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Insight
Jun 15

Why brand storytelling is the must-have marketing strategy

Today, we live in a fast-paced and digitally-driven society. Merely a click of a button connects consumers instantaneously to their preferred brands and services. However, it’s undeniable that this shift in brand-consumer connection has drastically affected the human aspect of consumer interaction and led to the rise of people longing for authenticity.

Brands can no longer remain faceless – to survive in today’s world, brands need to not only connect with their consumers but tug at their heartstrings and interact with them on a deeper level than ever before. This is where brand storytelling comes into play.

Brand storytelling is a cohesive narrative that weaves facts and emotions focusing on brand values to build authentic connections with consumers. Studies have even shown that 92% of consumers want brands to make ads that feel like a story when consumed.1

But, how exactly can brands dive into the world of storytelling in this content-heavy era?

Edmund Lou

Pictured: Edmund Lou, Head of Strategy,
Kingdom Digital

We caught up with our Head of Strategy, Edmund Lou, to discuss the essence of brand storytelling and all that it entails.

Could you define what brand storytelling means to you?

To me, brand storytelling is where brands harness their deep-rooted truths or beliefs as guidelines in creating content or actions that inspire and help people. Connecting to consumers in this manner is something all brands should aspire to achieve.

Why is a good brand narrative important?

There is simply no denying that the human brain is wired to respond to well-crafted stories. Neuroscience proves that good storytelling is the best way to capture people’s attention and help them retain the information long term.
Stories are remembered up to 22 times more than facts alone.

In fact, stories are said to be 22 times more memorable than facts and figures alone.2

By using proper narratives that link what the brand represents with the shared values created with consumers, brands will be able to evoke trust and help consumers understand the brand deeper. This means, people will be more receptive to the brand and its loyalists’ numbers may increase as well. On top of that, a good brand narrative may also encourage people to talk about the brand which can increase brand affinity in the long run.

What are some elements of brand storytelling that every brand should incorporate?

It goes back to the brand’s truth. Brands must dive deeper into their mission and vision to study how well they understand their consumers and what can be done to improve it. Brands need to ask themselves: “What is the single-minded proposition that your story tells?” “Are we inspiring or are we providing a solution?”

How can brands build a true connection with consumers without coming across as superficial?

It’s important that brands don’t try too hard to push their branding and values unto consumers. It’s a fine line between authenticity and superficiality. Finding the common ground is vital and this should be pursued authentically.

Brands should evaluate how well do they understand people’s sentiments as well as ensuring that they observe shifts in culture and consumer behaviours to effectively navigate this conundrum. For example, while CSR efforts are good, it may come across as superficial especially when it is a one-off activity. To avoid this negative impression, brands need to tie their intention back to their brand values and what they stand for.

What are some tips you would give brands to help them beat the digital clutter?

To put it bluntly, there will be no clutter if the brand understands its consumers well. Bear in mind that brand storytelling is far more than simply a well-produced film. It could even be a social media challenge or a simple always-on display and social content.

The important thing here is to be consistent: stick by it, own it, and preach it.

Brands can look at other brilliant storytelling examples for inspirations; for instance, SK-II’s #ChangeDestiny campaign films ‘Marriage Market Takeover’, ‘The Expiry Date’, and ‘Timelines’. The brand told the story of the taboos in Chinese culture and took a stand for the people who were victims of it.

Another good example is Newcastle Brown Ale. As a British beer brand sold in America, they needed to be a little like ‘em Americans, especially during the Super Bowl fever. They spoke and acted like them but they maintained their British brute throughout their communications.

Do you think brands need to adopt a different storytelling approach during/post-pandemic? Or, it doesn’t matter as the principles will still be the same?

Yes, the principles remain the same despite the circumstances. In my opinion, brands can tell stories and instigate actions surrounding the pandemic if they can effectively find the link back to their brand truth. But, brands should also move away from the idea of merely doing it for PR’s sake as this can have adverse effects on the public’s perception of your brand.

Brand storytelling has evolved over the years and it is much more than just a trend in marketing strategy. It’s evident that brand storytelling is no longer a ‘nice to have’ – it is now a ‘need to have’ and what may maximise your brand’s visibility, impact, and profitability to ensure long-term growth. Just like your favourite movies, if you can craft a compelling brand story, your audience will resonate with you, remember you, and ultimately, care about you.

Still confused by the concept of brand storytelling? Get in touch and we’ll be happy to offer tailor-made guidance to take your brand storytelling to the next level.

Staying Top of Mind: The Why & How Insight
May 19

How to stay top of mind in the new normal?

As the effects of the pandemic dawned upon us, brands were forced to be agile and execute a total rethink of their marketing and communication efforts to engage with their audience. During this time, we have seen companies leaning unto the strength of their brands and continuing to highlight their relevance. This is vital in sustaining long-term growth, as 62% of consumers are loyal to brands that they trust.1

Brands can develop trust by maintaining consistent communication, playing a role in contributing to the society as well as helping people navigate through tough times. Gearing towards what could possibly be the end of the isolation period, here are some tried and tested strategies that will remain applicable as we transition into our new normal.

1. Go Virtual
Staying indoors over a period of time can get boring for just about anyone. For most folks, being cooped up in their homes has inspired them to make their living spaces more comfortable while others have picked up new skills. This has also resulted in Malaysians shifting their spending habits to online platforms to meet their current needs, leading to a massive surge in e-commerce businesses during this challenging time.

This trend is expected to continue even after the lockdown is completely lifted as people get accustomed to the convenience of online shopping. This means consumers may easily switch choices if their preferred brand isn’t available online. For brands without strong e-commerce/online presence, this proved to be the pinnacle time to make that transition to digital in order to stay connected with consumers.

