This is part of an article series for the Power List 2021, created in partnership with Twitter as part of their global #LeadersforGood initiative.
In the past year, we have seen brands drive the conversation on a range of issues, from gender diversity to environmental sustainability and equal access to healthcare.
For many on the 2021 Asia-Pacific Power List, one can’t have a business without brand equity and a clear direction for what a brand stands for, and vice versa.
As Yoegin Chang, senior brand director, global, at SK-II notes, “At the end of the day, if you build that trust with customers [through purpose], it would lead to brand and business growth. I think it’s definitely a necessity for brands to have a point of view and stand up for it.”
Abdul Sani Abdul Murad (Sani), group CMO at RHB says, “in the boardroom, it’s always going to be about financial results. The minute you don’t see results, you cut the budget.” But he also has another way of looking at it, “If you only focus on the market share and not brand building, the moment another competitor comes in, customers might switch you out as you don’t stand for anything.”
Arvinder Gujral, managing director, Southeast Asia at Twitter, the 2021 Power List partner, adds, “Conversations are the new marketing frontier for brands that have now become an important currency for brands. Savvy brands are moving beyond the desire for clicks and understand the importance of conversation. They understand how conversations can support their upper and lower marketing funnels and are leveraging Twitter's conversational superpower to drive brand awareness, intent and conversion.”
Brands need to use their voice for good - but in a relevant way
How should brands find the purpose they could credibly stand up for?
For SK-II, breaking beauty stereotypes form the backbone for many of their campaigns.
In 2017, the beauty brand created a campaign exploring the ‘leftover women’ phenomena in China. That was followed by one featuring the country’s marriage market in 2019.
Meanwhile, their latest VS animation series spotlights the real-life stories of six athletes who went through various societal pressures to get to where they are today.
“We’ve stayed true to one insight, which is the societal pressure put on women,” notes Chang.
RHB Bank has a tradition of pushing out relatable challenger stories, from a 10-year-old raising money for her sister’s leukemia treatments to a magician who had to learn some new tricks when the pandemic struck.
While many brands stay away from politics, the Malaysian bank confronted it head-on - in the aftermath of the 2018 Malaysian elections.
“After the election, the social fabric was ruptured. As a brand, we believe that everyone should have access to progress. We believed that this societal divide was destroying that, so we went out with the message, Malaysians should go beyond colours”, says Abdul.
The campaign drove strong results. According to Abdul, droves of Malaysians donned white coloured clothing in support of the messaging during Independence Day.
“If you are a reputable brand, customers are going to look towards you for guidance. Once it comes to that, a brand cannot be a fence sitter. They need to take a stand.”
Conversation is the new currency
When asked what brands need to do to drive conversation, Kevin Mintagara, SVP, ad solutions & marketing at Tokopedia notes, “agility”.
Marketers need to not only capitalise on an issue or phenomena aligned with their brand values, but also pick the right time to push out their messaging.
“We know our values, strengths and weaknesses. There are millions of convos out there you need to ensure you tap into the right frequency,” notes Mintagara.
For Tokopedia, that ‘frequency’ was a chess battle between Irene Sukandar, an international chess master, and Dadang Subur, an amateur player, in March.
Sabur had been accused of cheating in another battle with another international chess master earlier in the year, and popular Indonesia influencer Deddy Corbuzier decided to organised a match in a bid to prove that Subur was the real deal.
Tokopedia sponsored the tournament with an offer of a 50% discount to anyone who buys a board game during the match. The broadcast generated 12 million viewers globally - surpassing previous chess tournament live-streams.
“Chess is quite niche, but we realised many were trying to find new hobbies during the pandemic. After the match, Tokopedia became top of mind for people who wanted new hobbies,” says Mintagara.
That conversation could also be about driving customers to ‘buy local’. During COVID-19, Tokopedia encouraged Indonesians to buy ‘Pata’, a locally-grown vegetable.
“All Indonesian children turn their nose up at Pata, as it’s bitter and smelly. But during the pandemic, we wanted Indonesians to try it again.”
Not only has the campaign led to new-found appreciation for local produce, it has also helped drive business to local SMEs - one of the hardest-hit industries during the pandemic.
The ability to ‘pivot’ at a moment’s notice is especially important during a period of lockdown, says Mintagara, when ‘people feel hopeless and need a source of comfort.”
Measuring the effectiveness of the ‘power of conversation’
For powerful conversations to be sustainable, campaign metrics need to be well-defined. But do traditional metrics like reach and impressions suffice for purposeful campaigns?
“For us, it is less about reach frequency or click-through-rates,” notes Chang. “We want our work to reach our consumers, but we don’t want it to stop there. What matters is when our works have sparked conversations.” She says they get feedback from various channels “Obviously the quickest reactions will be via social media, but we also have customers come up to us in stores and share their thoughts.”
SK-II also appears to be looking at bigger and bigger distribution channels. Its latest VS series is distributed via a digital-led multi-channel approach including digital and social, leveraging media & influencers, and has hit 1.1 billion global views at time of writing.
Admittedly, Chang says, not everything they put out are ‘home-runs” but they’ve gotten very positive feedback on their campaigns so far.
For Mintagara, purposeful campaigns are measured via metrics such as brand recall and customer loyalty. When asked if he’d ever been pressured to make the decision on spending on ‘social impact’ or ‘sales’, he speaks of the ‘expanding mid- funnel marketing channels’. “These channels often raise awareness and at the same time, act as conversion channels. One example of this is KOL (influencer) marketing. I think this mid-channel marketing has been very exciting for brands.”
What about RBH bank, known for its socially-conscious storytelling. “Two key metrics we look out for are eyeballs and engagement - be it positive or negative feedback. I’m happy to say that so far, people have been engaging positively with our campaigns,” says Abdul.
Read the other stories in Campaign x Twitter 2021 Asia-Pacific Power List content series: