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Fresh start for brand-building exercise

Media Highlights

14 December 2020

With 2021 around the corner, marketers are positioning themselves to draw customers and to have a stronger grip on their brands.


Many have started on their brand building exercise after putting it on the backburner due to the Covid-19 fallout.

With the relaxation of the conditional movement control order (CMCO) and with Covid-19 vaccines around the corner, coupled with signs of economic recovery, marketers have stepped up initiatives to deepen their brand presence.


What can then be expected of marketers in 2021 amid headwinds at the local and external fronts?

UEM Sunrise Bhd chief marketing officer Kenny Wong said he expects to see a lot more accountability in advertising and its effectiveness.


“As brands start to get back to pace, the pressure is on to ensure advertising delivers across the funnel. It will be a great time to also invest in brand building which has taken a backseat this year.

“Additionally, we will continue to see growth in e-commerce as well as performance-based and programmatic marketing.


“Although physical brick and mortar stores and traditional retail will continue to be on the downswing, I think that brands will pivot to concepts which are more experiential and boost their flagship or concept stores for more significant brand awareness, ” he told StarBiz.


They could take it to another level by deploying new technologies such as Artificial Intelligence (AI), Internet of Things or facial recognition.


Wong believes 2021 would also see a lot more collaborations, partnerships and crossovers as brands clamour to be innovators in their fields to provide unique experiences for their customers.


If done successfully, it can also be cost-effective for marketers and brands to be able to share the financial gain with their partners, he said.


Digi Telecommunications Sdn Bhd head of marketing services Bernard Lee said as people are increasingly accustomed to spending more time indoors, a trend of screen time increase is observed, especially in the social world as well as home viewing TV and video.


“Rising of content creators producing engaging content catering to the different segments, likewise TV/video content to be a lot more richer in variety. Content is king.


“In 2021, we expect advertising to be a lot more personalised and customised. Increasing in one to one marketing to ensure the communication is as attractive and engaging, ” Lee added.


Malaysian Advertisers Association (MAA) vice-president Claudian Navin Stanislaus, however, felt that while there finally seems to be some light at the end of the tunnel with the positive news on the vaccines, its real work efficacy and the timeline set on recovery is still unclear till perhaps closer to the end of the first quarter next year.


He added that what’s certain is that the old adage “change is the only certainty” would yet again prove true.


“We’ve already seen change in how we work, shop and interact, not to mention how we absorb content too.


“Always On” used to mean that we were continuously connected, but today it’s far more literal – as we have become physically forced to be “on” a device almost perpetually.


“This undoubtedly is going to drive our strategies for engaging consumers, but the clutter and transparency will be a bigger concern. It’s going to probably be a revolutionary evolution, and those who are ready to adapt will come out tops, he noted.


Navin is also the head of communications and consumer marketing of Baba Products (M) Sdn Bhd.

He said some sectors are seeing a boom, while others are looking at dire times.


Take the food sector, for example, he said where restaurants have been hit hard but food delivery has seen a boom. There’s also a huge move to home cooking again, be it for health and safety concerns or just the passion blossoming again, he said.


He added this has definitely benefited the company as a brand. While the outlook for the immediate future may seem rather bleak, he is positive that businesses would be able to rebound again.


Navin said it’s just a matter of when and how much businesses would have to evolve to adapt to the new norms.

On the agency side, Publicis Groupe and Leo Burnett Malaysia CEO Tan Kien Eng said that after nine months of uncertainty, adapting to the new normal, and playing it safe, he is looking forward to seeing better and inspiring work coming from brands and their agencies.


“I hope to see agencies adopting a higher degree of creative standards to build a memorable and meaningful brand experience. Creative and media agencies should explore novel, innovative approaches across platforms.

“Drive exceptional production to create high-quality brand imagery.


“Clients need to play a role by investing in better work and set a fair budget to enable high production value to stand out and win in the immediate, mid and long term, ” he remarked.


Though businesses may pick up, Lee, nonetheless, said the economy remains the major concern for most Malaysians, especially post-MCO where job security and political stability tops the list.


With the lingering uncertainty, he said consumers would be more prudent in their spending and shifting their priority in what, where, when and how they spend.


Value plays an important role in the game, he noted.


Having said that, Lee said it is also a critical time for advertisers to continue investing in brand building to ensure it can always meet customers needs.

After a watershed year and much upheaval in 2020, Wong expects the economy and market to still be soft, particularly in the first half of next year.


“It will take time for things to pick up but we are buoyed by the recent developments as far as the vaccine for Covid-19 is concerned, pending clear indications of its availability and efficacy here.


“We hope for much recovery in the market in the second half of 2021 with the travel and hospitality industries benefiting the most from the pent-up demand as global travel picks up again.


“Malaysians are grasping for any sign of positivity to kickstart or up-start.


“This is good for overall business sentiment and confidence to get the wheels rolling again, ” he said.


As for the property development industry, Wong said the soft market would mean smaller budgets for advertising and promotions.


This would result in marketers having to be very careful and selective in the kind of communications strategies to deploy, and to be granular in tracking its efficacy and performance, he added.


Tan said advertisers and agencies could choose to either look at the pandemic from a disruptive and doom angle or take it as an opportunity to reset the playing field to win.


Whatever it is, he added that creativity would undoubtedly play a very vital role in resetting the industry.


“In the next few years, data-led strategy delivering performance-based marketing will continue to be the growth driver for the industry at large.


“Leveraging public relations to bring the brand’s authenticity and purpose will also play a crucial role to create influence and impact across owned, earned, and social platforms.


“As advertisers reflect on both the negative and positive effects from the past months, the care and stewardship of their brand will take priority as their customers start to search for meaning and gravitate towards brands with a clear purpose, ” he said.

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