Brands such as Nissan and Sime Darby Property, whose businesses are predominantly offline, reinvented the shopping experience by digitising their showrooms and galleries. Aside from merely demonstrating their agility, this also brought convenience for consumers as it allows them to shop right from the comfort of their own home.

2. Pivot with a Purpose
The pandemic has affected people in many different ways across the nation. Brands should take into consideration the challenges people are currently facing and address these needs by connecting with consumers authentically while shifting their bottom lines to second place for the time being.

#ZeroToStyloAtHome
#LiveTogetherwithNanowhite
#BeWellwithNutox

One notable example is Tohtonku, where a selection of its brands designed a series of livestream events to help Malaysians overcome the lockdown blues and make the most out of the stay-at-home period.

As hair salons are closed nationwide, Ubermen presented personalised hair grooming sessions to help men look groomed, even when stuck indoors. Meanwhile, Nanowhite collaborated with influencers to set up lifestyle talks to help people make the lockdown period meaningful and acquire new skills. At the same time, Nutox launched a series of self-healing sessions to help frontliners ease their mental stress to ensure good emotional wellbeing throughout the difficult time.

3. Always be Visible
This is not the ideal time for brands to go dark; out of sight is, evidently, out of mind. By being visible when most competitors are not and communicating messages building on brand equity, brands will be able to increase saliency.

While day-to-day business operations are affected, brands can provide alternative ways to reinforce and create positive memories as well as associations in the mind of the consumers in a tactful manner.

For example, artists who are unable to perform live shows are conducting virtual musicals or concerts out of goodwill and to raise funds for charity. Meanwhile, Disney is taking viewers on virtual rollercoaster rides with a serving of fun facts along the way. These entertaining, meaningful content kept these acts and brands top of mind while engaging viewers at home.

4. Adapt and Innovate
During these socially distant times, brands should be fast, flexible, and resourceful when it comes to adapting to the changing landscape and new reality. It’s important that brands stay ahead of the curve by doing something different and making adaptations to remain relevant.

As people spent more time at home, the rate of content consumption is at an all-time high. However, with limitations around production capabilities during the isolation period, brands need to look at other creative methods to produce meaningful videos.

https://www.facebook.com/BohTeaMalaysia/videos/531980360848936/

Cant view this video? Click here to view.

To illustrate, Grab flexed its creative muscles through its Ramadan campaign which was shot entirely remote whereas BOH turned to animation style videos for its recipe videos.

Alternatively, staying top-of-mind for brands can be as simple as exploring the many features of social media platforms. A good example is Rinnai who engaged with its audience by asking followers to vote for their favourite combinations for a dish by using the poll function on Instagram Stories.

Covid-19 has certainly pushed brands to think on their feet and keep up with the fast pace of change in consumers’ behaviours. Some of these changes may continue on and even shape businesses for many years into the future. Hence, this is a crucial time to communicate and demonstrate brand values meaningfully in order to remain top of mind and strengthen long-term growth.

It’s not too late for brands to start taking action today – get in touch with our team and we’ll be happy to help elevate your brand’s digital presence.

Ramadan Raya 2020 Insight
Apr 28

4 tips to be front & centre this Ramadan-Raya

The Ramadan-Raya season has always been a time that brings families together within the Muslim community with an increased focus on positive social values. As Malaysia activated efforts to contain the spread of Covid-19 and people adjusting to the new normal, the way Ramadan is observed and Raya is celebrated this year will be impacted. Even once the MCO is lifted, the intrinsic apprehension of coming together and socialising may still continue.

With the possible extension of MCO looming, the usual behavioural shifts observed during this time will now have an additional element – isolation. Friends and family won’t be able to gather and celebrate together.

Despite the changes, never has it been more important for brands to be empathetic and authentic. It’s now more vital than ever for brands to find ways of expressing the spirit of Ramadan-Raya by encouraging social distancing and incorporating the newfound lifestyle we are currently in. As we progress into the season, it’s not too late to refine and polish your marketing campaign to meet consumers’ changing needs during this period.

So, What Can Brands Do?

1. Give back and support others in need remotely
In Islam, giving back is one of the core principles of the religion and Ramadan has always been the season of doing more almsgiving.  If you are in a position to support communities in need, it’s encouraged to find ways how you can lessen the load during this trying time. Brands can explore various efforts such as pay-it-forward meals and digital fundraisers to support these communities for the betterment of the nation.

We also can’t ignore the fact that frontliners too, consist of the Muslim segment; and they would be observing Ramadan while serving the country. Brands can consider launching initiatives to promote mental well-being among the frontliners or even kick-start community campaigns focusing on showing appreciation and gratitude to this segment.

2. Take on a more meaningful role in retaining some essence of the season
Every year, brands experience a delicate balance with their Ramadan-Raya marketing. It’s always a challenge for brands to be present without undermining the religious sanctity of the festival. This year, the challenge is even more so – it’s absolutely vital for brands to carefully navigate this season to avoid appearing cynical or opportunistic.

The drastic lifestyle change curated by the pandemic will become more apparent as celebrants transition to full-on Ramadan-Raya mode. Muslims won’t be able to practice some traditions amongst the love and comfort of family members. This is the time for brands to play a role in keeping the Ramadan-Raya traditions going.

Last year, cooking recipes on YouTube and searches for recipes increased before and during Ramadan, and continued to spike all the way to Raya.1 With the MCO in place, we are seeing a surge in this trend as people have been cooking more and search trend for keywords like ‘recipes’ and ‘how to cook’ have recorded a significant increase.2,3  Hence, this trend will continue to be relevant throughout the upcoming festive season.

