Olwen van Dijk-Hildebrand


It’s not every day that we are given the opportunity to look through the keyhole and see what happens in the world of an energy giant, such as Shell. Marketing and communications for large conglomerates like Shell and its competitors is a fast-moving realm of whirling parts, constant evolution, and changing trends. Energy is vital to the world economy, allowing our human civilization to continue to exist as it does and grow. As we move into an era that is more aware of sustainability, these big conglomerates do so in tandem, looking to adapt to the changing needs of humanity.

In this issue of the Marketing Expert Series, we are privileged to be joined by Shell Malaysia’s Jade Choong, who heads the marketing communications initiatives for Shell Commercial Fuels (SCF). Join us as we go deeper into this fascinating world of marketing energy.

Hi, Jade, thank you for taking part in the Marketing Expert Series! Let’s start with some history, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now?

I would sum myself up as a working millennial who loves traveling (up until the pandemic) and is still happily finding her way parenting a boisterous 3-year-old. And while ‘millennial’ used to have a ‘youth’ ring to it, I’m well aware age is catching up!

One of my earlier marketing roles was in the telecommunications industry – back when mobile phones still had buttons on them and Bluetooth was a ‘premium’ feature! 🙂 I then moved on to British American Tobacco – which was great exposure to trade and brand marketing. I was then recruited by Shell Malaysia and have held various marketing roles in different lines of businesses including Commercial Fuels, Lubricants, and Bitumen. Throughout the diversified industries, I’ve loved the different adventures and experiences each brought.

Was there something that drew you to this line of work? Were there any specific experiences that pulled you towards it?

Jade had an inspirational meeting with Dato Ramani Gurusamy – a woman who fought for equal pay for women in Malaysia

As much as my late mother would’ve loved me to get into medical school (an Asian thing perhaps?), I pursued marketing because I found it exciting; to me it felt like a study of the ‘art of making people buy.’ Advertising and Consumer Behaviour were my two favourite subjects during my postgraduate days and, naturally, it became my career choice after graduation.

Currently, you are a Global Marketing Communications Manager at Shell. What does that entail? Can you elaborate on the kind of role this is at Shell?

I lead the marketing communications initiatives for the Shell Commercial Fuels (SCF) line of business, which include driving our thought leadership program, developing creative assets across multimedia channels and supporting the SCF markets worldwide, in their key marketing activities. I work closely with the Global Fuels Manager as it’s a collective effort to ensure our energy solutions and brand are well positioned externally.

What’s it like to work with a large multinational corporation like Shell? Are there any challenges?

Exciting to say the least! Being in a world-class organization gives me the privilege to work with many first-class professionals, from teammates to agency partners, to our business partners – all of which are very rewarding intellectually.

Additionally, the breadth of a global role allows me to speak to various nationalities daily (it’s a joy listening to different accents!), learn of different market dynamics and cultures, plus share best practices and learnings across markets.

It doesn’t come without its challenges, of course. Given that this is a very much a role performed virtually (even before the pandemic) there’s always been a need to find creative ways to bond with international colleagues and nurture a global ‘family’ – be it to support each other’s market initiatives, to supporting each other’s wellbeing during these challenging times.

On a business front, there are common challenges of increasingly aggressive competition and foreign exchange rates impacting businesses, to more unique ones. The latter for example, could be extreme weather or national incidents that make headlines worldwide, which consequently impacts a local market operations – where there’s no standard playbook on how to respond but it has to be dealt with, as and how the incident evolves. It’s an environment that requires being able to learn fast and improvising on the go.

Now, I think we can all agree that the world of energy corporations like Shell is an extremely competitive industry. How does one go about marketing a brand like Shell?

Good question! In the B2B marketing world, it’s a key priority for us to communicate the value of our energy solutions, be it from our range of innovative fuels to our professional technical services.  At times, there could be industry users who may perceive all fuels to be the same leading them to only make price-led decisions. To help with this perception, we set out to share the benefits of our premium fuels and the impact it makes on a machine/vehicle’s total cost of ownership and overall, to the company’s bottom line, whilst also considering tightening environmental regulations. In sum, we aim to be more than just a transactional supplier. We want to be a partner to our customers, that helps them with their profitability and evolving sustainability needs.

Let’s talk about the elephant in the room for a moment: COVID-19 impacted a lot of companies and industries all around the world. How has it affected Shell? Have you needed to change your strategies to handle the obstacles it created?

