Back in my day we knew Christmas was coming because the thick woollen shorts we wore through the winter term, yes shorts despite going to school in the wettest, darkest, coldest (well it felt like it in those shorts) part of England, began to rub the skin off your thighs because your legs were so cold.
Christmas meant it would be warm in 3 months and you’d soon feel your toes again. Nowadays they say you know Christmas is coming when the John Lewis TV ad is released. And this year, just like previous years it was eagerly awaited and came out today. You can watch it in all its glory here.
Reactions on YouTube have been mixed. One comment was, “So basically… his parents gave him a badly wrapped present that killed his only friend.” While another said, “Such a disappointment! It has no sweet sentiment that makes you feel all warm and excited about xmas. I’ll go as far as to say it’s shite. Look what you’ve made me say about xmas!”
The 120 second TV commercial will premiere on Channel 4 and Sky tonight, 10th November. It cost about £1 million to shoot which is the same as the M&S ad and John Lewis will also spend another £6 million to cover media.
I haven’t seen any other Christmas ads except this one and the M&S ad. My money is on the M&S ad being more popular.
Have you ever wondered how powerful the Internet really is? Have you ever wondered if video can really help increase sales? Have you ever wondered how to sell something for more than it’s worth? Would you like to turn US$499 into US$150,000 with a little bit of creativity? Then watch this video.
Recent reports have put the circulation as low as 35,000 copies a day towards the end of 2016. It’s hard to find current figures which suggests things are not going well.
Back in January 2017 we encountered what may be a global first when we opened a copy of the New Straits Times, and with the exception of a 1/8th of a page ad, didn’t see any significant paid for advertising!
Meanwhile the Star newspaper isn’t fairing quite so badly with a circulation around the 250,000 mark. In the 22nd April 2017 edition there were a number of full page ads and even a double page spread.
These ads were selling everything from grapes to fridges to laptops and detergents and not forgetting the out of place table in the Tesco ad.
I presume these hypermarkets and discount stores are using these low end, low value products to lure housewives to stores in the hope they will buy higher margin goods once there.
Nothing wrong with that and they’ve been a feature of The Star on Saturday for many years. But if that’s the case, and the readership of The Star on a Saturday largely consists of housewives getting ready to do the weekly shop, why is there an ad for the BMW 7 series in the middle of all these ‘cheap as chips’ ads?
The BMW 7 series starts at RM600,000 (US$136,000) while the top of the line model is a few pennies under RM800,000 (US$182,000). Not really the housewife segment. Either the hypermarkets are in the wrong place or BMW is. What do you think?
In an ongoing attempt to reduce the growing use of cigarettes in Malaysia, the price of a typical pack of 20 is now more than RM21 (US$5). Still way below the US$15 in the USA or US$10 in Singapore but way up from about RM3.20 in 1996.
In a survey carried out by the Ministry of Health (Malaysia) in 1996, there were 2.4 million smokers in Malaysia. Despite such price hikes, tens of millions of dollars spent on advertising and numerours articles about the dangers of smoking, there are reported to now be nearly 5 million smokers in the country, about double the number in 1996.
Globally, according to WHO, tobacco deaths cost the world US$1 trillion while revenues from tobacco taxes generate US$269 billion (2013 – 2014).
According to WHO, smoking kills six million people annually, more than HIV/AIDS, accidents, homicides, and suicides combined.
No data is available on what smoking costs Malaysia but we do know it costs the Canadian government around RM10.5 billion in direct health care and another RM38 billion in lost productivity.
Canada is a good benchmark for Malaysia because in 2011 approximately 5.8 million Canadians smoked, about the same as Malaysia.
Locally revenue from taxes on cigarettes totaled around RM9 billion in 2015. However, one of the biggest problems in Malaysia is the black market in cigarettes.
According to the Confederation of Malaysian Tobacco Manufacturers (CMTM) 57% of cigarettes sold in Malaysia are bought on the black market which according to the Star newspaper makes Malaysia number one in the world when it comes to trading illicit cigarettes. This costs the treasury at least RM2 billion a year.
The recent price hike is the latest in a series of initiatives that are supposed to stem the rising number of smokers in the country as well as increase revenue for the country.