As any form of Ramadan bazaar is not allowed to take place this year, brands can take this opportunity to share more cooking tips or recipes to create bazaar favourites and traditional Raya dishes from their own kitchen. Alternatively, brands can also organise cook-along livestream sessions on digital platforms.

3. Recreate the notion of togetherness
As this is a season of joy, festivities and togetherness, people would be feeling the effects of being unable to celebrate together. You can use this window to come up with ideas on how to facilitate togetherness; in this time when folks will, most likely, feel very apart.

Think along the lines of Netflix Parties – a relevant way of executing this is via setting up a virtual iftar (breaking fast) session where the local community can participate right from home.

Brands can also provide a break from all the hard-hitting news currently populating our media scene. This can be done by sharing positive/heartwarming stories as well as entertaining and self-enriching content in a bid to spread positivity.

4. Get your e-commerce business well-prepared & be where it matters
The Ramadan-Raya period is typically one of the biggest festive shopping seasons of the year here in Malaysia. Google reports that spending during Ramadan-Raya peaks at RM 18 billion annually.4 Meanwhile, a study conducted by Criteo showed that Southeast Asian countries saw a surge in sales 10 days into Ramadan and lasted through the 10 days prior to Raya in 2019.5

This year, however, the Ramadan-Raya season occurs right in the midst of Covid-19. This means people will be relying on technology and digital platforms even more to meet their needs and get ready for the festivities.

Even though there are still a lot of uncertainties on the Ramadan-Raya season, it is important for brands to beef up your e-commerce presence and ensure strong delivery capabilities so that consumers’ demands are met effectively while providing a smooth online shopping experience.

Although this pandemic is altering life as we know it, especially during this Ramadan-Raya season, it has reminded us of the true essence of the holy month: helping people.

The same theory applies to brands. Use this period to re-examine your brand’s purpose through actions that will produce a meaningful Ramadan-Raya relevant to your audience. Be sincere and use the digital sphere to its full advantage to keep the spirit of Ramadan-Raya alive.

Stuck on ideas? Get in touch with our team at enquiry@kingdomdigital.com.my and we’ll be happy to help you navigate effectively through this season.

Insight
Apr 13

Ad dollars, client work and other changes in Malaysia’s adland amidst COVID-19

The spread of the COVID-19 pandemic is not stopping anytime soon. As of 12 April, Malaysia had 184 new cases, bringing the total number of cases to 4,530. Meanwhile on 10 April, Prime Minister Muhyiddin Yassin extended the Movement Control Order by another two weeks to 28 April. The advertising industry has no doubt been impacted during this period, with clients either holding back spending or are required to quickly rethink their strategies to suit the current landscape.

A+M speaks to leaders in the agency space on how the advertising scene has changed during COVID-19 and whether they have seen a dip in ad spend.

Yeow Mei Ling, managing director, Southeast Asia, Archetype

We find that many of our clients are really busy and truly appreciate the support and perspectives that their agency partner can provide. So, while spend has definitely been affected, we are reassured by the stance that communications is important no matter what – it’s about what is being said, how we can support and how we continue to connect Having a very diverse client base has helped us take learnings and quickly move from our regular work to more strategic outreach that is tuned to the more sensitive and confined environment that we work in today. By being creative, agile and proactive, we are able to partner with our clients to quickly shift communications focus and platforms to drive new opportunities.

Peter de Krester, CEO, GO Communications

For many of us in the marketing world, COVID-19 has created an unexpected paradigm shift in the way we manage the impact and expectancies of key stakeholders. While many are treading with caution and observation, one humbly believes the time for powerful storytelling has never been more essential in engaging with consumers.

Over the last few weeks, we have seen both agencies and brands pivot their campaigns toward predicament and audience behaviour.

The game may have changed but the players remain the same! With backs against the wall and a fresh approach to communications, it is pleasing to see innovative solutions being implemented to fruition, which may have not otherwise been thought of. It’s an intriguing time for those within the PR industry. At its embryonic core, the PR business has forever centred on the power of a good story – that won’t change anytime soon!

This may be a period where professionals can use this opportunity to truly harvest their creativity and deep-dive into well-defined story angles further accommodating our friends from the media fraternity.

Although highlighted as a time of isolation, there couldn’t be a greater need for PR professionals to be engaged! Engaged with their colleagues, clients and the media; engaged in formulating new strategies and ideas; engaged in the evolving media landscape and what editors and publishers might be looking for; or at the very least, engaged in each other’s wellbeing while championing solidarity in an unprecedented time for us all.

Lui Xiao Yee, head of client servicing, Kingdom Digital

We noticed that there has been a surge in searches for self-enrichment content – content that would normally not go viral, for example, “Dalgona coffee”. There are also queries for content that is only applicable during these times such as “What to do during lockdown?” and “How to workout at home?” as Malaysians continue to stay at home. As such, brands need to adjust and adapt their content accordingly.

Other than the usual platforms, we also discovered that content creators are playing an important role in this situation as we are seeing more user-generated content such as TikTok videos, Instagram live posts, and viral memes from them. They can be an effective medium that advertisers can leverage on to reach out to their audiences.

Overall, we are seeing about 10% to 20% dip in clients’ ad spend.

We totally understand the clients’ decision to revise the ad budget and spending. It is only logical, given the uncertainties that are all around us. We are, however, committed to creating quality content for our clients regardless of the budget. Hence, we continue to find creative yet cost-efficient ways to help our clients sustain brand awareness and create engagement during this period.

