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Brands are like the leaky bucket: Siew-Ting Foo, Diageo

Making global brands locally relevant is an oft discussed and debated topic, given the rise of Asia as a key market for global players. For some categories, such as liquor, the challenge accentuates when there is the additional factor of dark markets, where mass advertising may not be allowed for these brands. To address these, Siew-Ting Foo, Marketing Director, Diageo APAC has a five-point guide that can help in adapting the nuances of a local market.

“Brands are a little bit like leaky bucket. As most people tend to think, when we recruit consumers, the consumer will stay really loyal to the brand, but actually that is not so. We need to constantly recruit and re-recruit. And be in touch with them as well,” she observed.

Using examples from Diageo’s own vault of power brands, Ms Foo cited the first point as ‘The understanding of consumers’. The importance of in-depth, local insights in making global products and brands appeal to consumers in the region brands will need to appeal to multiple generations of consumers, each with different expectations from a brand. While, for one audience group, brands with very strong point of view are emerging strong, to the other, aspiration is critical.

The second point raised by Ms Foo was the importance of taking big global platform ideas and making it locally relevant. She highlighted examples of Johnnie Walker’s past campaign in China based on local insights. The brand’s premise built on a universal thought that people like progress and like to therefore ‘Keep Walking’ was showcased in campaign in China. Diageo in China realised that 80s and the 90s generation wants to participate in the progress of the nation. This led to the brand creating short films titled ‘Keep Walking’ for digital, where Chinese pioneers were seen advising the new generation. “As a result of this campaign we generated brand loyalty and awareness,” explained Ms Foo.

A similar insight based campaign was also seen in Thailand where paying back to society is a sign of progress.

The third point that Ms Foo discussed, while speaking at the ongoing Festival of Media Asia 2015 in Singapore, was the importance of connection into culture with locally relevant innovation for success in a regional market. Connecting with cultures is quite critical, Ms Foo pointed out, sharing the example of Johnnie Walker house in China. “The audience in China really wanted to know about whiskey so that they could show their knowledge of whiskey to their friends. Inspired by a personal experience, when I sat across the table with a master blender in Scotland, we created a space Johnnie Walker house offering rich immersive experience that brings alive this culture and was the start of lots and lots of innovation,” said Ms Foo.

The company also leveraged the appeal of limited editions to the Chinese audience by offering various promotional limited editions to build affinity in the market. Followed by master blenders limited edition.

Next Ms Foo pegged using local influences to drive advocates as a key mantra for success. “In Asia being recognised in a group and actually having influence is quite important”, she said. She shared examples of David Beckham to create the Haig Club in order to create and derive conversations in the virtual circles about the whiskey.

Lastly, she underlined the role of digital as critical for brands such as hers in regional markets that do not allow liquor advertising (dark markets). She said that digital hence becomes critical in having conversations with consumers? Diageo made use of bloggers to kickstart conversations in these markets by creating an integrated conversation platform and also by ensuring presence on existing platforms to engage with consumers.

She summarised that Boldness, Creativity, Culture and cross collaboration across the organisation is imperative to the success of any campaign.