The Shell Commercial Fuels business was impacted in tandem with industries that could not operate during their respective lockdowns, since we provide fuels to power their fleets and machinery. During this period, we provided advice to our business partners on how to manage their fleet including during periods of non-operations – since that’s a new experience for many. Internally, the pandemic has accelerated our digitization. The B2B world we knew pre-COVID was still very much in-person exhibitions and customer meetings on site. Since then, we’ve seen a significant uptake in digital campaigns and we’ve had to train ourselves, our teams, and resellers to become masters in virtual communication platforms and webinar management.

Jade Choong with husband, Patrick

From a strategy standpoint, there was no major shift required since we’ve always had the long term in view, with lower-carbon fuel offerings and solutions that would help our customers be more cost-efficient. Given the financial impact the pandemic has had on industries and the growing focus on lowering emissions, we believe we are now poised more than ever to help customers navigate the increasingly complex energy environment.

What about for you, personally, when this pandemic is over, what’s next for you?

Traveling would be nice! Although closer to a daily normal, I’d cherish being able to swim with my son again in the public pool.

Any advice you’d give to young and aspiring marketing specialists?

Never stop learning… If anything, marketing is always evolving and especially with the ever-changing social media algorithms, human needs and wants, I’d say this is definitely an exciting career if you choose it 😊

Thank you, Jade, for sharing your experiences with us.

The pleasure is mine!

Did you know that there are now more than 4 billion people using social networks around the world? The Internet has opened up new opportunities for everyone, from individuals to massive corporations. In one way or another, social media plays an important role in most of our lives, allowing us to connect with loved ones, research products, check quality, and share our opinions for the entire world to see. 

The newer generations – young Millennials and Gen Zers – are using social media more than ever to search, investigate, and interact with brands, celebrities, and like-minded people all over the globe. If you’re looking for a ‘how-to’ chances are you’ll go to YouTube, want to know if that hotel or restaurant is worth the money – Tripadvisor or Yelp!; the point is, where twenty years ago we didn’t know where to look and thus relied more heavily on search engines like Google, the current tech-savvy generations have a good grasp on where to go for information, and it’s social media.

But what does it take, in the realm of a digital marketing agency to organize, develop and manage social media marketing campaigns and opportunities? Let’s dive into a day in the life of John Tan, the 2Stallions Social Media Lead.

Meet John!

Hi everyone, I’m John Tan.

Growing up, sports were always a big part of my life. Whether it was watching or playing, it was my passion and I always wanted to be surrounded by it. I knew I could never play professionally so I decided to pursue the next best thing, sports marketing.

Why specifically social media? In this day and age, social media is arguably the first touch point of any brand communication. For some people, it’s even the first touch point of their day. 

When I was younger, sports ads (especially for the big names such as Nike and Adidas) always captivated me. I was fascinated by how they resonated not only with a sports audience, but the rest of the world. These were mostly on tv as social media wasn’t a thing yet. So seeing how these have translated/transformed for digital platforms really intrigues me.

I joined 2Stallions in 2019 and was actually approached by Dhawal Shah, one of our founding directors, via LinkedIn. I had been looking for a new opportunity so it came just at the right time. I had good feelings right off the bat as the interview process was very smooth and flexible as I was overseas on holiday for 3 weeks. At first, I felt very thrown into the deep end with my role. This may not sound too appealing to some but it gave me the opportunity to grow personally and professionally. Additionally, the team was very supportive with ideas I wanted to execute and accomplish.

Social Media Lead’s Desk:
Everything you could need for inspiration productivity.

What goes on in the day-to-day job as Social Media Lead?

A lot of my day-to-day revolves around our clients, discussing with them on how campaigns are progressing, feedback on ads/copy/visuals, how to improve campaigns, what’s the best strategy moving forward.

Apart from that, my day involves implementing those changes be it via the different social platform ad managers or liaising with our internal teams.

Social media is now in the marketing spotlight more than ever as brands try to navigate and stand out. The pandemic has brought this even more to light with many brands having to push digital to the forefront as many of their offline activities are no longer viable. 

Social is ever changing, from the way we consume to even laws and regulations being set in place. So it’s important for brands (and agencies of course) to stay on top of the trends and best practices to maximise performance.

What challenges do you face? 

Just like in life, rejection is probably the worst part about the job. Rejection of creative ideas, strategies, visuals. The worst is probably rejection of proposals because you not only get your idea rejected but also you don’t get the job (and the money).  I usually get bummed out for like 5 minutes or so upon getting rejected. But the best/only way to overcome rejection is like how you would deal with any problem in life, learn and move on.

What do you do to blow off steam if you get stuck?

Like most problems in life, I’m the type of person that likes to vent and voice my frustrations. So usually, I just rant for a few minutes (at the appropriate people, of course!). After blowing off that steam, I move on and focus on the task at hand. 