Abhishek Bhattacharjee, chief digital officer, Invictus Blue

At a platform level, obviously digital has shot up tremendously, and within a span of few weeks there have emerged accelerated ways of engaging on digital platforms which were never explored before. That is a good thing. It has forced us to think and to adapt. It also has pushed clients and agencies alike to dive deeper into digital advertising opportunities which, in the long run will impact positively.

At a macro level, it has made us think harder, tell a story better and engage more meaningfully. We would not term it as a dip yet because it is really too soon to set that as a verdict.

Yes, budgets are being re-evaluated, stances are being re-evaluated and rightfully so.

So it is more like enhanced care being taken towards every word spoken, given the tough times we all face. In terms of budgets we might see a dip since last year, but probably it is better to be sure of every word we speak as a brand before any marketing dollars are spent.

Saurabh Chandrashekhar, GM, MediaCom

COVID-19 has done to advertising and marketing budgets in a few weeks, what has been taking years and years – adopt digital as a strategic pillar and not just a touchpoint to reach people. Spends are now moving to digital and creativity is thriving – brands are partnering with each other. For example, ITC Foods is partnering with Domino’s to deliver food in India, Shell offered haircuts in China at its fuel stations and there are several cases happening right here in Malaysia. We’re also seeing greater collaboration emerging in the ecosystem and we hope that continues to be the case.

For Ramadan in particular, it is an important consumption period and we do not expect that to change, given the importance of this period in Malaysia.

Hence, spends will follow the demand and we don’t see adverse impacts on the spends this festive season.

Nizwani Shahar, chief executive, Ogilvy Malaysia

Martech is a great enabler of communications as we strive to make sure every ringgit spent moves the business needle. We are driving strong content to commerce initiatives necessitated by a stronger need for social commerce due to the jump in social media usage. ESports is also seeing an increased spike in consumption which is a great opportunity for brands given the lack of sporting events in the near future. Brands need to find ways to navigate these changing ecosystems and we are proud to partner our clients to help them stay the course.

We have seen some [ad spend] flux and it is to be expected during these times.

But we continue to be supportive of and adaptive to our clients changing business needs throughout.

Syed Nasir, business chief, The Clan

We are living in strange times, and our industry is not spared either. It is imperative that we remain vigilant and embrace the new norm; social distancing with our colleagues, building and executing campaigns in the comfort of our homes, brainstorming and presenting our campaign ideas over video conferencing whilst finding innovative ways to navigate through this clutter of the unknown. Furthermore, consumer behaviour insights are changing daily but if we do not test or act on it, there is a huge possibility we too will stumble.

Our clients in the non-essential sectors are feeling the pinch and have witnessed a dip in sales over past month.

With no clear indication on the status of the festive season, they have clawed back on their spending, which traditionally are their best performing period.

Parames Dorai, group chief business officer, FOREFRONT

Businesses have either had to kickstart or accelerate their digital transformation, to shift towards eCommerce to sustain their businesses or to focus on promoting brand awareness on digital platforms. Virtual events such as webinars and training courses are more common now, as brands try to connect and interact with their audience through these digital experiences. Brands that were hesitant to adopt social tools such as Instagram Live, podcasts, and TikTok are also readily embracing them to expand their reach.

Staying connected to their customers and employees during this pandemic is crucial for businesses.

These advertising changes they have made are likely to go beyond this crisis and carry over to becoming the new norm.

It is important to note that the cost to advertise is now lower for most industries, due to the lowered cost per click on digital channels such as Facebook, which is typical during the post-New Year period. Currently, these platforms are where clients are investing time and effort to reach their consumers currently. So while there has been an expected decrease in ad spend during this period, clients are also funnelling their ad spend towards where it matters digitally and heightening their focus on organic engagement.

A+M’s Content 360 conference is going virtual, and will bring together industry leaders to discuss challenges and share insights on future content marketing trends, as well as successful strategies to help tackle the complex marketing landscape. Sign up here!

Insight
Apr 10

How Malaysian brand and agencies are evolving their Ramadan executions in light of COVID-19

Marketers worldwide are deferring their planned campaigns as a result of COVID-19 and a recent study by WFA found that 79% are creating new messages that respond directly to the impact of the crisis on consumers’ lives. In Malaysia, the pandemic could potentially to coincide with the period of Ramadan and Hari Raya, one of the important festive seasons in the country during which brands commonly produce campaigns to celebrate the festivities. Currently, Malaysians are made to stay at home due to a Movement Control Order (MCO), and everyone is awaiting with bated breath as to whether it will be further extended after 14 April.

With much uncertainty surrounding the economy, the fate of Ramadan and Hari Raya campaigns is still up in the air. One brand to carry on with its festive campaigns is Telekom Malaysia (TM). In a phone conversation with A+M, Izlyn Ramli, TM’s VP, group brand and communication, said regardless of the current situation, its Ramadan and Raya campaigns will continue to celebrate the spirit of reflection and gratitude.

However, she said the team is also mindful that they need to be creative to cut through the clutter, especially on digital media, where brands have been flocking to in an effort to capture consumers’ attention. One way to do so is to look at what consumers are doing, for example. Izlyn said TM’s focus is to always push out meaningful messages.

Now more than ever, we need to be authentic. As a brand, we want to remain true to who we are and keep people connected.

She added that timing is also paramount as brands need to deliver the right messages at this time. “We will see plenty of themes around celebrating humanity and remembering the frontliners,” Izlyn predicted.

