Stop Advertising Start Branding – the first book to help Malaysian, Singaporean and other Asian firms build brands that not only survive but thrive

Stop Advertising, Start Branding is the controversial new book by Malaysia based brand consultant Marcus Osborne. It’s already attracted flattering reviews with one reviewer calling it “South East Asia’s business book of the year.”

Marcus Osborne says, “If you are spending more on advertising yet struggling for sales, it could be because you are still using the advertising driven tactics of the mass economy when competition was limited, there were few TV and radio channels, magazines and billboards and visiting the cinema was not the positive experience it is today.

Stop Advertising Start Branding. Asia's business book of the year
Stop Advertising Start Branding. Asia’s business book of the year

He continues, “Today’s consumers are overwhelmed with data, information and choices. Malaysian households receive 200 TV channels, 24 hours a day. Singapore, with a population of no more than 5 million has 252 Free to Air or Pay-TV channels.

The advertising noise in Singapore is deafening whilst back in Malaysia there are more than 20 commercial radio stations broadcasting up to 20 minutes of commercials every hour, ads are on lampposts, shop lots, taxis and buses and billboards jostle for attention at every junction. Newspapers often have an ad to copy ratio of 60%-40% compared to the accepted norm of 30%-70%.”

“Such a barrage of messages does not include the more than 40 billion web pages and 20 million blogs on the Internet, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter and other social media and games. How can a consumer’s mind process so much data? Obviously it can’t. In fact it shuts much of it out which accounts for falling sales despite increased ad spend.”

Stop Advertising, Start Branding explains how to build a brand in this new environment. It’s about getting the fundamentals in place. Assuming your product or service is fit for purpose (and a lot are not) you start the brand building process by making sure your organization has clearly defined brand values that are real and achievable and can be articulated clearly to personnel and those personnel must be shown how to integrate those values into their every day operations.

Consumers in Malaysia are being ambushed by firms trying to get their attention.
Consumers in Malaysia are being ambushed by firms trying to get their attention.

Those personnel must know what is required of them to ensure the brand is able to deliver on any promises made time and time again, to different segments, all with different requirements for value and at every touch point. For many companies, this requires a 180 degree change in management style and can be difficult, especially for companies who look at staff as a cost not an investment.

Once the organisation is ready the implementation really depends on the industry. But new content must be constantly created and new tools and channels used properly. Millions of Singaporeans, Malaysians and others use Facebook but most brands simply advertise on Facebook or post images of the CEO at events and often ignore messages asking for help or information. This is rarely the right approach because Facebook requires firms to engage consumers with compelling content that will build interest.

Old school tactics such as advertising, roadshows and promotions still have a role to play but often, much of the advertising doesn’t make sense whilst many of the people representing firms at roadshows or promotions aren’t trained properly and simply go through the motions.

Stop Advertising, Start Branding explains that all the awareness in the world doesn’t mean a thing unless it translates into a profitable relationship. With plenty of local and international case studies the book shows that companies that focus strongly on building robust foundations for their brands, provide compelling content and develop relationships with customers based on delivering value to those customers, are more likely to succeed than brands who rely on advertising.

It isn’t as exciting or as `cool’ as TV commercials or huge billboards on major highways that 500,000 people see each day, but it’ll be more profitable.

About Marcus Osborne. He has lived and worked in Malaysia since 1994. He has helped build brands in Europe, the Middle East and South East Asia. His blog is the leading branding blog in Malaysia. Stop Advertising, Start Branding is his first book. It is available from all good bookshops in SE Asia and the UK or from

He has written numerous articles for multiple publications and contributed a case study on the Malaysia Nation Brand to Nation Branding. Concepts. Issues. Practice. By Keith Dinnie. Contact him at marcus at fusionbrand dot com or +6 03 7954 2075.


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