After work I like to relax playing games and, of course, a well-deserved after-work beer always helps.It’s hard for me to pinpoint exactly what motivates me apart from the sheer fact that there is a task and it needs to get done, it’s really as simple as that.

Blowing of Steam in Style

Any Favourite Resources?

Aside from the business accounts of the various platforms which offer insights on the latest developments and new innovations, just being on social media leisurely but looking at it through a marketing lens is really where I get my ideas from. 

Thinking about why I was targeted for an ad, what message does this visual give me, why did I stop and look at the ad in the first place, what ideas can I take from this ad and use it for my work?

Same goes for influencers, why did a brand choose them, what are they trying to achieve, what trends are they riding on.

Is it true that an agency life is ‘all work, no play’? 

I would say in many cases, agency life calls for working late/nights to meet deadlines. I’ve experienced it before at other agencies and on occasion here at 2Stallions but not so much.

I enjoy the flexibility that comes with the culture here. Especially since we’ve been working from home, we’ve been able to manage our own time (of course as long as work gets done). I’ve heard many stories of friends who need to show that they are online, daily check-in calls etc while working at home. The team communicates together often enough but it’s nice to be trusted with our work/hours as long as things get done. 

Advice for Aspiring Social Media Specialists

Many young aspiring career starters get interested in jobs in social media because of what they see from influencers, YouTubers, streamers. It’s a common misconception that “all they do” is post content. Yes, that’s part of the job but what they should look into is the process behind it all and see if that interests them. 

What I like most about working in and around Social is the blend of creative and technical knowledge. You could have 1001 creative ideas, but it’s about outfitting those ideas with technical know-how such as audience targeting, business objectives, customer journeys etc (learned and developed over time) that truly makes a piece of content/campaign work.

Wrapping Up 

Get to know our #2Stallionsfamily with the #2Steamstories tag.  Discover the works done by our diverse team of digital marketing professionals who’ll bring your ideas to life with impactful designs. Browse and download our case studies now! 

If you’d like to connect with John, you can reach him via email at and you can connect with him on LinkedIn here. If you’re looking to get ahead in your social media marketing, don’t hesitate to contact us!

If you’ve been paying even half a bit of attention to the world of the Internet, you’ll probably have heard that Google is doing away with third-party cookies. Aside from the fact that pretty much every digital entity has made every cookie joke under the sun, providing a lifetime of entertainment – the removal of third-party cookies from Google’s popular browser, Chrome, is going to have a lasting impact on how individuals, such as yourself, and marketers, such as us here at 2Stallions – hi! – navigate our day-to-day online.

“But why?” you ask. Let’s backtrack a little.

What is a Cookie & How do they Work?

If you want the technical jargon, a cookie is a small text file in the browser that websites can write to, specific to a device (sometimes referenced as the user). We’ve been using them since the early 1990s. In the beginning, they were all about improving eCommerce experiences. Since then brands have been using them to track website traffic, improve the user experience on websites, and collect data to help with marketing efforts. Digital marketers in particular are fond of the data that the cookies provide, using them to learn about which visitors are visiting their websites. 

There are two specific kinds of cookies, and it’s important to understand the difference between the two to have a good grasp on what it is that is being phased out and why. 

First-Party Cookies

First-party cookies are created, published, and controlled by the website you visit. They are ‘owned’ by the actual places you go online, they improve your user experience on that specific website. Among other things, first-party cookies are in charge of things like remembering what’s in your shopping cart, your items viewing history, and the preferences you selected. If you’ve ever wondered why Amazon remembers your name when you come back to their website after months of being a no-show, it’s because of their first-party cookies. In a nutshell: first-party cookies collect behavioral data to help the website owner improve their services – the information these kinds of cookies gather is shared directly with the website owner.

Third-Party Cookies

Third-party cookies are created by third parties and set by an external server through advertising technology. These kinds of cookies collect data that is accessible on any website that uses the third-party server’s code. Third-party cookies let advertisers track users across the Internet and then use that information to set target advertising campaigns for wherever that user goes. Keep in mind that cookies often get intermingled with other things like pixels, tags, and scripts – just remember that they are not the same thing.

Digital advertisers, for example, use third-party cookie data to learn about visitors to their websites. Using cookie data they can see what kind of website visitors frequently visit, the kinds of purchases they make, and any interests that they’ve shown. Information like that allows advertisers and marketers to tailor ad campaigns and other content that they publish to better reach their target audience.

Why are Cookies being Phased Out?