Instead of reducing its ad spend during this period, the telco has repurposed its advertising and promotion budget for CSR initiatives. These include PSAs for consumers to stay home. With most consumers remaining at home during the MCO period, the main channels of focus for TM include print, TV, social media, EDM, direct mailers as well as videos that are shareable on WhatsApp.

“We want to be useful to Malaysians and have them stay home, keep them entertained and stay connected. We want to focus on being of value instead of pushing sales and hard selling,” Izlyn added. Some of the initiatives TM has taken include PSAs on ways to stay up to date with the latest COVID-19 news, tips on picking up new skills when at home, and how consumers can remain occupied with unlimited data and entertainment with unifi Home.

Separately, a spokesperson for QSR Brands said it wants to lead with purpose during the COVID-19 pandemic. “We understand that the upcoming Ramadan and Raya period is an extremely important season for Malaysians. Throughout this season, our commitment remains – to provide Malaysians with delicious, fresh and safe-to-eat food, without compromising any values and quality in our services,” the spokesperson said. QSR is also now busy developing special Ramadan and Raya promotions for both KFC and Pizza Hut Malaysia, which will be announced soon.

Proving the real value of advertising

Like TM, agency heads A+M spoke to said they are currently working with clients to ensure the brands demonstrate real value during such trying times.

From a media buying standpoint, MediaCom Malaysia is working with clients to rethink the entire chain of marketing communications to go fully digital. This is especially important since there are restrictions on some of the fundamental activities of Ramadan, such as community prayers, open houses, and travel. GM Saurabh Chandrashekhar told A+M that for most of its clients’ products, relevance increases during this period of Ramadan and Raya, and consumption does see a spike. Therefore, there will still be “a concerted effort” to market these products.

“What is definitely going to be restrategised, is the ‘how’, where we are working with our clients to crack marketing and communications to be extremely thoughtful, empathetic, that completes the loop in a no-friction delivery of the promise,” he explained.

The considerations taken by Chandrashekhar’s team revolve around a few fundamental questions:
– Are we solving a real issue for the consumer or are we just entertaining them?
– What do we need to equip ourselves with in order to deliver what we promised?

When these questions are kept in mind, Chandrashekhar said it becomes easier for the team to think about ideas.

Meanwhile, Trapper Media Group is also sending more digital proposals and discussing with OOH media owners for extensions for loss of visibility and exposure due to reductions in traffic count – but this it says, is bound to spike once MCO is over. The agency is also seeing clients requesting for virtual event ideas and plans. That said, it boils down to the clientele. For the agency, FMCG clients are still spending as normal because most products are still listed as essentials during the MCO, but media selects have changed with more home-based mediums are being considered. Trapper also tries to leverage on co-branded partnership between clients for Ramadan and Raya campaigns.

“It is a tough period and some of our clients fall under the essential category during this period, and we realise that certain available mediums do have an emotional attachment with consumers to drive top of mind recall,” the team added. As for those that are directly affected by the MCO, Trapper said the more appropriate response is to wait it out as it is going to be “for a short time more”.

While a “wait and watch” philosophy is generally prevalent, Invictus Blue’s chief digital officer, Abhishek Bhattacharjee, said clients who are still activating their festive campaigns are doing so by adapting and conceptualising communications which add value to everyone, rather than pushing products. He added brands, in these times, play a very important role in deciding what to communicate as the mouth piece of information, content or entertainment.

Also, Bhattacharjee explained that this is a unique opportunity to purposefully demonstrate the real value of advertising as not being primarily a sales promotion medium. Instead, it advertising can be used to promote meaningful dialogue between a brand and the population and have more of a symbiotic co-existence.

Seldom do we come across times like these when the entire population has the same thing on their mind.

“That is our biggest consideration – the fact that there are greater sentiments at play than the contest, campaign video, new product line up or the new menu,” he said. If the campaigns do not add value to these macro-sentiments at large in some way, be it through uniting people, or supporting people, or in any other meaningful manner, Bhattacharjee said perhaps it is not the right message at this time

He added that during this period, there are daily micro-level insights that emerge, which were never prevalent before, such as cooking at home everyday, socialising on video, and working out virtually. These are the factors that the team at Invictus Blue consider when brainstorming for campaigns. Bhattacharjee said a keen understanding of these insights is what will drive great ideas and meaningful conversations or even humane gestures in the least.

A+M’s Content 360 conference is going virtual, and will bring together industry leaders to discuss challenges and share insights on future content marketing trends, as well as successful strategies to help tackle the complex marketing landscape. Sign up here!

Empathy a key theme

During trying times such as this, brands walk the fine line between remaining relevant and being seen as opportunistic. In view of this, it is important to for clients to take on a more authentic, nuanced and empathic approach on how they can celebrate the festive season through this “new normal” lens, Ogilvy Malaysia’s chief executive Nizwani Shahar said.

“Much speculation surrounds the MCO in relation to Raya. Regardless, we recognised very early into the MCO that there would be a shift in the cultural implications of how we will experience and celebrate the festive season,” Nizwani said. She added that the agency is tapping on its consumer insights and data discover, to plot trends and develop a clear point of view on what brands can do this festive season.

“A big consideration is empathy. We need to assess and understand if what we are doing is right given consumer sentiments and also the mood of the nation,” Nizwani said. According to her, this allows the agency to define a clear role for the brand to play in helping Malaysians experience the best of the occasion. She also encourages brands to constantly communicate and be omnipresent during this time. However, the agency is also vigilant that the manner in which a brand behaves and speaks can make a difference between being relevant or opportunistic.

