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Get To Know Andy Fennell, Executive Chairman of Bloom

Brands need to respond with a dual approach – with a robust brand identity that unifies and gives meaning to multiple narratives

Firstly Andy, I’m sure our readers would love to know who Andy Fennell is. Can you help us walk back a little to when you first started and how you become this marketing expert that you are now?

I joined Bloom as Executive Chairman in 2015, and I work closely with our clients who include Avon, Britvic, Chewton Glenn, Danone, Diageo, Kerry Foods, Soho House, Twinings, and Unilever. We help clients develop robust Brand Identities, which we believe is the foundation for any brand in today’s modern, shifting landscape. It enables a brand to stretch across multiple media and consumer touch points, and is the glue for innovation and safeguarding the brand’s future.

We also work closely with brands to help them understand the cultural, technological and economic forces that are reshaping the way consumers respond to brands. We call this fundamental shift the NEW INFORMALITY and it’s changing the way brands speak, look and feel across categories. It is a dominant direction of travel globally – from the formal to the informal, the untouchable to relatable, from respectful to disruptive – and we help brands to successfully navigate these forces.

Before Bloom I was with Diageo for over 18 years – they’re the world’s largest distiller with brands such as Johnnie Walker, Smirnoff, Guinness and Baileys – as their Chief Marketing Officer with global sales, marketing and innovation responsibilities, and subsequently as President of Diageo’s Africa region.

I’ve always strived to create environments where brands and innovation can thrive. I’m pleased to have brand teams that have rolled out new product categories and won numerous creative awards and are regarded as pioneers in marketing techniques.

You started out when there was no Internet, social media; we know that the emergence of the internet is definitely a milestone for everyone and most definitely marketers. In your opinion however, are there any downsides?

It is certainly a vastly different world. The rapid and ongoing changes in technology make it a far more challenging, and interesting, world to market in, as a consequence brands need to be more transparent and respond much faster.

Gen Z and Millennial consumers are born into tech; what’s very apparent in Asia is that Millennials expect seamless integration of the online and the offline— whilst online shopping for the majority of goods, they still crave physical experience due to it being seen as a form of leisure activity. Tangibility, immediacy, and a willingness to pay extra seem to also be factors favouring the re- emergence of brick-and-mortar retail. If there was a choice of buying the same product cheaper online but having to wait a few days for delivery, the Millennial consumer would likely choose to buy the product at a slightly higher price in store to have the product in hand immediately.

This trend has created an impetus for businesses to integrate their online and offline resources into a seamless, “omnichannel” or “O2O” (online-to-offline and vice versa) experience for the consumer. We see this in China where SK-II has WeChat campaigns that invite online customers to experience facial treatments in any of its physical stores.

Millennials are known to shop promiscuously. How do you create brand loyalty in them?

Consumers in any sector want to connect with a product. Millennials especially are more likely to have an emotional connection with brands. Appeal to their head and you’ll (maybe) make the shortlist, but capture their heart by making your brand meaningful, accessible and authentic, and “fit their personality” – and your business is more likely to win.

Can you indulge us a bit – what makes Asia Pacific’s youth, at 60% the lead in global branding?

Asian Millennials vastly outnumber US Millennials; China alone has 211 million 90’s Millennials – more than five times the number in the US. Asian Millennials are big spenders and digital natives – consuming online video and voraciously shopping online, quickly adopting new technology. Millennial wealth in Asia is projected to rise – more than double between 2015 and 2020 to between US$19-24 trillion.

They are the driving force, they wield considerable clout in the global marketplace and marketers need to learn and react to their behaviour and understand their preferences.

The youths today much prefer peer-generated endorsements rather than advertisements. So how has this change marketing globally?

The “Millennial consumer” has been born into digital, and their expectation of brands is high – they expect experience and for brands to be brave. Brands need to gain trust and authentically engage consumers, getting closer to people, being more accessible, in touch, outspoken, funnier and frank.

We talked about the global direction of travel, from the formal to the informal. In Asia we see a duality. In contrast to the rest of the world, Asia is unique in embracing tradition, hierarchy, culture, community and social structures, whilst also being wildly creative, disruptive, experimental and individualist.

Brands need to respond with a dual approach – with a robust brand identity that unifies and gives meaning to multiple narratives

So Asia is seen as a source of innovation and expertise. What are the right things Asian brands are doing that we do not see in other parts of the world?

Asian brands are very good at taking cultural expertise, which they define brilliantly, and successfully riding the wave of Asian pop culture that has gone global.

Because of the inherent focus on the cultural insight and positioning, Asian brands have built robust foundations to expand from – for example the traditional Asian heritage is the hook to the Western world; from this they can innovate and still remain true to the core of the brand including the brand identity.

The Asian brands I respect and feel have triumphed in a global context are those that have stayed true to their DNA, i.e. being both respectful and disruptive, but when activated via visual communication in the West, dialling up the disruptive. This can only be achieved if you have the foundation of a great Brand Identity.

How can Asian brands evolve for greater success in the global marketplace?

To ensure greater success in the global marketplace, Asian brands have to understand current global cultural shifts that are affecting both individuals and communities: issues around immigration, fluid lifestyles, hyper-connectivity, women, gender, the environment, and so forth.

Global brands are taking to new roles to address these shifts – advocacy, specialists, innovators, playmates, etc – and Asian brands can learn from what these brands are doing.

Identifying the most relevant area wherein their brand could make an authentic impact – considering brand heritage, positioning, target, offerings and history, is vital. They have to understand the global direction of travel, The New Informality – and consider which of their own brand elements need to remain core vs. those which could “stretch” to accommodate the New Informality.

Importantly, they have to ensure they have a robust Brand Identity – the system that unifies and gives meaning to multiple narratives.

Sales or Marketing?

Both. They cannot and should not be separated. Commercial marketing.

Why?

Marketing requires understanding of customer perceptions, needs and desires, and identifying strategies to help brands capitalise on these. Part of this involves developing a robust brand

identity, which is foundational, especially for any brand in today’s modern, shifting landscape. Good marketing drives sales.

Anything you wish to share with our readers?

I would like to reiterate the message of the importance of a robust brand identity. Breakdowns in global systems, combined with democratic digital culture and civilian autonomy have changed our world. Brands and businesses must think and behave differently. Brands need to get closer to people and be more accessible. A robust Brand Identity is the system that unifies and gives meaning to these manifold narratives. It’s foundational, as brand experience touch- points become increasingly diverse and multi-sensorial. It is the glue for innovation and safeguarding the brand’s future.

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Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen

Zu Anjalika Kamis Gunnulfsen is the Marketing In Asia's Editor for Singapore. She is also a certified Image Branding & Lifestyle Consultant. Born in Singapore and blessed to have lived in a couple of other amazing cities in the world, Anjalika is currently expatriating in Kuala Lumpur. Follow her on LinkedIn and Instagram. You may also reach her by email at anjalika@marketinginasia.com.

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