While the idea of cookies being phased out may have surprised some, many digital marketers saw it coming. The last decade has seen the rise of data privacy and security concerns; governments all around the world have been investigating and regulating data privacy issues. This is one of the reasons why in October 2019, Europe’s courts ruled that all users in the European Union (EU) had to be able to consent to any and all analytical cookies before a website use analytics or tracks them on the user’s browser. Of course, prior to that, the GDPR (General Data Protection Regulation) already cracked down on the requirements for data privacy, and many other regions and countries have matched it since.

Data privacy is in, and abuse of cookies is out.

So are we surprised? Not really. After scandals like Cambridge Analytica, there was a certain feeling of ‘waiting for the other shoe to drop’ as people slowly became aware that personal information and data privacy are vital to peace of mind and, as it turns out, world politically security.

Google isn’t getting rid of all cookies. They’re focused on those pesky third-party cookies – the ones that advertisers are using to track users across the Internet to figure out how they tick. First-party cookies and Google’s Privacy Sandbox Tools are safe.

Side Note: 

Let’s be very clear for a minute: digital marketing isn’t about secretly spying on Internet users and third-party cookies aren’t malicious data-collecting minions created by evil corporate overlords. Third-party cookies have served us all well for a very long time. The reason why you look up things online and get results that are right on the money is because of cookies. The reason why you found that great pair of shoes in an e-commerce store when you didn’t know where to look, also because of cookies.

In the age of digital privacy awareness and new laws and regulations limiting corporations from abusing the data collected, we often fall into a misconception that because of a few bad eggs all digital marketing and data-collection agencies are nefarious. That’s simply not true. It is true, as with many things in life, that some entities choose to abuse the information they are privy to in order to swing things their way. Netflix’s The Great Hack is a good documentary about the Cambridge Analytica scandal and does a better job of illustrating the dark side of the data-collection world. It is also true that data privacy is important, and as we move forward we need to know how to respect it, and that is one of the reasons we are seeing this cookie phase-out.

How is this the Phasing out of Third-Party Cookies to Impact Digital Marketing?

While the so-called ‘death’ of third-party cookies on Chrome will be inconvenient, digital marketers will still be able to leverage and target Google Ads, powered by Google Chrome’s first-party cookies, and the Privacy Sandbox tools. Some ad software and external platforms, however, will struggle with these changes as they require the third-party data collected by the cookies. It’s likely that many of these platforms will be forced to innovate or take a huge hit.

What is clear, however, is that digital marketers and advertisers are going to have to change the way they work. The digital era has opened a lot of doors and closed others – with data privacy and sustainability awareness on the rise, it’s time for digital marketing to take a good look at how it obtains and uses visitor data. 

Wrapping Up

So, it’s bye-bye third-party cookies on Chrome, and hello new world of data privacy awareness and understanding. Not to run this cookie analogy too much further, but we should have seen it coming – they’re called cookies, not carrots, clearly we were going to figure out the weren’t all that healthy for us eventually.

What are digital marketers going to do? None of us are clairvoyant, but it’s safe to say that digital marketing is going to evolve, as it has done in the past and will no doubt be asked to do again in the future.

We live a digitized existence, and as our technologies evolve, so must the laws and regulations that keep us safe and happy. This is the normal way of things: step by step, everything changes. Now the question is, how will we rise to this opportunity?

Worried? Intrigued? Not sure how you’ll be tackling third-party cookie loss? Give us a call, we can help.

Over the last month we have thoroughly explored the concepts behind a successful integrated marketing communications strategies. There’s a lot of different angles to consider with integrated marketing communications campaigns – audiences, channels, reach, strategy – but let’s recap before we get too far afield.

What is an integrated marketing communications strategy again? 

In short, an integrated marketing communications (IMC) strategy is a consolidated, optimized brand message that is carefully developed to send out across all a brand’s channels and platforms to reach their audience with a single, powerful message. This allows brand audiences to hear a single voice, thus providing them with a reason to trust and remain loyal to that brand. Check back on our previous articles to catch up on reasons why you need an IMC to begin with, and steps to creating one. All caught up? Let’s dive in.

How to develop your IMC Campaigns

Developing campaigns is all part of digital marketing, it’s how we reach our audiences and communicate with them. Campaigns can be built around certain products, aiming to bolster sales, or entire brands, raising awareness and boosting audience loyalty and reach. In a nutshell, campaigns are a consolidated attempt to reach a target audience for a targeted purpose.

‘Regular’ marketing strategies use campaigns for just that purpose.

Now let’s assume you’re in the process of developing your IMC strategy – you’re establishing what integrated, consolidated message you want to reach your audience with, and you’ve selected your primary and secondary channels. You want to start tapping into the advantages that your newly minted, integrated marketing communications strategy, so what’s next?

