How to reduce the number of smokers in Malaysia


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.

According to the Star, Malaysia is the centre of illegal cigarette sales

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).

Malaysia’s Tak Nak campaign

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.

Hard, actionable data is required to develop a branding strategy to reduce smoking in Malaysia

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.

Malaysian civil servants must set a good example

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!

Which is the most valuable brand in the world?


Ever wondered what is the most valuable brand in the world? Apple right? Nope, now it’s Google. Ever wondered what is the most valuable brand in Asia? Samsung right? Correct.

The most valuable brand in SE Asia is Petronas, valued at US$10.6 billion although that’s probably changed significantly since the oil price tanked.

Courtesy of: Visual Capitalist

As Europe struggles to come to terms with Brexit, Asean celebrates 50 years


Citynationplace is one of the most respected nation branding forums on the Iot and is also the organiser of the must attend place branding conference held in the UK in November every year.

This month they’ve asked a number of brand consultants in Asia about Asean@50 about the state of nation branding in the region and the potential of Asean countries to work together to drive tourism and investment to the region. You can read the full article here

As I was one of the consultants interviewed, I thought I’d have a look at what Asean is doing to drive visitors to the region as part of the Asean@50 celebrations. The primary goal of the campaign is to encourage visitors to look at visiting more than one ASEAN destination.

The introduction to my comments on nation branding in Asia
The introduction to my comments on nation branding in Asia

As part of the celebrations for its 50th anniversary, ASEAN has created a theme “Partnering for Change, Engaging the World”. There is also a collaborative tourism campaign: “Visit ASEAN@50: Golden Celebration”.

I’m yet to see this campaign in Malaysia or Singapore but a new website has been created however it doesn’t seem to feature too much information. On the events page, there were no events for Malaysia in March and none till October.

For visitors to use the site, there needs to be plenty of the right information
For visitors to use the site, there needs to be plenty of the right information

There’s also another tagline for South East Asia “Feel the warmth”. This is featured on the Asean Tourism website. I couldn’t find a Facebook page however the hashtag #visitasean50 has appeared on Facebook but there doesn’t appear to be any structure to any of the communications.

There are a couple of videos on YouTube, one of which has been shared about 40,000 times on Facebook but again there doesn’t seem to be any strategy behind any of the postings.

A Twitter page was created in July 2014 but it appears inactive.

I don’t have the full details on the project and we are only at the end of the first quarter of 2017 so the strategy maybe to start later in the year although many in the northern hemisphere will be planning their holidays now so the digital representation needs to be improved and improved quickly.

Penang’s destination video isn’t bad, but it isn’t great either. 6 ways to use video properly to build your destination brand


Google the words ‘Visit Penang’ and you get the following results:

'Visit Penang' search results
‘Visit Penang’ search 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.

The spat between AirAsia and Malaysia Airports is damaging both brands and the Malaysia Nation brand


Tan Sri Tony Fernandes, the charismatic founder of Air Asia acknowledged this week that despite threats to do so, he has no right to change the name of Malaysia’s low cost terminal from klia2 to LCCT2.

Tan Sri Tony Fernandes. Charismatic but controversial and ill informed
Tan Sri Tony Fernandes. Charismatic but controversial and ill informed

This U turn is a relief to many because his spat with Malaysian airport operator Malaysia Airports over the naming of the second terminal at the country’s main gateway was becoming increasingly petulant and was yet another controversy Malaysia’s damaged brand could do without.

Nevertheless, the outspoken entrepreneur hasn’t given up on the project and is scheduled to meet the Malaysian Minister of Transport today, June 29th.

Tan Sri Tony was quoted recently as saying, “I’m doing a marketing campaign and the minister knows that. There is nothing wrong with it.”

He added, rather confusingly “It’s freedom of speech. I’m allowed to do any advertising I want. Why are we always bullied? We are trying to do business here, to create jobs, to attract tourists.”