In addition to the rapid rise in the price of cigarettes, a number of Health Ministry driven initiatives about the dangers of smoking have also been tried.
The first of these initiatives was an anti smoking campaign launched in 1991, in conjunction with the National Healthy Life Style Campaign. This extensive campaign that ran for over 10 years raised the level of awareness of the hazards of smoking among the general public, both smokers and non-smokers. But the numbers continued to rise.
Then came the “Tak Nak” campaign in 2003, consisting of TV Commercials, Radio, print and Outdoor (including school notice boards).
Costing almost RM18 million (US$5 million) for the first year, and rumoured to cost in total RM100 million for the 5 year campaign, it was widely lambasted in the media.
This is because although the campaign raised the awareness of the effects of smoking, once again it did little to reduce the number of smokers.
Even the then Health Minister, Datuk Dr Chua Soi Lek said in 2005 that there was no indication that the number of smokers had gone down since the campaign began.
Despite the ineffectiveness of this campaign, in August 2009, The Malaysia Ministry of Health launched the next (and most harrowing) installment (see video – viewer discretion advised) of its anti-smoking “Tak Nak” campaign via TVCs. The TVC’s feature gruesome images of mouth cancer and lost limbs due to gangrene caused by smoking.
This campaign followed the legislation, earlier that year that all cigarette packets sold in Malaysia must carry graphic images related to smoking. These included images of the results of neck cancer and a dead foetus.
Throughout the years, the Ministry of Health has tried its best to reduce smoking in Malaysia and the fact that it wants to do something should be applauded.
But it’s not having the desired effect. I can’t help but think the efforts seem to be independent tactical campaigns based on the fact that there is a budget, rather than elements of a strategic approach to a clearly defined goal. And these campaigns rarely have the frequency required to make an impact.
We see this a lot in the private sector. A budget for advertising is approved and an advertising agency is appointed and the board sees the ads and the billboards and thinks that’s job done.
But unless the goal is to put out ads it isn’t job done. And if the ads don’t resonate with the target markets, and research shows anti smoking ads don’t resonate with target markets, then the job is far from done.
Evidence from previous campaigns in Malaysia and other countries suggests that campaigns featuring shocking images and graphic descriptions of the consequences of smoking using Television commercials, print ads and outdoor ads are ineffective.
Malaysia spent RM100 million over 5 years on such a campaign that saw an increase in the number of smokers in Malaysia. To put it bluntly and despite best intentions, that’s a fail.
In the UK, after extensive research of more than 8,500 smokers over a ten-year period, the Institute for Social and Economic research found that the warnings on cigarette packets that smoking kills or maims are ineffective in reducing the number of smokers.
Likewise, chilling commercials or emotionally disturbing programs are also ineffective. In fact, the study also discovered that when a close family member become ill from the effects of smoking, the smoker takes no notice!
According to the study, smokers only reduce the number of cigarettes or sometimes quit when their own personal health is at stake.
But even failing health may not persuade a smoker to reduce or even stop smoking because smoking is linked to a lack of psychological wellbeing and often failing health results in psychological decline.
So how can a country like Malaysia reduce the number of smokers and why should it involve a brand consultant?
The problem with using an advertising agency to solve a complicated issue such as this is that if all you have is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
Advertising, no matter how creative isn’t going to reduce smoking. What is required is a data driven approach to the issue. Specific and comprehensive qualitative research with relevant targeted questions related to each clearly defined micro segment must be developed to deliver actionable data.
These segments will be ex smokers, existing smokers, those who have smoked all their lives and tried hundreds of times to stop.
Celebrities, doctors, educators, retailers (especially retailers) coffee shop owners, customs officers, even smugglers and the police and other enforcement officers as well as others will need to be interviewed.
The data from this research will form the foundations of the blueprint to reduce the numbers of smokers in the country. It will be a long term initiative. Solutions may include communications campaigns but they won’t be based around one size fits all commercials or messages.
Instead they will be developed to resonate with each specific segement. And they will require consistent implementation over a long period of time and the commitment of the authorities.
They will require collaborative efforts that look to improve the psychological wellbeing and confidence of smokers. Environmental changes must be made to ensure it is more difficult for smokers to find an amicable environment.
