Karl, great to have you on Marketing in Asia. You have an interesting story behind your entrepreneurship journey. Tell us all about Karl Mak, how you started, your role at Hepmil Media Group, and your passion.
I’m Karl, the CEO and co-founder of Hepmil Media Group. We are a network of technology-driven media companies that serves to better the lives of millions in Southeast Asia through content that engages and entertains. Our subsidiaries include SGAG, MGAG, PGAG and the recently launched Hepmil Creators’ Network (HCN). I founded the company with Adrian (aka Xiao Ming). My role as CEO in the Group is to oversee the business and its regional expansion while he takes the role of Chief Creative Officer.
Adrian and I started SGAG as a Facebook page out of boredom. We started SGAG in 2011 after creating our very first meme at the back of our University’s lecture hall as an audience-empathetic response to the news that McDonald’s had run out of curry sauce. It went viral quickly. That was when it inspired us to bring even more laughter to the region through engaging and relatable local content.
Over the last five years, we’ve grown the company from the two of us to over 70 people across three countries. We’re very passionate about the media landscape and the forces of disruption that the industry is undergoing right now. Having been in the business of creating digital content for a while now, we are keen to contribute to the ecosystem by passing on our knowledge gained to mentor other creators in strengthening their craft, while supporting brands in their campaigns through Hepmil Creators’ Network (HCN).
You are the CEO and Co-Founder of Hepmil Media Group that owns SGAG, MGAG, PGAG and HCN. Walk us through what HMG does and how you managed to steer it to become a million-dollar network of companies in the region?
HMG manages a network of digital content platforms and currently operates in Singapore, Malaysia and the Philippines, with plans to expand into other regional markets. With Singapore as our headquarters, the group now employs over 70 people across the region. We have been consistently delivering hyper-localised comedy content that resonates well with the local audiences that entertains them through our subsidiaries.
In 2014, three years after we started, SGAG grew to become an integral part of Singapore’s internet culture and is now the top comedy platform combined across Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and Twitter locally. A year after, we expanded into Malaysia with MGAG which is now one of the fastest growing millennial-centric digital platforms in Malaysia, reaching 5.4 million Malaysians every month. In 2018, we made our expansion into the Philippines with PGAG, connecting with 15 million Filipinos monthly with our content. Just in March 2020 alone, we had over 25 million views for our content created across our subsidiaries.
Besides producing our own content, SGAG, MGAG and PGAG also work with brands to produce creative branded content for their campaigns. Our subsidiaries are recognised by the industry to be brand-safe platforms that develop localised and resonating branded content while seeing strong results on the campaign’s success metrics and business outcomes after years of refinement. Some of the international brands we have worked with include FOX, McDonald’s, Airbnb, Walt Disney, Grab, Samsung, to name a few.
Recently, we also launched HCN to continue adding value to our audience, the content creator community, and partners whom we work with by using our experience to nurture other independent creators and support businesses and agencies as a valued partner.
The success of our group lies in the agility of spotting content trends and building brands on social platforms. In the world of new media, audience preferences change quickly, so our strategy has always been to move fast and exist significantly where audiences are.
You are an expert in developing content that goes viral and reaching millions of viewers. What are the basics of developing such content?
As with our very first meme, it is all about being able to connect with the local audience with content that resonates well with them. With subsidiaries across regional markets, we understand that the type of content that appeals can vary in each of them. For the past eight years, we have kept to a consistent content and creative strategy that keeps a pulse on what matters to local audiences across social platforms.
At the same time, we also tap on the power of data and technology by investing heavily in research and data analytics to empower our content teams in making informed decisions and finetune our content strategy according to audience preferences and interests. We embrace an experimentative work culture here at HMG, where employees are encouraged and empowered to continually experiment with new ways to entertain our audiences through various content types, formats, and product offerings. This has helped us to earn the trust and confidence of brands and agencies who partner with us.
Hepmil Media Group recently launched a Creator’s Network for independent comedy creators to produce content on TikTok, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Tell us in brief, the inspiration behind this brilliant idea.
HCN aims to provide business opportunities and mentorship to independent comedy creators in Southeast Asia, while supporting brands and agencies which would like to reach the millennials and Gen Zs. We find that while there is a massive growth in content creators in the region, many of them still lack the knowledge and support to be sustainable in the business and strengthen their content creation skills.
Despite being one of the biggest content verticals in the region, comedy is also the most challenging to monetise. Powered by Hepmil’s servicing expertise and data analytics, we hope to help these comedy creators monetise their branded content, improve their craft, and navigate between social media platforms. We also see ourselves as a valued partner to brands and agencies that are keen to work with comedy content creators to reach the Gen Zs and millennials. We contribute by facilitating the discovery of regional content creators, ease the working process and optimise campaign results that these brands hope to achieve.
Moving forward, we will continue to grow the number of regional content creators to include those in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and Vietnam too, as well as comedy creators on YouTube, Facebook and Instagram.
Karl, your target audience are the Millennials and Gen Z. Tell us the most important factor in marketing to this group of audience.
Millennials and Gen Zs are digitally savvy and comfortable with technological platforms. They are also major content consumers and producers. Smartphone usage and access is extremely high among this audience group, with most of them owning a personal mobile device. To catch their attention, we want to be where they are, and share content that is relatable. This includes being on the various social media platforms like Facebook, Instagram, TikTok and YouTube. They are also big on self-expression and we want to relate the brands to the image they want in their life.
Brands can tap on HCN to reach out to them as we have a strong network of creators who mostly target Millennials and Gen Z on social platforms. For example, many of them have a huge presence on Tiktok where the millennials and Gen Zs are users of. Their preferences also change fairly quickly. Hence it’s absolutely critical to be studying trends through the use of data analytics to stay way ahead of the curve to reach them.
It is obvious that you have done a great job in branding and marketing your brand. Tell us your winning formula.
Our approach has always been to stick to our mission of making our audiences’ day a better one. Without a clear mission and purpose, a brand tends to lose focus and its identity.
Before you go, share with the readers three tips you have for young millennials who are planning to embark on an entrepreneurship journey just like yours.
Be courageous. Take advantage of your youth to pursue your ideas and passions. You never know what could happen.
Read as much as you can. There are many new technologies and opportunities in today’s world, you’ll need to keep learning to stay ahead.
Be decisive and take risks. That’s the only way you’ll find success.
How can our readers get in touch with you, Karl?
You can get in touch with me on LinkedIn!