“Penalties, fines, that’s old fashion (sic). Aren’t we (AirAsia and Malaysia Airports Holdings Berhad) doing the same business together? Isn’t this good for Malaysia?”

“If anyone can tell me this is bad for the country, then I’ll stop,” Fernandes said, adding: “Let us work together to build something in this economic season.”

Well Tan Sri, what you are doing IS bad for the country and it’s bad for you and your airline as well. In addition to having a negative impact on the nation brand, these very public spats between an airline and an airport operator do not inspire confidence in either organisation.

Malaysia's transport minister
Malaysia’s transport minister

Furthermore, and I apologise in advance for being so candid but your rants are confusing, misinformed and contradictory. Promoting the nation’s second airport terminal as LCCT2 isn’t marketing, it’s illogical.

And confusing naming with a marketing campaign whilst suggesting you are a victim might gain you some sympathetic traction somewhere but it only detracts the reader from your stated aims.

Southwest Airlines, the largest and most successful low cost carrier and one I’m sure you are familiar with hasn’t tried to rename any of the terminals it has successful flown out of since 1971.

Newer low cost carriers such as AirArabia in the Middle East and IndiGo in India as well as the more established Jetstar in Australia and Gol in South America don’t fly in and out of terminals called LCCT, they fly in and out of terminals named terminal 1 or 2 or main terminal.

Other low cost carriers such as Air Arabia haven't tried to change airport names to LCCT2
Other low cost carriers such as Air Arabia haven’t tried to change airport names to LCCT2

It’s also a bit naïve to suggest that changing the name of terminal 2 to LCCT2 would ‘reinforce Kuala Lumpur’s position as the leading low cost gateway to Asia and beyond’.

Firstly, the concept of positioning is outdated and irrelevant in today’s social media world where consumers are more knowledgeable and no longer need to rely on the word of the corporation. But even if it was relevant, who are you positioning it to?

AirAsia is responsible for something like 90% of the passengers at Malaysia’s second terminal. If you haven’t already sold your passengers an onward flight, do you think the name of the terminal is going to make any difference? No matter how much you spend on positioning the terminal, it won’t make a difference.

Secondly, where is LCCT1? Just because you know it doesn’t exist, doesn’t mean a young Beijing based Chinese travel writer travelling to SE Asia for the first time doesn’t know. But if he’s confused, he’ll write about it and I guarantee that’ll have more impact than any positioning campaign.

Thirdly, is it really possible to ‘reinforce Kuala Lumpur’s position as the leading low cost gateway to Asia and beyond?’ Irrespective of the fact that nobody else is trying to position Kuala Lumpur as anything or the fact that positioning doesn’t make sense, who is going to drive this? Have you got buy in from other stakeholders? And who is going to fund it? And how?

And what about the future? Which other airlines are going to use the LCC terminal? Already Malindo has moved to the main terminal. Do airlines really want to be associated with a LCCT? Especially when the experience of using the second terminal is not one passengers are enamoured with.

There is definately a need for consistency in the naming of the terminals at KLIA. It is logical to name the terminals one and two. Preferably KLIAT1 and KLIAT2.

And the next one can be called KLIAT3 and so on, just like Changi, Heathrow, Los Angeles, Sydney and just about every other easy to use and successful airport in the world that has chosen logic and the user experience over everything else when naming their airports and terminals.

Once the naming has been addressed logically and in line with global best practices, we can move onto the marketing of Kuala Lumpur and the airport and the freedom of speech and all the other stuff TS Tony mentioned. But only then.

Calling the second terminal at KLIA LCCT2 is a terrible idea


The irrepresible Malaysian entrepreneur, Tan Sri Tony Fernandes has another mega deal on the table, this time he’s reported to be getting ready to divest Asia Aviation Capital Ltd, his aircraft leasing company for about US$1 billion.

Despite this big deal on the cards, he hasn’t stopped having a go at Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd (MAHB) over the last couple of weeks. Last Friday, June 10th he was reported to be ‘shocked to see water pouring out of a ceiling at the relatively new airport in Kota Kinabalu.