Existing smokers will be targetted individually through interviews with doctors, rather than one-size-fits all shock and awe campaigns. It’ll also require a triage like approach that ignores the 35 year veteran smokers and instead targets their children and their grand children.
Talking of which, there must be a specific emphasis on education at kampung (village) level and ongoing, dynamic, preventative programmes for schools.
Laws banning the sale of cigarettes to minors must be strictly enforced. Other solutions will include more investments in and better enforcement by customs and enforcement officers rewarded for contraband seizures. Rewards (and protection) for whistleblowers should also be offered.
They will also require the buy in of all stakeholders. On a recent visit to a Police station following a traffic accident, I was interviewed by a Policeman in his office while he chain smoked his way through half a box of Gudang Garam.
Outside his office was a no smoking sign. Civil Servants must not be allowed to flout laws that forbid smoking in Government buildings.
There is no easy way to reduce the number of smokers in Malaysia. It’s going to take a long term investment in time, effort and money.
Wasting money on increasing prices will only see more contraband sold. Creative driven campaigns that have not worked in the past will not work in the future.
But the rewards are considerable. Not only in a reduction of the amount spent on smoking related healthcare, but also in a healthier, happier nation.
Advertising agencies haven’t solved the problem. It’s time to give the responsibility to a brand consultant. I have one in mind!
This interview with Mark Raine, Vice President Sales and Marketing Passenger Cars offers some excellent insights into what makes a global brand and should be compulsory reading for anyone in the automotive industry in Malaysia. Actually it should be compulsory for anyone in any industry.
Everything MB says they are doing – the borderline obsessive attention to detail, using research to determine delivery gaps, barriers or dealer issues, avoiding discounts, the focus on the experience and the innovative financing which incidentally opens up new revenue areas are what constitutes branding in the automotive sector, based of course on a solid product.
And that last part is important because if your product isn’t fit for purpose, don’t waste money on branding, waste it on advertising large discounts. That way you’ll make some sales before you go out of business. And talking of advertising, notice how there isn’t one mention of advertising?
MB Malaysia and its dealers aren’t perfect (and MB would probably be the first to admit that) and the way their dealers interact with prospects and existing customers can be significantly improved but they do a lot of things right and that’s what makes them a growing brand in a depressed industry and market.
This robust, immersive organisational appproach to branding that has at its core a meticulous attention to detail at every stage of the product journey is time consuming and laborious and far from glamorous. But this is what makes branding different to advertising and any creative driven approach to branding.
An advertising or creative driven approach to branding is much more exciting but it doesn’t build brands. And if your advertising is panned like the 2017 Chinese New Year ad above, it doesn’t matter because your brand has so much equity that the advertising become irrelevant.
And this focus on organisational branding over creative branding is how you become a global automotive brand.
In fact it’s how you become a global brand in any segment.
I received this Email flyer this morning and was taken aback by what I perceived to be gender stereotyping but then noticed the small print reference to International Women’s Day which was 2 days ago.
Nestle will argue that it is a well intentioned suggestion and is not at all insinuating that only women will clean a coffee machine. I’m sure they mean well but it does have the potential to suggest to some people that it is an outdated, sexist and misguided organisation.
Here’s a very well written and very passionate article about the Devaluation of creativity. It’s written by Bob Hoffman best-selling author and one of the most sought-after international speakers on advertising and marketing.
The article is particularly relevant here in South East Asia where creativity is increasingly seen by CEOs and business owners as nothing more than a commodity. Something that can be bought at the cheapest price, or quite often in the case of successful ideas – and I’ve thought hard about this – stolen.
But I don’t want to talk about creativity, I want to talk about advertising and in particular, what it does. Because I stopped reading the article when I reached this part “We need to convince marketers once again that the most effective way to build brands is through the unique and unmatched power of great advertising ideas.”
Sorry, but first it’s wrong to make such sweeping generalisations about branding and secondly, it’s no longer 1979. Advertising doesn’t build brands. Sure it might draw attention to brands and it might influence opinions. It might even help sales of brands. Advertising might, on occassion encourage repeat purchases but it it isn’t enough to build brands.
According to Ernst & Young approximately 25,000 new products are launched every year and most of them by companies such as Unilever who spend around US$10 billion a year on advertising yet 22,000 of those products fail to make it to the second year. Despite all those billions spent on advertising.