Step 1: Adjust Your Content Strategy

Take a look at your content strategy. Have you planned out your content for the next few months? The next year? How does the content calendar look – is it standardized, with a flow of logical progression from one piece of content to the next? One of the key things to keep in mind when you’re developing your IMC campaigns is to make sure that your content strategy allows for the integration of messaging.

Many companies approach their content strategy by going with the flow across all their channels. This means they create the same content output for each individual channel – it’s something we’re all guilty of, admit it! – rather than tailoring each piece of content to each channel and its audience.

You might think that this makes it easier to create an IMC because everything is the same. Stop there for a minute and think about it – not one platform is the same as another. Just considering the differing demographics across each platform means every approach to each channel needs to be handled differently.

This is where your IMC comes in, because despite the fact that yes, you should approach all your channels with the appropriate kind of content, your message needs to be consistent. 

Step 2: Integrate Your Design

If you saw a flash of yellow against red on a passing sign, chances are you’re going to think of McDonalds. If you see a bottle with white on red: you’ll think of CocaCola; if I said ‘Just do It’, Nike will pop up front and centre. Instant brand recognition is earned over time, but it starts with some basic design work. 

Any visual content you put out into the world should resonate with your audience and be true to your brand image. It also needs to be consistent across all your platforms – your website, social media, and your events. Anything you put out there needs to look like your material, and the easiest way to do that is to establish an integrated set of guidelines that are part of your IMC strategy. This then informs how the creative and design for your IMC campaigns should look and feel. 

Step 3: Consolidate your Message

You’ve created a solid and efficient content strategy, and your design team is rocking the socks off your campaign’s creative, awesome! Now, how about your words? What are they saying? Is your message coming across clearly and consistently? Across all your platforms? Yes? Great! 

Keep in mind that your message might not even need words, it might be a silent video that speaks volumes (see what I did there?), but it does need to be clear and consistent everywhere you publish it. 

That means that if you have to change the format or trim a video, that you retain the message that the content conveys. In other words, be mindful that any editing for different platforms may accidentally change the message of the content.

Summing Up

Think of it this way: I should be able to go onto any social media platform where your brand is active and recognize your content at a glance. I should be familiar enough with your material that if I catch a glimpse of a billboard, I should be able to recognize your brand and your brand message. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the marketing holy grail, and you can make it happen with an integrated marketing communication campaign.

Just remember that for your IMC campaign to really work your content, your designs, your method of outreach needs to resonate with your target audience on that platform but it also needs to offer the same information and voice as it does everywhere else. Your content strategy and output needs to reflect this. If you are active on Facebook, LinkedIn, and Twitter your material will need to be formatted differently, the content created to match those platforms. This can be as simple as making sure that any images you are using fit the recommended dimensions for the platform. Your content might need to be phrased differently – Twitter’s character limit makes this a must! – but your tone, your voice, your message should be the same. 

Are you looking to get started with integrated marketing communications campaigns? We can work with you to develop both a strategy and a series of campaigns that consolidate your brand message across your website and your social media output. Get in touch and let’s get started today!

Welcome back to another edition of #2STeamStories, a monthly serial that lets you get to know more about the 2Stallions Family and what they do. From internships, UI/UX design, to content marketing, #2STeamStories aims to help everyone get a better picture about life at an agency. We also hope to provide insights into each speciality and encourage aspiring marketers to join this dynamic and exciting industry.

In this edition, we dive into the world of our Head of Performance, Pieter Dijkgraaf. Pieter shares his journey into the marketing world, starting life as a Google advertising specialist and becoming the driving force behind 2Stallions’s digital performance marketing success. Join us for a glimpse into Pieter’s history in 6 Questions, let’s discover performance marketing and learn what it takes to connect and engage customers in this digital era. 

Hi Pieter! Tell us a bit about yourself.

Hi! I’m 33 years old and originally from the Netherlands.  I started my career 10 years ago as a Google ads specialist, but I chose to specialize in Performance Marketing. This basically means that I’m focused on making sure that money invested in marketing is actually making a return. Performance marketing encompasses almost all digital channels like SEM, SEO, Social, Marketing Automation, Programmatic, Affiliate, Marketplaces. It also works hand-in-hand with data analytics, and metrics like conversion rate optimization. Looking back at where I started, I would say that search engine advertising is still the area I am interested in; and I dp try to keep up with all the changes in that area. 

How did you find your way to working at 2Stallions?