Please do not call an airport terminal LCCT2
Please do not call an airport terminal LCCT2

And then on 13th June he berated MAHB again, this time for denying Kuala Lumpur International Airport terminal 2 was a low cost terminal and that the name didn’t mean anything.

He was quoted as saying, “To me, klia2 doesn’t mean anything. LCCT2, on the other hand, is synonymous with low-cost. It’s a brand we built up together with Malaysia Airports Holdings Bhd and it shouldn’t go to waste.”

I’m not sure why any brand would be pleased their product was synonymous with low cost. AirAsia might be called a Low Cost Carrier but everyone knows it isn’t. In fact there are times when it is the most expensive of the 3 main carriers in Malaysia. Certainly on some domestic routes.

He went on to say, “As we grow towards becoming the Dubai of Asia, we want the world to know that the best value fares are here in Malaysia.” Hang on a minute, what are we selling here? If we name an airport terminal LCCT2, how will the world know that the best value fares are here in Malaysia?

Social Media wasn’t impressed either. One wag was rumoured to have posted on Facebook “Low-Cost Carrier Terminal 2 (LCCT2)? “I spent 6 months training to do the walk to Everest base camp once but my elderly mother and I weren’t prepared for the long trek through empty airport halls and past retail outlets, in the long pre-journey, journey from check-in to our boarding gates!”

Another in keeping with the Himalayan theme, is reported to have said, “I was flying to Bangkok and on my way to the departure lounge I passed Sherpa Tensing coming the other way. He looked exhausted but still managed to tell me he had given up before he got to the gate.” Apparently it was just too far.

But joking aside, why would you want to call an airport terminal ‘Low-Cost Carrier Terminal 2 (LCCT2)?’ I mean for a start it isn’t Low Cost Carrier Terminal 2. It’s LCCT1 because there currently isn’t an LCCT1. I think anyone reading that would think it was the name of an airline and that the airline had sponsored the terminal.

Why can't we do what everyone else does and have the airport name followed by the terminal number?
Why can’t we do what everyone else does and have the airport name followed by the terminal number?

No airline aspires to be cheap and no terminal aspires to be low cost. But more importantly, what is a non English speaking mainland Chinese person, Korean investor or Australian traveller to make of that moniker?

Is it going to help them navigate through the maze and warrens of Kuala Lumpur’s terminal 2? Of course it isn’t. Is it going to help make an already stressful experience even more stressful? I’d bet the farm on it.

Bearing in mind the airport has been known for a long time as KLIA, now that they’ve built a second terminal at the same airport, wouldn’t it make more sense to name the terminal ‘Kuala Lumpur International Airport Terminal 2’ or KLIAT2? I do appreciate this would require Klia1 to be renamed but that’s a necesity as well because what does Klia1 mean? Is it referring to the terminal? It’s position or what?

Klia 2 doesn't really mean anything so we need to change it
Klia 2 doesn’t really mean anything so we need to change it

KLIA should be like every other airport in the world that is designed with the passenger in mind. Think Heathrow Terminal 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5, Dubai Terminal 1, 2 and 3 or Singapore Changi terminal 1, 2, 3 and 4.

Surely that makes it easier for everyone concerned? Calling it LCCT2 really is a terrible idea.

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 brandconsultantasia.com 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 Amazon.co.uk

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.

Want to future proof your brand? You won’t do it with an advertising campaign


Advertising campaigns are as common as muck. We’re oblivious to most of them and even when we see one we like, we very rarely buy the product. And it doesn’t matter whether it goes out across social or traditional media, the reality is most advertising is simply noise.

Even if we do buy the product, we’re often let down at some stage of the experience. Because most firms don’t spend enough time and money on looking after us once we’ve bought something, even if the product works well, any positive perceptions created early on are destroyed later when there is an issue and the brand doesn’t respond well. When this happens, many of us become brand activists, for all the wrong reasons.