Similarly, FOREFRONT’s group chief business officer, Parames Dorai, said its clients are shifting the focus of their Raya campaigns to be more empathetic, helpful and community-driven. Initiatives such as #KitaJagaKita, established by Malaysian author Hanna Alkaf to help vulnerable communities, are rallying Malaysians from all walks of life. With that in mind, Dorai said its clients are pushing for Ramadan and Raya campaigns that are more community-driven, to provide support to the people in need.

“In that vein, campaigns have been scaled back about 50%. Ramadan or Raya open houses are also put on hold to abide by possible government restrictions on mass gatherings in the coming months,” Dorai added.

She also said that instead of simply emulating successful festive campaigns in recent years, brands and clients should be observing, listening, and adapting to what consumers need to see and hear during this time. “Ramadan or Raya ads this year don’t have to be devoid of the festive spirit and acts of piety. Rather, we can focus on ads that aim to spread love to vulnerable communities and focus on the preservation of life, a key aspect in Islam,” Dorai explained.

Also weighing in on the issue was Kingdom Digital’s head of client servicing Lui Xiao Yee, who said the agency is consulting with clients accordingly on how best to proceed. “We want to make sure that the content we produce for our clients are not only in line with their brand image, but also relevant to their audiences’ feelings and needs currently,” she explained. For the upcoming Raya festivities, Lui said clients in the essential services sector are moving ahead with their planned ad spending. On the other hand, those that are impacted by the MCO, however, are currently restrategising their online presence to fit into the current narrative.

Types of content the agency is currently helping clients to push out include stock replenishment, operating hours, and updates on government announcements and guidelines. It also wants consumers to remain upbeat during this challenging period through fun and engaging content, including self-enrichment.

Besides being more authentic and providing value, brands are also even more active on digital as it has proven to be an effective medium to target consumers who are often at home. “While most of our clients are occupied with the current MCO and change in business mode, there are still a few who are asking us to continue pushing Ramadan and Raya campaigns digitally, while ensuring the messaging is sensitive to today’s context,” Casey Loh, creative chief at The Clan, said.

Despite this being a challenging time for the adland as clients are slashing their spending, The Clan is still taking very brief that comes its way as an opportunity to challenge the status quo and introduce newer innovations, to not just join the conversation but also be part of the solution, Loh explained.

“It’s all about making a difference to those affected by the MCO and the COVID-19 pandemic. So while top of mind awareness is important for brands, affinity is really what we are aiming for in these difficult times,” he explained.

Insight
Mar 18

Malaysian agency heads react to 2-week lockdown

Malaysia has kicked off its two-week lockdown until 31 March. Since the announcement was made on the night of 16 March, businesses, schools and citizens had 24 hours to put in place work from home measures. Firms in Singapore were also scrambling to find accommodations for their Malaysian employees before the lockdown was officially in place, multiple media outlets including The Straits Times and Channel NewsAsia reported. This is the first time Malaysia has implemented the Movement Control Order, which sees travel being restricted, banning of movement and assembly nationwide, as well as closure of schools.

A+M speaks to agency heads on how the two-week lockdown will impact the local advertising industry.

Sandeep Joseph, CEO, Ampersand Advisory

The two-week restriction of movement is extremely necessary for health and safety reasons.

This is one of those times when advertising and business must take a back seat compared to health and life itself.

The ad world will adjust, as it always does. Work from home, conference calls, collaboration tools, greater understanding and flexibility are the order of the day. Paradoxically, I see clients and agencies potentially getting closer as we all work through the same challenges.

To me, what is interesting is what comes after 31 March. Will this lockdown change the way we work for the better? I hope so! It could hopefully lead to less unnecessary proforma face to face meetings, more clarity in written communications, less time spent commuting, more flexi-work in terms of locations and hours, more focused conversations and virtual meetings.

Financially, 2020 is definitely going to be a very difficult year for everyone: consumers, businesses, agencies, media owners. To survive, one must be prudent, confident, go the extra mile and reinvent how we work and deliver. Value your people and trust them to deliver. Partner your clients and go the extra mile. Relook, revisit, reset, reimagine. And take difficult and necessary decisions when needed.

Tania Tai, managing director, DIA Brands Consultants Malaysia

The impact of the two-week lockdown is far more devastating in these times, especially when the economy has yet to fully recover from the prolonged recession. It will be tough days ahead for businesses, as they grapple with ongoing fixed overhead costs without any incoming revenue. This is when, we will realise that the only way to fight the disruption brought on by the outbreak, is to disrupt.

Resilience to tahan (endure) will come from these sources: organisational agility, radical innovation and the Internet of Things.

When times are good, it’s easy to be a star, but when times are bad, these will be the defining moments for the true character of the brand to shine. Following closures, the Viennese opera and The MET opera have started live streaming of performances for free to connect with audiences around the world. While closer to home, M Group has reached out to help the marginalised tide over this period with free meals. So the big question for brand owners: what will these tough times say about you?

Prashant Kumar, founder and senior partner, Entropia

COVID-19 will affect out of home consumption dramatically which includes restaurants, travel, hospitality, outdoor entertainment, and sports and others. However, it is expected to provide a big boost to in home consumption and delivery businesses across FMCG categories.

Semi-durables and durables purchases are expected to get affected as people postpone their purchase decisions focusing on the new living paradigm. Healthier alternatives within different categories are expected to explode in demand, so it is a big opportunity for advertisers to rapidly move to help people lead healthier and more immune lives. In terms of economy, and hence short term consumption levels, the worst affected segment will be casual blue collar workers – a huge segment – who may not have the security of a regular salary and permanent contract to tide over these times. This can dampen consumption unless policy makers take hard steps to help them.

