Emily Tan
May 27, 2015

Rebranding: How Courts Malaysia is using humour to unite Malaysians

KUALA LUMPUR - Concocting a brand personality that cuts across multicultural and multi-strata Malaysia is tough. But electronics and furniture retailer Courts Malaysia is finding success with a $6 million refresh that includes advertising, store redesigns, a new ecommerce platform and, for the first time in 20 years, a brand ambassador.

Rebranding: How Courts Malaysia is using humour to unite Malaysians

Malaysia's multicultural population helps to explain why it has taken Courts Malaysia 20 years to select an official brand ambassador since the end of its relationship with its last one, popular local chanteuse Fauziah Latiff.

In comedian Harith Iskandar however, the electronics and furniture retailer has found someone unique. Unlike many Malaysian celebrities, Harith is popular with both the urban and rural populations as well as among all three of the nation’s three main ethnic groups.

“He not only has the charm and popularity of a celebrity but he brings a certain aspirational value to the brand,” commented Low Bee Yin, marketing director at Courts Malaysia. “His personality reaches out to customers who have grown up with our brand and know us but never really took the trouble to drop by.”

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In the past, noted Low, Harith has mostly appealed to Malaysia’s urban population. But in recent years his starring role in the a popular TV show, Lawak Ke Der, has helped him build a following among Malaysia’s more generally rural Malay populations.

As the new face of Courts, Harith fronts the brand’s largest nationwide campaign, “Senang Sahaja, Courts Ada” (Living easy with Courts). The US$6 million marketing effort stretches beyond a multi-platform campaign that includes TV, print, radio, online, outdoor and events to include store redesigns, a new ecommerce platform (to be launched later this year) and training for service staff.

The new push on marketing also includes a presence on Facebook, something the brand has tried in the past but pulled out of, and a TV partnership with Astro around comedy show Raja Lawak.

To handle creative, Courts engaged newly launched boutique agency DVG Media, founded by former Grey Group ECD David Sin, plus Mindshare to handle media and Ogilvy PR to manage communications. Courts has also engaged e-Bee Global Solutions to relaunch its ecommerce platforms. Vocanic has been engaged to manage the Facebook page.

Courts has a surprisingly long and tangled history. It was founded in the United Kingdom in 1850 but in 2004 it went into administration and today no longer has any operations in the UK. Its Caribbean operations were sold off to Regal Holdings Limited in 2006, and they exist independently of the chain of Courts stores in Southeast Asia, which is separately incorporated and headquartered in Singapore.

The store has existed in some form or another in Malaysia for 28 years and, as a result, has both the heritage of a household name and the baggage of all its prior incarnations. Fortunately, the new management, said Low, believes in the power of branding.

The recently launched long-term campaign’s goal is to promote not only Courts' new easy-to-shop-in stores and delivery services, but also to highlight the brand’s price guarantee. “Because we are so well known for offering hire-purchase terms, there is a perception that our products are not competitively priced,” explained Low. “But the ‘Courts promise’ means if you find the same product you’ve just purchased from us for a lower price elsewhere, we will refund the price difference up to three times.”

Communicating this point matters to Courts because while the hire-purchase scheme has attracted new household owners, it has been alienating the thrifty. This is especially true following the debut of Malaysia’s first goods and services tax (GST) on 1 April. “Immediately, there was a slowdown, even over the Hari Raya (Eid al-Fitr) period,” said Low. “But we, like many other retailers in Malaysia, were expecting this lull period as consumers take a step back and see how things are going before resuming their normal shopping habits.”

This period of reassessment, she added, made for an opportune time to refresh the brand with its price assurance, and to find a role in the Malaysian consumer’s life as a source for home products that were both affordable and good value.

Low Bee Yin
Low Bee Yin

“This brand campaign has allowed us to show our emotional side, how we have been providing value to their lives through every key stage, first marriage, first child, first dream home and the latest digital gadget,” said Low. “This sets the stage.”

The campaign’s approach, Low continued, was based on consumer research. “Everyone is worrying about sustaining their lifestyles in the face of Malaysia’s rising cost of living. So our promise that you can 'Live easy with Courts' ties into a need.”

The tagline also plays well with the Malays, who form the majority of Courts’ consumers. “In Malay ‘hidup senang’ is a goal, or a dream in life," Low said. "To have a life of ease and without trouble." By raising the profile of Courts as a place to go to obtain value-for-money merchandise, the brand also hopes to grow its consumer base among Chinese and Indian Malaysians.

According to early evidence, the new marketing push may be working; three weeks after its launch, sales at the stores were back to pre-GST levels, Low said. 


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