expectations of what will happen post-pandemic, showed a much lower percentage in general compared to other quantitative studies that measured expectations about the future. And this was especially true among the 20 – 24 years old.


There can be several reasons for this.

The challenges with working and learning from home – which were always the first in the top five challenges of #stayathome period, combined with the worry over the future of schools and jobs, are definitely one of the main driver. Apart from that, we also think that worry over what will ‘being social’ mean in the future, also looms over people’s head.

We believe there is something serious in here. It is not just a matter of confusion, it is also a portrayal of a deeper emotional stress in the society, as the result of fear over the virus, as well as mental restriction that resulted from the social distancing measure. 

Indonesia is a communal society where being PHYSICALLY together, is a big deal. It has driven many to ignore the government’s restriction for not making trips home for the Eid. It has driven many to even ignore social distancing rules, just to meet family and friends.

Thus being forced to stay at home, is both a blessing as well as mental stressor. The inability to draw energy from the moments of being physically together with the society, has created pressure on people’s mental strength. At the same time, the feeling of ‘we are in this together’, is an energy to keep trying to be positive.

But, it is not easy.

Self-expression becomes a need that consumers have to somehow find an outlet. It is frustrating to keep trying to find the best ways to cope with this situation. To find creative ways to express the emotionality of dealing with the fearful pandemic, and at the same time finding ways to move on with life and get back on track despite the disruptions. Tripled with the inability to draw strength from physical closeness with others, beyond the nuclear family.

We question if there is an uncovered distress, or even depression because of the social restrictions, in Indonesian society, that we have yet understood.

How can brands help?.

Well, here are our thoughts, learning also from some of local businesses that seem to thrive during this time: 

  • By being empathetic.
  • By not selling lifestyle, focus on giving specific solution.
  • By being close to the values that Indonesians appreciate: togetherness and communality, positive spirit, humour that twists the realities of the pandemic not in a sarcastic way but to make people able to see the ‘lighter’ side of it.
  • By not being complicated – prove your worth but make it simple and straightforward.
  • By embracing the easier side of technology as being online is not always accessible to many – think of using Whatsapp that allows ‘direct’ connection with your brand, being less cold than being on the e-commerce. Indonesians love that side of ‘direct’ connection.

Contact us if you wish to know more about the study.

We are planning to continue with wave 2. Stay tune!.

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