Hello Marcus. Can you share with us a little bit about your role in the company?
Many Asian businesses find themselves spending more and more on marketing but getting less and less in return. Historically, when this happened, they’d just spend more money on yet another creative campaign. But this is increasingly ineffective and besides, as Asia is increasingly on the radar of international conglomerates with much deeper pockets, they don’t have the resources to compete in this way.
So after we’re called in, I’ll help map out how we need to structure the project and what needs to be included in it. I’ll have hands-on involvement in brand audits and the analysis of the findings, the recommendations to address them and contribute to the brand strategy and implementation of the brand strategy both internally and externally.
And we’re big proponents of digital. Far too many companies and for that matter government departments and agencies approach digital in a very tactical manner. This is counter-intuitive and as much a waste of resources as most creative campaigns. So I’m particularly focussed on incorporating the right use of digital into brand strategies.
What is Fusionbrand actually?
Fusionbrand is a data-driven brand consultancy. Increasingly, many companies call themselves brand consultancies but they are typically just creative agencies or advertising agencies trying to leverage on the word brand. Data-driven means all strategic branding decisions, both internal and external are based on hard data and not creativity.
So before any strategy can be implemented and through bespoke training, we’ll make sure the whole organisation is ‘on brand’ and able to deliver at every touch point on promises made to prospects and customers. This means client marketing budgets are driven by the findings of brand audits and not the creative skills of a design team that may not even work at the agency any more.
When we implement a marketing strategy for a brand, we have a strong focus on owned media because this gives us the best access to data that can be used for personalisation which leads to better connections, improved relationships, a higher profile and relevant narrative with greater advocacy.
As a consultant, we can and do work with many placement agencies, media companies, Google, Facebook, Doubleclick and others.
As a marketer, how do you see the marketing industry in Malaysia in general?
Malaysian businesses are the victims of the country’s outstanding performance over the last twenty-five years when the growth of 5.5% per year is considered poor. Most countries would kill for that sort of growth! Anyway, what this means is that those businesses haven’t really needed to build brands. Demand has outstripped supply and with limited competition, if customer A didn’t buy, customer B would. If there was any ‘strategy’ it was often creative or discount driven. A memorable experience (for the right reasons) was often an accident and rarely consistent.
Sales were enough to build businesses and branding as it was then, was seen as a nice to have. Not any more. The Malaysian economy is flattening at the same time as international brands realise Malaysian consumers are disillusioned and disappointed with the experience of interacting with domestic products and services.
Unless Malaysian businesses start to appreciate the importance of marketing and accelerate their brand building they will not survive. It’s that critical. One way for them to do that is through digital. Most marketers see digital as another platform for raising awareness, selling products, influencing segments. But it’s so much more immersive than that. It’s a place to build connections, find unmet needs, empathise with consumers and build relationships that
In what way Fusionbrand is disrupting the industry norm?
We’re laying the foundations for the future. The traditional agency model is failing in its present state as Google and Facebook take over the media industry. But ironically, this is good for clients because instead of being lazy and spending money on ad campaigns that are rarely effective, they will have to focus on brand building. Fusionbrand builds brands from the inside out and not from the billboard in! Some people call this disruption but we call it proper branding.
Many people believe LinkedIn is the ultimate saviour when it comes to personal branding. What do you think of this?
Elon Musk has 23,000,000 million followers on Twitter and Tesla has 3,000,000. The CEO is someone target markets can relate to while a car, however innovative, is still a car. Every CEO is a brand and every CEO must work on adding value to the company through speaking engagements, thought leadership and interviews that showcase the human side of the brand. The CEO can no longer be an unknown figure.
LinkedIn is an excellent platform for many CEOs to build their brand but I wouldn’t call it the ultimate saviour! And it might not be the right platform for every CEO in every Asian country.
Why is that?
CEOs must come across as human, not contrived talking heads. Elon Musk built trust into his brand through being accessible and human. The same goes for Tony Fernandes. Remember how human he was when he dealt with a tragedy compared to how the Malaysia Airlines management dealt with MH370? CEO branding is about leaving the right mark with the right people. If LinkedIn is the right platform for your target market then use it.
How about video? Many people believe the stigma saying that it is better than writing articles to generate traffic.
You only need to look at the numbers to know that a video is a critical tool for brand building. Malaysians spend 50% more time watching video on Facebook than the global average. But the video needs to be right. Without data, how can you know what content your target markets want and which content is going to resonate with those target markets?
But video should be part of your overall communications strategy. How big a part, depends on your industry and your target market needs.
Can you share with us a little bit about yourself?
I’m British, I live in Malaysia and I’ve been here for 25 years. Before Malaysia I worked in the Middle East for 7 years, living in the middle of a Shia village in Bahrain and before that near the old souk in the heart of Muscat, Oman.
I was born in 19XX! My parents were living in Singapore when they found out I was on the way so took a fast boat to the UK soon after and I was born in the old Roman capital of Bath in the South West and grew up in a 5th generation naval family.
I went to a military school that made me what I am today, for better or worse! As a child, my school holidays were spent in such diverse locations as the UK, Malta and Gibraltar. Not too shabby! Although most of my memories are of the UK and exploring the outdoors, getting into trouble and learning how to shoot.
I’m married to my long-suffering Malaysian wife and we have 3 of the most amazing children in the world.
Anything you wish to share with the readers?
Asia is about to be overrun with international brands who are looking to new markets because their own are stagnating or new trade agreements make Asia and it’s burgeoning middle class a lucrative opportunity. It has never been more important than it is now to build a brand. But before you start, understand what constitutes a brand and what is required to build a brand.
Understand that it is not a creative exercise. Understand that it requires an investment of your time and money. Every branding exercise must be lead by the CEO. And get ready to hear things you won’t be happy to hear. And be prepared to change your business. If you don’t make those investments, you are likely to be annihilated by the big international brands. The good news is that technology makes it much easier, quicker and less expensive to build a brand today than ever before.