I got in touch with Daniel at the end of 2019 while I was still working in The Netherlands. I was working for an agency at that time, and he was looking for a new Head of Performance Marketing, a role I was very familiar with. When he told me about 2Stallions, their strategy, positioning, type of clients and ambitions, it really appealed to me. It did, however, require me to move to another country, not knowing, of course, that COVID would hit the world a month after my arrival in Singapore. 

What is your proudest career moment so far?

I’m very proud of the way we are going through the whole COVID-19 crisis as a team. We had already established a work-from-home policy in the company, letting people work from home one day in the week to allow for flexibility, and so the transition to everyone working from home was quite smooth. We were also very lucky because we didn’t need to let anyone go, which continues to allow us to work hard on ongoing and new projects as a team.  This meant we could still give our all for our clients,  giving them great service and helping them digitalize in a time when they needed it most. The way the team came together and put extra time and work is what I am most proud of. 

Can you share your marketing journey with us? How did you first start marketing?

I started looking for a job after finishing my Masters degree in 2010. Digital marketing was not really taught in universities yet and, to be honest, I actually wasn’t too familiar with it. Jobs were also scarce for a fresh graduate without relevant experience except for some internships. Then there was this position at a Google Vendor to run Google ads. I wasn’t familiar with them but managed to successfully go through the several rounds of the interview and application process. Once I started I immediately knew I was in the right business and wanted to pursue a career in digital marketing. 

Can you share with us a little about what’s expected of the role of Head of Performance Marketing? 

I manage a team of several specialists based throughout the APAC region. In a nutshell, performance marketing basically means making sure business/campaign results are being achieved. To make sure of that we have specialists in SEO, SEM, social, display, marketing automation, as well as in data and analytics. It is my job to make sure everyone can do their job to the best of their capabilities and deliver the best results we – and our clients! – are looking for. 

What did you learn about yourself and the industry over the years?

A lot. Most importantly that I want to stay as hands-on as I can in the actual job. I love keeping track of little changes in Google ads for instance; I don’t want to lose myself in a pure management role. I know that I want to keep knowing all the details of every platform and all the trends that my team deals with. 

What are some of your favourite things about performance marketing? 

I love working with clients on projects where we are doing the full spectrum of marketing – setting up creative concepts, digital channels, landing pages, marketing automation, CRM, tracking, etc. Full-service projects allow for more impactful results; letting us work together with our client to increase their actual business results step by step. Projects like these are very fulfilling because you control every step and are actually directly leading to business growth.

I find the continuous changes in the industry thrilling. New tools, methodologies, legislation tracking… a lot is always happening and it’s a challenge to always be at the forefront of these developments.

What is the most challenging part of your job?

Most challenging would be when you are not able to be in control of every step or part of a project. This can happen, of course; a client may not have the budget So when we run a campaign ad we notice that some things on the client’s side could be done better. And that the client can not change it. So you are basically getting sub-optimal results.

How do you like to spend your time away from work?

I love to travel. Unfortunately that’s not possible now, of course, with the global pandemic. Normally, I don’t go to the same place twice – I love exploring new places. Aside from travelling, I’m into sports. I exercise and take part in sporting activities around 5 times a week. I also enjoy watching all kinds of sports like football, Formula 1, and MMA. I even watch Darts from time to time.

Wrapping Up

Connect with Pieter on LinkedIn to learn more about his work as a performance marketer.

Get to know our #2StallionsFamily with the #2STeamStories tag.  Discover the works done by our diverse team of digital marketing professionals who’ll bring your ideas to life with impactful designs. If you’re looking for a performance marketing expert, don’t hesitate to contact us

This month we’ve been exploring the strengths and benefits of integrated marketing communications (IMCs). We introduced the concept in our Beginner’s Guide and then went on to talk about why it’s important to have a an integrated marketing communications strategy in marketing. The advantages of having an IMC are numerous, from building trust and brand recognition to improving your return on investment (ROI), an IMC can address many challenges a marketing department faces. It can increase profits by driving sales and improving audience reach, and it can generate credibility and propel efficiency.

Even before companies really started using the Internet for business they were hunting for ways to create a consistent message across all their content output and media touchpoints. Remember that social media didn’t really start taking off until the late 90s, and even then it took a while before businesses started using them to actively market their products or services. The fact is, the search for a integrated, consistent strategies has been a bit of a unicorn in the marketing world – we’re all chasing it, but it’s not easy to find.