In the social economy, this can have a devasting effect on the brand. Harvard Business Review went as far as to say, “Traditional marketing — including advertising, public relations and corporate communications — is dead.…in today’s increasingly social media-infused environment, traditional marketing and sales not only doesn’t work so well, it doesn’t make sense.”

So I wrote a book on the subject and you can buy that book from Amazon here.

The book has been selling well and there is a lot of interest in Asia. Recently the prestigious CMO.com interviewed me and you can read the full interview here.

I think the interview works well and anyone who runs a business and is looking to build a brand should read it and if you like it, buy the book. Seriously I think you will learn a lot.

Thanks to Bobby McGill at Branding in Asia for doing the interview.

STOP ADVERTISING, START BRANDING is in all good bookshops NOW!


Attached is a press release for Stop Advertising, Start Branding. This is a book about change. Yep, another one. The difference is, this one is about changing back to what you and everyone else used to do. It’s about laying the foundations before building the house. It’s about researching the destination before getting on the plane.

Stop Advertising, Start Branding on sale now
Stop Advertising, Start Branding on sale now

That’s right, it’s about getting the fundamentals in place before coming up with the creative, the quirky, the clever, the funny, the whatever. Far too many brands try to compete in their markets today without doing the right research. Without even communicating to their staff what they are trying to say. At other times they don’t even know if they can deliver on the promises made. That’s mad and why so much advertising doesn’t work.

Stop Advertising, Start Branding is a book that doesn’t have a title with an animal name in it. It won’t win a creative award for the cover even though it looks great. It’s normal, it’s a bit thicker than many branding or marketing books today but that’s because the information you need to build a brand takes up this much space. Sorry.

But if you read it I’m confident it will make you stop advertising and start branding. Which means it’ll save you a lot of money because let’s face it, most advertising doesn’t make much of an impression on anyone.

And you can use the money you save to build a brand your people buy into and want to work for. And once they do that they’ll be able to deliver on the promises you make. And when they do that, your customers will come back to you time and time again and they’ll tell others how great you and your product are. And when that happens you’ll make a lot of money.

OK, it’s not that easy but that’s why the book is 300 pages and that’s why I wrote it. If you want to find out how to build a brand without wasting massive amounts of money on advertising, I suggest you get a copy from your local Kinokuniya, MPH or Times bookstore in Malaysia and Singapore or from Amazon in the UK. And if they don’t have it, make sure you complain and order it or call us at +603 7054 2075 and we’ll sort something out right away.

Click here to read the full press release for STOP ADVERTISING, START BRANDING by Marcus Osborne

Where is Malaysia in terms of world happiness?


Sticking with the Nation branding theme of the previous post, the 2016 World Happiness report is out. You can download the full report here. Of the 157 countries that participated in the project, Malaysia is the 47th most happy country, 25 places below Singapore at 22 and way above Indonesia at 79.

Denmark top of the world happiness index
Denmark top of the world happiness index

The sample size is 3,000 and its purpose is to, “survey the scientific underpinnings of measuring and understanding subjective well-being.” One section of the methodology caught my eye, “..continued with our attempts to explain the levels and changes in average national life evaluations among countries around the world. This year we shall still consider the geographic distribution of life evaluations among countries, while extending our analysis to consider in more detail the inequality of happiness – how life evaluations are distributed among individuals within countries and geographic regions.” It caught my eye but I’m not sure what it means!

One argument in the report suggests “people are happier living in societies where there is less inequality of happiness.” Which I think means “People are happier where everyone is happy.” If I’m right, I don’t think that’s particularly ground breaking information.

However, the section on Measuring and understanding happiness is interesting and worth a look. In fact the whole report is worth a look but I won’t be taking it too seriously. Oh, and the happiest country in the world? Denmark. Why, because everyone looks out for everyone else. The government’s social policy really is social and embraces everyone which has created a civil society where everyone has the freedom and income to make their own life choices. Food for thought there.