To commend this year’s list of Asia's top 1000 brands, Campaign Asia-Pacific hosted a gathering of brand marketers at an event in Singapore yesterday. On top of discussing overall findings in APAC and top performing brands in Singapore, we also invited marketers to share case studies, challenges, and ideas. Here’s the gist of what went down.
How should heritage brands transform in the digital age?
To answer the question above, our panelists say "they don’t really have to". Well, in a sense. According to Laura Quigley, managing director, SEA, Integral Ad Science, heritage brands often think they need to change dramatically and revolutionalise themselves in the digital economy.
“I argue that they don’t need to. I argue that they should keep true to themselves,” she said.
“My advice would be not to do anything half-baked. Build a digital strategy and build it well. Don’t just do social and have a Facebook page just because everyone has it. If you do it, really localise it. Also, lean on your agencies because they know best. You don’t need acquisitions or clicks to be successful. You can find other ways to be innovative.”
As an example, she cited one heritage brand that has nailed it: Lego. “They realised that education and creativity was going to drive the next generation and get people to start buying Lego. They brought education and creativity together. And the fact that they have that as a vision, they’re going to stick to it for a really long time,” she said.
Chief digital and marketing officer for Fuji Xerox, Susie Wong, agreed with Quigley’s point but added that heritage brands have remained successful in the market precisely because of transformation. But this ‘transformation’ cannot take place at the expense of core values.
“In transforming or reinventing a brand, what is it about your brand that customers have come to trust? Core values should never change,” said Wong.
Quigley said that digital innovation does not necessarily mean AI. “You can test different campaigns, test different metrics. It doesn’t have to be this big new sexy thing. We also have OTT and digital out of home now,” she said.
Meanwhile, Karthik Khare, global brand director for Unilever, said that the struggle for heritage brands is keeping the energy of the brand ‘fresh’. “We try to take steps to keep the consumer in the centre, we try to use new channels to execute insights, but ultimately, there’s a lot to learn along the way. Because nobody really knows.”
Three common characteristics of top brands
This year’s top 10 brands in Asia’s Top 1000 Brands survey have demonstrated incredible staying power at the top of our chart for many years now, underscored by Samsung’s eight-year reign as the number one brand.
In a panel discussion looking at what makes these brands special, Athena Bughao, senior media activation director for APAC at Essence, boiled it all down to resonance, localisation and resilience in the face of adversity. Backing this up was Samsung’s SEA head of corporate marketing Olivier Bockenmeyer, who noted that aside from the obvious—that having strong mobile products in a mobile-first region is key—all of these factors are constantly in play for the electronics brand in Asia.
“These brands are very good at taking a very common theme that is relatable to a lot of audiences,” said Bughao, using Samsung’s ‘Do what you can’t’ tagline. It’s a message audiences take very personally, she said. “It’s like a scaled personalisation.”
Localising this universal message was something Bockenmeyer expanded on. “I feel we have a good balance between global and local activations. Even though the innovations and launch campaigns are always global, we do allow a lot of flexibility to have local executions, local activations, and local engagement,” he said. “In this region where the markets are so diverse in terms of people, culture, market development and competition, it’s very hard to have a ‘one size fits all’ response.”
Finally, Bughao noted the importance of responding well to criticism in a social-media world where consumer crises quickly escalate. Samsung, of course, is no stranger to serious product and company missteps, but has always been able to emerge well from them.
“You need to confront reality if there is an issue and to address it, especially being consumer focused when it comes to security,” Bockenmeyer said, noting that developing new technologies will always involve a higher degree of risk-taking.
“You can’t take it lightly and it’s sometimes better to overreact than underreact.”