An integrated marketing communications approach requires a lot of planning, consideration, and – eventually – staying-power. You might surprised by how many business and organizations don’t have an IMC strategy.  We’ve discussed the reasons for implementing an IMC in our previous articles, but consider for a moment the environment into which most marketers try to implement an IMC. It’s very difficult to take existing strategies, brand messages, and thought-processes and merge them under one IMC banner. Even if you start with a single concept in the nascency of a business, there are always aspects that will force diverging strategies to crop up and take hold. That’s simply the way the world works; finding ways to unify things is always harder than letting them slip apart. 

Which is where building a strong integrated marketing communications strategy comes in. 

6 Steps to an Integrated Marketing Communications Strategy

1. Identify and Analyze your Customer

Do you know who your target audience is? Do you know what sort of things they enjoy and what they avoid? Buyer personas are a great way to really establish who your customers really are – or should be!

2. Choose and Prioritise your Channels

Once you really have a handle on who your target audience is, you need to reach them where they live – i.e. you need to be active in the digital spaces they occupy. Establishing what social media platforms to use and how to get the most out of your website are vital to setting up an IMC strategy. Know your territory and the people who live there. According to SproutSocial’s 2021 Social Media Demographics for Marketerssocial media demographics can be broken down as follows:


  • Number of monthly active users: 2.7 billion
  • Largest age group: 25-34 (26.3%)
  • Gender: 44% female, 56% male
  • Time spent per day: 38 minutes
Facebook age demographics


  • Number of monthly active users: 1 billion
  • Largest age group: 25-34 (33.1%)
  • Gender: 57% female, 43% male
  • Average time spent per day: 29 minutes
Instagram user growth


  • Number of daily active users: 187 million
  • Largest age group: 30-49 (44%)
  • Gender: 32% female, 68% male
  • Time spent per day/week: 3.53 minutes per session


  • Number of total users: 738 million
  • Largest age group: 46-55
  • Gender: 51% male, 49% female
  • 63% of LinkedIn users access the network monthly, and 22% weekly.
LinkedIn membership distribution

And that’s not even going into the world of TikTok, SnapChat, or Pintrest – to get those details you’re going to need to read SproutSocial’s full report. The wealth of information of each platform’s demographics provides insights into each channel. This knowledge lets you know which channels you should be prioritising ahead of others when it comes to your IMC strategy.

3. Establish and Your Unified Brand Identity

Of course, if you are going to send out a unified message you need your message to be unified. An integrated marketing communications strategy revolves around a consolidated brand message – a marketing initiative that presents a unified brand identity. 

To that end, you need to gather all your previously disparate marketing strategies, plans, schedules, and initiatives and join them under one banner. This doesn’t have to happen all at once – it can take a lot of time and effort to bring these things together, especially if your company has been running for many years without an IMC. It’s important to do it right, so take your time and ensure that your IMC strategy forms the strong foundation your business can use to stand on for decades to come.

4. Set your Targets and Objectives (and your KPIs!)

Start by getting a grip on your strengths and weaknesses. The best way to do this is to run an internal SWOT analysis, which will provide situational insight and help you identify areas that need improvement. Once you know the lay of the land, it’s important to set goals and targets – what are you looking to achieve with your integrated marketing communications strategy? Is it only about improving external reach and impact? Or are you looking to streamline internal communications as well? 

Remember to attach some target numbers to your objectives – “What gets measured, gets done” after all – these can be percentage increases or solid numbers when dealing with metrics like web traffic or followers. Having set targets and KPIs like this will allow you to see whether your IMC strategy is having the right impact.

5. Check your Internal Resources (People & Tools)

Another pitfall that you should avoid by looking into it during the setup of an IMC is what resources you have available in the business. This could include software, like CRMs, marketing management tools, social media scheduling tool; but you should also take into account what human resources you have on your team. You may find that an IMC requires a different team structure, or additional team members. You might discover that you need additional software or tools to properly reach your audience. Do you have the tools and the team you need to make this happen? If not, you need to know so you can take appropriate action.

6. Check and Set Budgets

Money, money, money.  Generally speaking, IMC strategies improve the efficiency of outreach, meaning they should positively affect your spending on social and search advertising. An IMC is going to profoundly impact the way you spend money so it’s key to have a good understanding of your existing and new budgets. By keeping an eye on your budgets you’ll also be able to track any changes – up or down – with your IMC in place.

Final Thoughts

An integrated marketing communications strategy is a powerful business aspect that will help your business stand out. Stronger brand messaging driving your customer reach and engagement will in turn positively impact your ROI and your bottomline. Marketing can be tough, especially these days where target audiences are more and more difficult to isolate and identify. We now need to reach them across different platforms and channels, making sure we produce specific content that they find interesting and useful. Developing an IMC can help keep things straightforward and moving in the right direction.

