Rahul Sachitanand
Jan 11, 2022

The year ahead for CMOs: Sustainability, purpose, data, agility top the agenda in APAC

CMOs in 2022 will be challenged like never before with leaders focusing on brand purpose, data insights, sustainability, agility, complexity and the rise of new media, Campaign has discovered.

The year ahead for CMOs: Sustainability, purpose, data, agility top the agenda in APAC

After a rough 2020 when marketing budgets and jobs were slashed, 2021 brought some relief for marketers as they pivoted their businesses and brands and saw increased spend across the board. However, this optimism was tempered by ongoing concerns over the demise of the third-party cookies and the future of consumer identity; the pressing need to address sustainability and the complexity of managing this; and the continued demand for business agility. Even as CMOs juggle these varied demands, they are also wrestling with the opportunity and challenge of reaching out to an influential—and increasingly vocal—Gen Z through multiple touchpoints.

The rapid rise of the Omicron variant has shown that there's plenty of fluidity in the environment yet. CMOs assert that brands that have supported consumers through the hard years of the pandemic will profit in the long-term. In a challenging environment, marketers and brands will be pushed perhaps more than ever to stick with and even elevate their purpose, with consumers increasingly outspoken about their choices. Specific to APAC, marketers continue to be challenged by a heterogeneous market, with increasing focus on business agility and sharp category segmentation to meet the varied demands of this region. Senior marketers tell Campaign that companies in this geography are catching up on hot button topics such as sustainability, even as they race to find more accurate ways to cater to APAC's Gen Z audience.

Campaign Asia-Pacific reached out to some of APAC's top marketers to ask them about their focus areas for 2022. Here are some edited responses from them. 

Julie Nestor
Chief marketing and experience design officer
Manulife Asia

It’s been more than two years, and Covid is still here. Unsurprisingly, people are tired, with many unprepared for how long this has lasted. But we’re seeing glimmers of hope across Asia, especially in the changes in people’s health and financial habits. Brands have also adapted, adjusting their products, pricing, servicing and community investments to support customers during these hard times. Those brands that have adapted in this way will have a leading edge, as customers and employees now look to them to positively impact their communities.

As products commoditise, brand purpose and superior customer experience become important differentiators—even more so with younger audiences. Consumers want to know how we’re advancing a healthier and more resilient people and planet. At Manulife, we ensure that our products, marketing dollars, investments, and our DE&I strategy all ladder up to making every day better for our customers, communities and our people.

Ben George
Senior vice president and commercial director, Asia Pacific

[The year] 2022 is an exciting time for marketers—two years on, Covid has proven to be the best chief digital officer the travel industry could have asked for. Brands were forced to pivot and reposition very quickly across channels, utilising tech and engaging with customers on their terms. At Hilton, we leveraged our contactless arrival options such as Digital Check-In and Digital Key, and our guest loyalty programme, Hilton Honors, to offer guests continued flexibility and benefits.

Data and insights have also been critical for Hilton to be agile, adapt quickly and make gains across markets—from the launch of Confirmed Connecting Rooms, sharable Digital Keys and automated complimentary upgrades for elite members, to reinforcing Hilton’s dining proposition across more than 900 dining outlets with our “Like A Member” campaign. 

With the vast diversity of markets in APAC, market segmentation continues to be a key focus to cater to the evolving consumer expectations and spending power, and a growing younger demographic in the region. Hyper-personalisation and listening to customers will help brands be more nimble and responsive in the year to come.

Siew Ting Foo
Chief marketing officer, Greater Asia

Globally, sustainability has become a core business imperative. We have seen brand trust increase as a result of a brand taking an authentic and active stand across their marketing mix and business mission to deliver profit for good. APAC is slightly behind global [on this count]. With a younger population and a population hungrier for purposeful trusted brands, the demands for brands to take an active stand on sustainability in terms of how they create, market and go-to-market with their products, solutions and services [is increasing]. It becomes important for marketeers to not only "talk" but act on this and lead from the front with their business, corporate and external stakeholders.


Bart Buiring
Chief sales and marketing officer
Marriott International

Agility continues to be a key marketing theme in the travel industry and for Marriott International in 2022. Travel restrictions, quarantine regulations, and new variants impact our ability to travel in APAC, and therefore our go-to-market strategies. With these factors in mind, marketers need to develop flexible medium-term regional and domestic strategies, whilst at the same time be agile and ready to deploy hyper-localised plans on short notice this year.

Leisure travel by Gen Z and multi-generational families are expected to dominate, with travellers anticipated to take longer trips with multiple stops in different countries to make the most of their journeys. We will prioritise the execution of our global “Where can we take you?” marketing campaign launched mid-2021 and will see more creative APAC iterations in line with encouraging signs of travel recovery. With more travellers expected to focus on meaningful experiences and increasingly consider the environment and their personal well-being, our pilot of “Good Travel with Marriott Bonvoy” will expand. Lastly, enhancing loyalty remains foundational.

Stuart A. Spencer
Group chief marketing officer
AIA Group

[The year] 2022 will be one of continued complexity, with the acceleration of two converging trends that will only increase society’s expectations of businesses and brands. On the one hand, sustainability themes will become increasingly important. At the same time, purpose-led businesses aware of their role and broader responsibilities in society will become more relevant. Marketers that deliver on these issues with authenticity and integrity will thrive. We remain focused on ensuring that everything we do as an enterprise delivers on our purpose. 



Kevin Mintaraga
Chief marketing officer

Overall, people are consuming more videos. Live shopping got a huge boost due to pandemic-imposed lockdowns and we believe it will only get bigger in the coming years. In addition, with Gen Z taking over the internet space, it’s clear that social media will continue to take center stage. Driving engagement and being relevant to Gen Z through multiple touchpoints will be one of the key priorities CMOs.

Campaign Asia

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