new book Is Anybody Out There – The New
Blueprint for Marketing Communications in the 21st Century
has just been published by J. Wiley & Sons. Both
of you are very active in the Asian mass media
advertising and brand management field. What
were you trying to achieve with this new book?
Answer: We believe
that time is running out for the marketing communications industry. The marketing landscape has changed more in
the past five years than in the past 50. Consumers have changed beyond
recognition. Their behaviour
is more complex, their media habits are different, and they are more
outspoken. They have a different
relationship with brands these days, relationships that are less
tolerant, less “obedient”.
too, mass media are no longer mass. Communication
channels are exploding and fragmenting. Audiences
are diminishing. Audiences have more
choices, more distractions than ever before. Against these
scenarios, we find conventional advertising agencies and marketing
service companies — and many of their clients — in denial, their heads
firmly buried in
the sand. So we wanted
our book to be a wake-up call. To draw a
in the sand between what “was” and what “is” the reality today. The book calls for transformational change in
the way marketers, agencies and media owners think, and it contains
a blueprint for developing new kinds of marketing communications.
the message in our book was urgent when we started writing it 18 months
ago, it is even more critical now.
- In the book you note that “the average job tenure
of a marketing director in Britain
has slipped to as little as 12 to 15 months, less in Asia”. Is this a symptom or a cause of the breakdown
in mass marketing that you look at in the book and what is the ultimate
effect of such low job tenure on companies and brands, particularly in Asia?
Answer: Especially in
companies (driven by the bean counters and purchasing officers)
perceive marketing as a cost not an investment. Marketing
directors are expected to come on board and work miracles overnight,
the evidence indicates that brand building is a long-term procedure,
not a quick fix. So marketing people are
more pressure, more stress, which in turn is communicated to their
agencies and other marketing services suppliers.
it is the brand that suffers. Without a
long-term strategy and vision, the brand will keep changing its
every few months as each new marketing incumbent tries to put his or
her stamp on it. It leaves consumers
confused. Instead of the brand being a
steady beacon on their radar screens, it becomes a wildly zigzagging
dot. Imagine, for example, if the
Singapore Girl had been dropped as a brand icon many years ago in a
moment of marketing panic. Or if Volvo stopped talking about safety and sold itself
- In your chapter titled “Brands Under
Threat” you note that “Western companies
are much better at building brands in Asia than
Asian companies building brands in Asia.” Can you explain what causes this and what
more Asian companies need to do to build their brands?
Western companies generally have more sophisticated marketing systems
in place, have decades of experience, and understand the concept of
brand equity (that their
brands are corporate assets). On the other hand, Asian companies
have a trading tradition. They are more inclined to expect
returns and want short-term gains. This means long-term brand
takes a backseat to short-term promotions. However, in a
world, Asian companies do have the opportunity to develop and market
famous brands. They can leapfrog Western brands and break with
in many product categories. Their brands could become more
more creative, more relevant than long-established Western brands, if
they invested the time to get it right.
right often means getting it wrong first. Brands don’t just
“happen” overnight. The process of creating a brand is arduous:
identifying the “gap” in the market, choosing a name, designing the
logo and packaging, testing and
refining them, then planning the communications… it takes a lot of time
and energy, a lot of discipline and patience, and deep pockets.
There are rarely any shortcuts.
question is: how many
Asian companies will embrace that process? To be fair, with SARS
hot on the heels of recent recessions and currency crises, many Asian
companies have little encouragement to invest in the long term.
one could argue that their trading mentality is probably quite
in today’s marketplace. But ultimately, the smarter Asian
will bite the bullet and give the West a run for its money.
- Is the same chapter, you
a number of graphics (Year
2020 Population Projections, Top
10 Chinese Cities and Their Average Household), and you describe what you call the Asian Marketing
Dilemma. Can you explain what this
dilemma is, how the graphics relate and how Asian companies can
overcome this challenge?
all about diversity, but not just cultural. On the surface, the
population numbers look tempting for marketers. However, these
often come with very low levels of disposable income. In the
we make the point that while Asia has three billion people, perhaps as
few as 300 million individuals have significant disposable incomes to
a worthwhile return on marketing investment for many mid- to up-market
brands. Which means, conventional advertising creativity (one
fits all) and conventional communications planning are inadequate for
task. As part of our mission in the book, we believe a different
kind of blueprint is required to crack this dilemma and ensure a proper
return on investment for the brand owner.
- You note in Chapter 3 that “Today’s consumers are
better educated, more confident and harder to influence than ever
before.” Can you explain this and
how it effects marketing today?
marketers could define their brands for consumers. Make one TV
and run it in some top rating TV shows so millions of consumers would
see it. Job done!
Those days have gone forever. Today, consumers are defining
brands, even redefining them. And because consumers experience
brands holistically these days, it’s not good enough to produce a
TV commercial extolling the virtues of a brand if the claims do not
up to the actual brand experience. Brands get one chance and if
they don’t deliver, forget it. Especially in this age of the
consumer, they will share good and bad experiences with their
Consumers have the power. They must be shown enormous respect if
marketers are to have any hope of them respecting their brands.