Eventually, as per a Harvard study, the virus is expected to infected almost 70% of the global population. However, between those who will suffer from its expression and those where it may not show any symptoms, the difference will lie in immunity levels. So it is now time for relevant brands and categories to bring right solutions to the fore. The net multiplier effect of all that is happening around the world in addition to US China trade war, slowing Chinese economy and disrupted supply and demand chain, may precipitate a major recession resetting growth curve.

At Entropia we have a complete lockdown in effect with all business being conducted virtually since Sunday evening for next four weeks. We welcome the government’s decision for a two-week lock down. In the long run, it is clear that we need a global health regime with deeply co-ordinated contagion response protocol, that can effectively anticipate, isolate and resolve similar or worse contagions unfolding in future. Such a protocol will need to involve public bodies, civil society and businesses in a highly interoperable control systems.

Shaun Tay, co-owner and CEO of FCB Malaysia

Forced to rethink and adapt on the fly, the restricted movement act will be a true test of an agency’s character and culture.

Agile, adaptable and fundamentally sound cultures will preserve.

This fact is not new but this situation does pull a spotlight onto what we call the new normal of business operations in uncertain times. With flexibility and adaptability at the core of FCB KL’s culture we’ve always tried to be one step ahead of the situation. For example, being the first major agency to switch to a co-working space for location flexibility and to implement a work from home or off site policy even before the government restrictions came into play.

Andrew Lee, group MD, Havas Malaysia

Situations like these challenge us. They put us in a position of making decisions that we have never made before. The first and foremost priority in these uncertain times is safety. The lockdown in Malaysia may be disruptive to businesses but it will save lives.

The temporary financial losses are minor inconveniences compare to the lives we can save.

Our clients are also facing the same challenges and pressures that we are. They need us more than ever right now, and we are committed to help them navigate uncertainty, pivot plans quickly and to offer them support.

Dorothy Fong, founder and CEO, IDOTYOU

The two-week restriction on movement has definitely impacted our business. A number of scheduled production shoots over the next two weeks have now been postponed and some even cancelled. That said, our clients in the F&B and retail markets will still continue to operate partially with the allowance of deliveries, drive-thrus, and eCommerce services during this time. Hence, we expect to see a shift in marketing budgets to drive customers to purchase online, rather than a cut in budgets entirely.

Ryan Ong, CEO of Kingdom Digital

The two-week nationwide movement control order was a commendable move by the Malaysian government. As an agency leader, nothing is more important to me than the safety and health of my team. Hence, I am all for it.

I consider myself and my team to be very fortunate as our nature of business (digital agency) gives us the flexibility to work from home during these trying times. I believe the same can be said for other agencies or businesses whose work can be conducted online as well, as this means that the day-to-day could still be carried out.

Many, if not most, businesses are feeling the effects of the virus. Brands and marketers need to ensure they are adjusting their marketing strategy accordingly, which could mean reducing ad budgets or pausing certain ad campaigns. If one’s nature of business deals with items that are now flying off the shelves quickly or low in stocks, it is important to keep the ads and/or social postings up-to-date and communicate them clearly to customers.

That said, this partial lockdown will definitely affect workflow, deliverables, and revenue for not just us but all the other agencies as well, as brands and marketers err on the side of caution when it comes to marketing or advertising strategy. But I believe as long as we have a proper plan and infrastructure in place, maintain an open line of communication with our clients, alongside a committed team, we should be able to go through this difficult time.

Nizwani Shahar, chief executive, Ogilvy Malaysia

While the two-week Movement Control Order in Malaysia is necessary for us all to commit to social distancing in an effort to flatten the curve, it will see us all as Malaysians and advertisers having to adjust to a new normal. Activations, sampling, media events and campaign launches are the first to take a hit as we remove all public assemblies. Brands will now be over-indexing on in-home media increasingly (i.e. pay TV or free-to-air) while digital and social will be the platforms to be cluttered as brands fight for attention.

Brands that thrive and overcome this phase are those that provide service and value through these tough times.

Brands that speak to consumers and empathise with the situation. Most important for us at Ogilvy is to support our clients through these turbulent times. We are primed to do so and we have also been agile in our delivery to ensure our clients’ brands are able to pivot in messaging and marketing efforts without losing sight of its brand essence.

Casey Loh, chief creative, The Clan

We are establishing business continuity and contingency plans now and briefing the teams our standard operating procedure for daily reporting and brainstorms. As my partner, business chief Syed Nasir, has said too, this will really test our people’s ability to work remotely and efficiently. As we are all about people and collaboration, having to work remotely may limit the sense of synergy that we’ve always enjoyed at The Clan.

Though it is not something we have not done before, the circumstances now are different from having to call in for a brainstorm or video call a pre-production meeting. To constantly be in touch with each other while juggling clients’requests can be quite a challenge. However, having the right systems and team leads in place can make all the difference so we have to be agile enough to adopt a new strategy as the days play out.

I think in a way this Movement Control Order is a forced reset on the industry and how clients’ demands are met with more structure in place.

It is forcing the industry to rethink the way it interacts with each other and perhaps even do away with the multi-layered approval processes which can sometimes hinder speedier turnaround. And yet with all the tech and connections we have set in place for the way we keep track of things, I still think getting people to huddle together every once in a while is a great way to feed of each other’s creative energy and find a solution that would not be possible when working in isolation.

Now seems to be the perfect time to deploy even more dynamic tools that will help clients chart the progress of their campaigns and for team members to jump in and out of different milestones to save time and manpower. We are still in the midst of perfecting this ourselves so hopefully this will give us the insight we need to make the tool even better.