The very reason so many brands fail is because they are convinced that the unique and unmatched power of great advertising ideas builds brands. The ability to deliver value – economic, experiential and emotional value (and increasingly, social value) – is what builds brands.
Your organisation needs to be in a position to deliver that value at every touch point and every time, before it even thinks about advertising. And actually if you manage to reach such a pinnacle, you probably won’t need to spend money on advertising.
According to its website, Nestle is “the leading Nutrition, Health and Wellness Company”.
It also says, “We enhance lives with science-based nutrition and health solutions for all stages of life, helping consumers care for themselves and their families.”
Personally, I like their chocolates (I have a soft spot for dark chocolate KitKats), condensed milk and milk substitutes while our pets like their range of cat and dog foods.
I’m not sure how Carnation and Coffee Mate, or for that matter chocolates enhance my life but let’s not go there. But perhaps they should add ‘and their pets’ to the above claim.
Anyway, the Swiss icon, which is now the world’s largest packaged food group, reported sales of US$89.3 billion in 2016, up 3.2% on an organic basis. Well below the 4.2% growth in 2015 and is the fourth time Nestle has missed its “Nestle Model,” that aims for 5 – 6% growth per annum.
What’s interesting is that in the years 2011 – 2014, Nestle spent a cumulative US$12 billion on advertising. Not marketing, PR, promotions or anything else, just US$3 billion a year on advertising.
That’s a huge chunk of cash. And it’s like they need to spend that amount just to stand still because growth of 3.2% is not much better than standing still. Surely there’s a better way?
The English Premier League is broadcast to 70% of the world’s 2.1 billion football fans in 212 countries and territories around the world. Asia and Oceania represents 35% of that global audience.
In China alone, up to 18 broadcasters show nearly every game every week to more than 350 million fans across the country.
As of last year, a number of Asian brands including Thailand’s Chang beer (Everton) and King Power (Leicester City), Japan’s Yokohama Tyres (Chelsea), Yanmar and Epsom (Manchester United), Hong Kong’s AIA (Tottenham Hotspur) and GWFX (Swansea City) could be seen on advertising at grounds and/or on shirts.
Betting firms such as 138.com and UK-K8 who are targeting Asia are represented on the jerseys of West Bromwich Albion, Bournemouth, Watford and Crystal Palace.
In the championship, AirAsia sponsors Queens Park Rangers and Malaysia has a relationship with Cardiff city. Last year Malaysia Airlines signed a three year deal to be the official carrier of Liverpool after Garuda Indonesia relinquished the role.
Football has become popular with big global brands because of its impressive reach and because traditional channels such as TV are becoming fragmented as new services like Netflix, iflix and Amazon prime as well as Youtube, Facebook and others make it increasingly hard to gain the eyeballs all brands insist they need.
Football gives these brands the opportunity to reach a mass audience as well as be associated with what is obviously a very popular sport.
But in an economy driven not by what a company says it does but by what its customers experience, I question the relevance or validity of this approach.
I also think that if the logic is that by supporting a football team, a brand reaches out to all that team’s fans then surely fans of other teams will not support that brand?
And what if the team does badly? How does the association with a badly performing product reflect on the brand?
Take the case of Malaysia Airlines and Liverpool. Liverpool is one of the greatest, most iconic football clubs in the UK. The club was established in 1892, four years after the original premier league was set up.
The club’s trophy cabinet contains eighteen domestic League titles, seven FA Cups and eight League Cups, more than any other club.
They’ve also won five European Cups, three UEFA Cups and three UEFA Super Cups which means they’ve won more European trophies than any other English team in history except Manchester United (also 41).
That’s an impressive record but there’s a problem, they haven’t won an EPL title since 1992. Does that matter? Well it should do.
Does a brand such as Malaysia Airlines, which is going through a business turnaround plan to make it more competitive, efficient and effective, want to be associated with a team that hasn’t won anything significant for nearly 40 years?
And over the last few years, Liverpool has developed a reputation for poor winter form. The team won 2 out of ten matches at the start of 2016. In January 2017, Jurgen Klopp’s team lost 3 matches at Anfield in one week and as a result, was unceremoniously dumped out of two major competitions.