In the book, we argue that a
triangular relationship exists between communication channels, brands
and consumers. Briefly, the choice of communication channel is
key to building a successful brand relationship with any given
consumer. Given new technology, channels of communications are
evolving at such a speed that no one can keep up
with. It’s no longer about using the same old media in the same
old ways. Nor is it about a 30-second TVC or a press ad answering
a marketing issue. Those days have gone.
- One of the challenges for Asia
you note is the numbers of Senior citizens in many Asian countries and
how it affects marketing (Table: Comparison of Aging
Demographics in Asia and Japan) . Can
you discuss what implications this may have for marketing in Asia?
specifically talked about the rapidly growing “grey market” to
illustrate the new
dynamic facing marketers. One of our recommendations is that
have to reach out and talk to audiences as individuals. In this
context, as we argue in the book, whom you don’t reach becomes as
as whom you do! Clearly, growing numbers of older consumers will
respond to messages that address them as individuals, messages that
been crafted to reflect their interests. The intelligent marketer
will not try to make one message span all groups. If he is
older Asians, he will research their media habits and the mindsets they
have when exposed to those media. We believe that many marketing
and advertising practitioners have yet to face the fact that brand
in mass media may have had its day. They have to understand the
new relationships consumers have with brands and the media. In
in regard to older consumers, the numbers are now significant enough
smart marketers to devise new brands, new products, that are
tailored for the “grey” market. The opportunities are
- Two of the major brands in Asia
are – what were thought of as the Super cities – Hong
Kong and Singapore. Obviously, both “brands” and their national
airlines – Cathay and SIA respectively have been very struck very hard
by SARS, obviously Hong Kong much harder
than Singapore. If you were advising both
cities leaders on rebuilding their “brand” what would your
recommendations be and do you see Hong Kong in
particular ever rebuilding from the damage it has taken?
solution to the problem can be found on pages 54 through 63. Briefly,
one possible scenario would be to start with a very reassuring and
compelling global public relations campaign that sent a message it’s
business as usual and all is safe. As part of this campaign,
influential journalists would be flown out to experience the post-SARS
reality and write objective third-party stories. CRM would
support marketing initiatives such as specially
discounted travel deals for businessmen, holiday packages, conventions
and the whole travel/tourism distribution chain would require special
Specifically, can Hong Kong
ever recover from the effects of SARS? Of course. New York
bounced back after 911. And it didn’t take long for everyone to
be comfortable again
with post-War Germany and Japan…and their image problem was far worse
- Several other “brands” that maybe facing challenges
are the U.S.
in their attempt to build a new Iraq. The challenge that both countries have taken
on in Iraq
is substantial. If you were advising the
leaders of both countries on using brand building and marketing to
better support their goals, what would your recommendations be and what
leads you to this conclusion?
We strongly recommend that George W. Bush and Tony Blair read the
- One of the “non-traditional new media” you describe
in your book is the internet. You discuss
the SENSOR survey on Media and the fact that the survey ranked
the Internet third after TV and radio in terms of ad avoidance. How powerful a medium has the internet become
and is the internet viewed differently for media purposes in Asia
than in the U.S.
internet is not settling down to its reality after all the hyperbole of
the late 90’s. There is no doubt that in many areas, the internet
unique characteristics that other media cannot match. But, we
be conscious that the internet is simply a content delivery system
a massively deep and broad system) as is television, radio, and even
As technology develops into more and more digital interactive
platforms, the relevance of the net may well shift. In basic
terms, the net
is probably the first truly global content provider and as such, its
characteristics, benefits and uses are also global. While in some
where the thirst for information is almost insatiable, the take-up may
have been quicker than the west, overall there is not a great deal of
difference between the East and the West when it comes to consumers
of the medium.
- Later in your book you discuss Communications Planning
and Implementation (CP&I) Can you
explain exactly what CP&I is and why you feel it will have a
effect in changing the way that media is managed in the years ahead?
CP&I stands for Communications Planning and Implementation
and is a brand
new way to organize marketing communications within the ever evolving
dynamics of today’s consumer-brand-channel interface. In our view
it is the way that all marketing communications programmes will be
in the future. Read the book to find out more!
- In your
chapter titled “Rewriting the Rules”, you discuss how you see
advertising agencies reinventing themselves and restructuring their
business models. Could you discuss how you
see this happening and give examples in Asia
that you feel demonstrate some of your conclusions on how agencies
will need to change?
Consumers are increasingly immune to advertising. Naturally
enough, the advertising industry doesn’t like confronting this
fact. But the truth is we all have to challenge our own comfort
zones in order to develop. By definition, “discomfort” is a
necessary agent for
real change to happen. This feeling of “discomfort” has been
for some time in our industry. One has only to scratch beneath
surface of the general state of client-agency relationships to see how
uncomfortable everyone is. Clients worldwide are becoming
frustrated by the lack of willingness of agencies to embrace
Agencies have to find a new business model, especially given the
of media from parent ad agencies, which is another cause of stress
the advertising community. The book contains a positive way
to harness the new marketing communications reality.