Philips in Singapore appointed Phua as its new head of brand, communications and digital for Asean and Pacific last week. He replaces Damien Cummings, who joined Standard Chartered in May. Phua was most recently vice president and head of marketing for Philips Consumer Lifestyle in Shanghai, handling marketing and digital strategy. He also led the domestic appliances and coffee businesses in Greater China.
In your new role, what will your priorities be for the first 12 months?
Philips has always had a strong heritage of innovations in the healthcare, lifestyle and lighting spaces. As such we are a clear market leader in many lines of businesses within these spaces.
This means we cover a wide spectrum of stakeholders and customer groups—from clinicians and consumers to the C-suite, architects, governments and more.
From an external standpoint, it is important to realise Philips is more than a sum of its parts. We are known as a leading lifestyle company, but we are also one of the leading healthcare companies in the world.
We’re taking that expertise in healthcare and combining it with our deep understanding of consumers to create solutions that will empower people to take greater control of their health across the 'health continuum'—from healthy living and prevention to diagnosis, treatment, recovery and home care.
Our priority is to strengthen our brand positioning across the entire health continuum.
Within Philips, we are making the right investments, building a marketing team, and establishing a marketing operating model that will enable us to prioritise and scale our brand-building efforts across the region.
What do you think are some of the challenges faced by Philips as a brand in the region?
Philips as a brand has had a long history in Asean and Pacific. We opened our first office in Singapore back in 1951.
We recognise the challenge behind the diversity of the 10 countries that we manage, across our wide spectrum of businesses.
This is where we come back to our core: identifying and delivering on locally relevant innovation, not only in products but also in solutions and business models.
This gives the brand real substance and provides the opportunity for strong brand-building and activation efforts, organised behind our marketing operating model.
What is your personal philosophy or approach to marketing?
I have a passion in pioneering and testing new approaches to marketing, such as marrying consumer insights to finding new and simpler ways to articulate differentiated unique selling points.
I believe in results-oriented marketing, which requires us to focus on customers and end-consumers, to inspire each other every day, to lead changes, and to push the boundaries of innovation.
Your remit covers digital. What will be your strategy for leveraging this space?
With the rapid evolution of digital, we first need to recognise our circle of competence within the digital space. Specifically, understanding what the data means versus what the data says.
The customer-decision journey continues to be more fluid and there is no foolproof way to measure it. There are too many broken journeys—switching between multiple devices and identities—and programmatic buying is certainly not the panacea.
There is little distinction between bots or real people viewing content. Studies estimate that real people view only 20 to 50 percent of digital ad campaigns.
Therefore, we will focus on brand excellence at critical touchpoints and operating with speed, rather than constantly predicting journeys—whether these touchpoints are social media, online search, the press or experiential events.
We are particularly interested in uncovering deep insights, especially where our innovation is pivotal to the solution, so that our brand and marketing efforts are clearly directed.
Are you happy with Philips’ current roster of agencies handling the brand’s needs? Or do you have plans to review?
These are early days yet. I am going through the initial round of introduction meetings with our agency partners. We will certainly be very focused on delivering upon the relevant marketing KPIs, and continually raising the bar.