Sivanathan Krishnan, group CEO and founder of Trapper Media Group

The advertising industry in particular now has to adapt to new working conditions as well as the changing media landscape, albeit for two weeks. The understanding of how media is consumed in the next two weeks will make or break an agency or media owner. Media agencies will now need to find out or hypothesise which media is more consumed versus others.

With the stay home order, naturally, the consumption of TV and digital will see a substantial increase. TV3 saw almost 20% increase in ratings since the outbreak began in December 2019 versus March 2020. This period may be a high risk period for some advertisers, especially reserved ones. Campaigns may be postponed and cancelled, which is understandable, given the nature of their product and industry. However, there is an opportunity here for the industry to work together and show how we can elevate our clients’ brands and achieve their goals, not by capitalising on the outbreak and lockdown but to show that a brand cares for the well-being of the country and its citizens.

On the agency front, there is constant updates and huddle between team leads, their people and the management team. Minimal impact as the agency is agile since most of what we do is on cloud base, therefore we can work from practically anywhere. Our teams are in constant contact with clients thanks to Zoom and Google Hangout and, yes there are some campaigns that are affected but thankfully only minimally.

According to Darwin’s theory, it is not the most intellectual of the species that survive nor the strongest that survives. But the species that survives is the one that is able to adapt to its changing environment. So who knows? We will find that in two weeks, people can actually work from home and yet deliver the goodies to clients and the organisation. As such, agencies will adapt. Customers who have never done anything online, such as ordering for food or essentials, will adapt and find true meaning to their understanding of technology. So we are positive that in all risks, there are opportunities abound.

Jules Nadan, agency director, 16TWO

It has become so important now, more than ever for agencies to be intuitive, adaptive and responsive to clients’ needs as well as shifts in consumer attitudes and behaviours. With people spending considerably more time at home on their phones or screens, and with their families, we can expect significant shifts in budgets to online, social, and OTT, etc. With that said, it is time to creatively and strategically challenge ourselves in terms of providing timely, relevant and contextual ads that best speak to our audiences at this point in time.

Insight
Aug 06

6 Facebook do’s and don’ts to keep in mind

Running a successful social media account for your brand or business can be tough. Between planning content, posting content, creating attractive visuals, and responding to messages, your workload can add up, and it can be frustrating when your posts on social media go unnoticed!

As a social media agency, we are experienced in helping our clients manage their social media pages through content strategy and planning. Based on that, here are some of our recommended do’s and don’ts to best optimise your brand’s Facebook presence.

1. Know who your audience is.

Your brand’s target audience is arguably the most important point there is. Your messaging needs to be on-brand, but it also needs to be relevant to your audience to be effective. Firstly, you need to identify your target market, then learn more about who your actual audience is via social media analytics and social ad testing.

For example, ookyo, a telco brand with a mainly millennial audience, would require content that’s fun and eye-catching.

On the other hand, Sangobion, an iron supplement brand with a target audience of women from the ages of 25 to 45, would require messaging that’s more serious and informational.

2. Have a content strategy in place.

Everything begins with content strategy on a good social media page. Having strategy in place gives your brand’s content purpose, creates a strong identity for your brand, and will therefore strengthen the overall quality of the messaging that goes out to your target audience.

Having a dedicated social media strategy team that does in-depth research on your brand and its competitors is one way that could help your brand acquire a structured social media plan to produce relevant content.

Take a look at some of the pages that we manage for our clients with social media strategy in place.

3. Less is more.

It’s a common phrase for a reason. This applies to both images and your word count on Facebook posts!

Busy and cluttered images can distract your audience from your product(s). According to Facebook’s best practices, photos that have background space and are symmetrical and well-lit tend to gain better audience engagement.

How about words? Well, whether you’re referring to the text within an image or the text accompanying it, keeping it short is key to getting better audience engagement. You’ll need short, snappy, and a relevant message to get your audience to stop scrolling and pay attention.

For example, this Facebook post on the left would work better than the one beside it – it cuts through all the clutter and gets the message across.

4. The ideal video ad length is within 15-30 seconds.

According to Facebook, people often watch mobile videos in short bursts when they’re on-the-go. This means that you’ve got to capture your audience’s attention early, or else they’ll get bored and click away from content that doesn’t engage them. Therefore, it’s best to keep your videos short, preferably within 15 to 30 seconds, and mention your brand – or the point of your video – within the first 3 seconds. In a study done by Facebook, consumers were 23% more likely to remember a brand if it was featured within the first 3 seconds, versus 13% more likely if it was featured within the first 4.

Here’s an example of a video that we did for Haier Malaysia’s Facebook page:

5. Use hashtags in your post captions but keep quality in mind over quantity.

Hashtags on social media are used to categorise content, make it easier to discover new content, and gather social insights. Therefore, it’s important to know the most effective way of using them.

While hashtags work better on Instagram than Facebook, using the relevant ones on both platforms and less of them are key to better audience engagement. People tend to scroll past quicker if you #use #too #many #hashtags #that #aren’t #relevant. (See what we mean?)

Here’s how we incorporated a hashtag into the post caption to accompany a video posted on MyTOWN KL’s page.

6. Explore different post formats.

You can play around with different post formats as well. JPEG and generic video format posts work well, but it can create more audience engagement if you switch things up once in a while to include formats including but not limited to canvas, “tap to expand” posts, mini albums, 180° or 360° image posts, and polls.

Here’s an example of a 360° image post that we create as part of an engagement contest for EVA Air Malaysia’s Facebook page.

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