The team narrowly missed their worst run of losses at home since 1923 with a 1-1 draw against Chelsea at the end of January but the poor form continued into February with the recent 2-0 defeat away to lowly Hull City, 15 places below them. Only time will tell if last Saturday’s win against high flying Tottenham was the beginning of a new dawn or a flash in the pan.
If the latter, how does that reflect on Malaysia Airlines?
Liverpool are now 13 points off the leaders Chelsea and definitely under achieving.
Sure Malaysia Airlines is getting the eyballs, assuming viewers are watching the LED panels around the ground but is it the right environment for the brand? Is being associated with a team that is underachieving going to leave a positive impression?
You could argue that all Malaysia Airlines is doing is trying to raise awareness. But is raising awareness the right way forward? Is there anyone out there NOT aware of Malaysia Airlines?
Before Malaysia Airlines stepped in, Garuda International was the official carrier of Liverpool but after three years and a comprehensive study to determine if the airline was benefiting from the sponsorship, they pulled the plug. Surely if they felt they were getting value for money, they would have stayed on?
Garuda wasn’t the only sponsor to see little value in sponsoring teams in the EPL. In June 2016, Chinese smartphone maker Huawei ended its relationship as “official smartphone partner” to Arsenal after two years, citing “limited visibility.”
Malaysia Airlines hasn’t disclosed the amount it is paying to be the official carrier but Garuda forked out US$9 million (RM40 million) a year for the privilege.
So if Malaysia Airlines is paying the same (probably more but anyway), that’s US$27 million or RM125 million for brand exposure on LED and static boards at each home game, exposure on the Liverpool FC website which seems to consist of the logo at the bottom of the page, in publications and on the Facebook page although a quick look at the Liverpool page failed to find any reference to Malaysia Airlines.
The package is also supposed to include co-branding opportunities, merchandising rights and pitch side access with players and legends.
That’s a lot of money to pay to increase awareness of an airline that is probably known to everyone on the planet. But Malaysia Airlines CEO Peter Bellew thinks the deal, “has changed perception radically for us, in China, in Thailand, in the U.K.”
He didn’t explain what the perception of Malaysia Airlines was before the deal and how advertising on LED panels can change those perceptions.
The first game at which Malaysia Airlines appeared was a Liverpool v Manchester United match at the beginning of the 2016/17 season.
Liverpool managed to hang on for a draw, not an auspicious start. During the game, Malaysia Airlines advertised roundtrip fares between Kuala Lumpur and London at a ridiculously cheap £395 (RM2,299).
Confusingly, Bellews credits the passenger load increase on the Kuala Lumpur to London route from 45% in May 2016 to 63% in December 2016 to the Liverpool deal and was quoted in one newspaper as saying, “Old-fashioned sales and marketing works.”
Slashing prices to the bone and spending RM125 million to raise awareness (and to change perceptions) and tell football fans you are selling tickets at £395 when other airlines are selling the same route at £500 isn’t really old fashioned sales and marketing, it’s just old fashioned and more importantly, unsustainable.
And to be frank, it’s hard not to fill a plane from Malaysia to the UK in December as thousands of expatriates head home for Christmas and thousands more Malaysians head to Europe for the long holiday.
Irrespective of the fact that Malaysia Airlines is sponsoring a weak product, there is also the question of whether football fans in Asia, watching matches as they do in coffee shops, bars and roadside stalls at 2, 3 or even 4am really take in the messages on the LED billboards.
And even if consumers do take in and accept the limited messages that can be communicated on a pitchside screen there is another flaw to this process. What if performance doesn’t match any perception created?
Of course in the ‘old fashioned’ world that didn’t matter because the focus was more on acquistion anyway and there was a belief that there were always going to be new customers.
At least that’s what TWA, Swissair and the other 300 airlines that have failed over the past 50 years thought.
Brands such as Malaysia Airlines generally succeed, or fail not based on their advertising, positioning or associations but on operational issues, service capabilities, retention and the experiences of others we relate to.
The problem for Malaysia Airlines is that today, all of the above are played out on Facebook, in the letters pages of newspapers and in the comments sections of popular bloggers.
Dissatisfied customers can change perceptions and damage brands on social media much faster than those brands can change perceptions through pitchside LED screens.
In the ‘old fashioned’ world, brands reached out to the masses. Awareness and sales took precedent over customer development.
I get the feeling that Malaysia Airlines is focussing too much on getting back into the black, no matter what the cost. Selling tickets at RM2,299 and old fashioned sales and marketing tactics may just do that.
But what happens when the carrier wants to increase prices? If Malaysia Airlines has been attracting price conscious customers, won’t they move on to the cheapest carrier?
And if this model is successful, then it will probably be the next advertiser on those LCD screens.
Google the words ‘Visit Penang’ and you get the following results:
The next step would be to click on the visitpenang website link that takes the visitor to a site that has no video on the homepage even though a video on a homepage is reported to increase conversion rates by more than 20%.
Indeed, the way consumers are absorbing information via video is well documented. According to YouTube reports, mobile video consumption rises 100% every year. Of course that will peak at some stage but it isn’t even slowing at the moment. In fact, more video content is uploaded in 30 days than all three major US TV networks combined created in the last 30 years.
And when it comes to travel and destination related videos, YouTube is the most used site with 79% of users looking at personal travel options. YouTube says that 66% of all travellers watch online films when they are thinking of taking a trip.
Someone sent me a link to a new tourism video for Penang and asked my opinion. The video, launched earlier this year lists a number of quotes stretching back to one from Yahoo in 2011. I presume the video is supposed to lure more visitors to the island but I couldn’t make out who it is targetted at.
I get the impression that it’s one of those ads designed to communicate with everyone that ends up communicating with no one. Yes it features everything that is well known about Penang but it didn’t bring us anything not already on the web. Penang is known for its Char Kway Teow and the dish is featured in the video but who is going to travel to Penang for a plate of noodles and besides, is it new?
Moreover, there are more popular, well established Vloggers on YouTube such as Roseanntangrs who have over a million followers including a Vlog about Penang food that has over 160,000 views (and plenty of negative comments that need to be addressed by the author). This would have been a smart channel to use to promote Penang food.
Here’s the Penang video. I feel like it’s about 20 years out of date, it’s like a TV commercial pushed out across digital.
It’s a real shame because Penang is a must visit destination for anyone coming to South East Asia. I felt this video didn’t do justice to the destination.
Inevitably after watching this I had to search YouTube to see if it was the worst tourism ad ever. I was surprised to find plenty of material including this one from Singapore that really is the worst destination ad I’ve ever seen or heard.
I don’t know what Singapore Tourism was doing when it commissioned this ad but it very thoughtfully pulled it off the visit Singapore site.
Thankfully or not, depending on your point of view, YouTube hasn’t been so considerate. Stick with it to the end because the punchline will have you heading for cringetowm.
Penang’s video isn’t as bad as Singapores but it will be as inneffective. Indeed after seven months it has only had 9,500 views. But what should Penang tourism’s approach be when developing destination videos?
Here are 6 top tips Fusionbrand recommends Penang take into account next time they want to use video as part of their brand strategy:
1) You can’t be all things to all people. And you can’t include everything about a destination in one video so don’t try. Hook the viewer with the first video and YouTube will do the rest of the work for you because they will link similar videos to the one the viewer first watched.
2) Think about the audience for your film. What will they want to get from a film about your destination and how can you make the content relevant to their needs? Because if it doesn’t resonate with a few seconds, they’ll move on.
3) Think about how travellers use the IoT. Basically it begins with explore and discover before moving onto consider and connect. That’s followed by evaluate and engage and finally adopt, buyin, embrace and share/endorse/advocate. You must be clear about what part of the buyer process your videos are aiming at and the content must reflect that. Don’t try and cover everything in one video.
4) Be real and human. The days of the corporate controlled ‘big idea’ and message pushed out across media are over. Consumers don’t believe it and besides, it’s been done to death. Instead show events that happen during filming, things that go wrong and the people involved in the filming.
5) Instead of spending your money on expensive production of one video, make it real and make it often. Publish and share film on an ongoing basis.
6) Creating the video is only the start. You then need to share it, comment, respond, write about it and so on. An editorial plan should be developed around all videos.
Videos the future, for now anyway. But destinations like Penang need to stand out, not add to the noise. Otherwise branding investments are wasted and tax payers funds are too important to waste.