Taking the first step can be hard, especially if you’re not sure where to start. Did you know that we offer free social media audits? It’s one of the best ways to get the ball rolling on the development of an IMC. 

Last week we introduced the topic of integrated marketing communications (IMC). In the world of marketing, IMC is a term that has survived the developments of the modern digital era. The reason for this is simple: the advantages and strengths that an IMC strategy gives any marketing department are enduring and vital to its success.

A quick recap then on integrated marketing communication and what it is. 

What is Integrated Marketing Communication?

An IMC strategy aims to breakdown barriers and silo that would otherwise divide departments. It connects all strategies and initiatives together into a unified front. St. Bonaventure University (SBU) explains it as “an approach to creating a unified and seamless experience for consumers to interact with the brand/enterprise; it attempts to meld all aspects of marketing communication such as advertising, sales promotion, public relations, direct marketing, and social media, through their respective mix of tactics, methods, channels, media, and activities, so that all work together as a unified force.”

So why do you need an IMC strategy?

3 Key Reasons Why You Need an Integrated Marketing Communications Strategy

1. Build Brand Recognition and Trust

Let’s say you have a friend named Tom. In the morning, Tom tells you that drinking his homemade apple juice will fight cancer due to the high level of antioxidants. You may or may not believe him, but that’s what he’s telling you. That afternoon, however, he proudly informs you that his homemade apple juice will actually cure cancer. You start to get a little dubious. By evening, you’ve heard that Tom’s homemade apple juice will help heal broken bones, fix your migraines, cure cancer, help you pay off your mortgage, and make you rich by next month. 

Clearly Tom has some other issues, but let’s assume that his apple juice is good for you and that he’s just having trouble communicating that. That vague communication, the back and forth, casts doubt on the validity of his claims and the product. Would you want to buy a product when you’ve heard conflicting messages? 

It’s a lot easier to trust a brand that speaks to its audience consistently. To build brand trust it’s important to maintain consistent brand messaging across all platforms. Audiences want security above all else – they want to know that they made the right choice, and if you’re sending them mixed messages they are not going to commit.

2. Increase Audience Reach

 With consistent messaging across more channels not only builds stronger brand awareness, trust, and loyalty, it also lets you reach a larger number of people. Let’s say for a moment you are looking to advertise Tom’s Homemade Apple Juice (properly this time), and your target is female office workers. If you launched your advertising campaign int he form of posters and stuck them only in the male bathrooms, you’re going to be in trouble. Let’s say you hung them only in one hallway in the building, what would that achieve? Better reach, certainly, but still limited. You’d be missing out on a large slice of your prospective audience. Having an awareness of IMC allows brands to create a multi-pronged marketing campaign that targets a wider audience. It would be like hanging those posters in every hallway and every office throughout the building. But just that building. So it’s reaching your targeted audience, but this time it’s reaching a larger slice of them.

With increased data from your running campaigns – on each metaphorical floor – you gather more information which will allow you to finetune your approach. Perhaps the majority of women frequent specific floors, and as such your saturation of those floors should increase accordingly. In this case, of course, floors are your channels – and you want to be where your audience is.

3. Yields Higher Positive ROI

So, we’ve show you how an IMC can build trust, brand awareness, customer loyalty, and help you increase your audience reach. All of these things mean that a strong integrated marketing communications can lead to a higher positive return on investment (ROI) and revenues. A strong, consistent messaging targeted at a specific audience on the correct channels means better targeted and consisten ad spend as well. Less wastage of campaign budgets and a clearer picture of the insights from campaigns. Consolidating and integrating your marketing efforts means that you can easily adjust to changing trends as well, and that means saving resources on materials when circumstances change. 

In short, a good IMC strategy gives you better control and a deeper understanding of the advertising campaigns.

Final Thoughts

An integrated marketing communications strategy can help any brand earn its position and market share. It breaks down internal walls that might otherwise create silos between departments and even inside each department. As a result, it’s important to approach digital marketing strategies, crafting brand narratives, and reaching our target audiences, with a single, consolidated strategy. Building up an integrated approach across the board to all your marketing and communications campaigns can be the one thing that defines your brand’s strength. 

If you’re not sure where to start, that’s alright – you’re not alone, we can help you find the best way to get started. Integrated marketing communications can seem overwhelming, but we’ve got hands-on experience with establishing a strong strategy that can help you achieve your business outcomes.

Psychology and marketing are tied together. For decades, psychology has played an integral role in marketing strategies, allowing marketers to build strong relationships between brands and their audiences. Psychology-aided marketing helps brands relate to their customers, appeal to their emotions and senses, and capture and hold their audiences’ attention. Using psychology in marketing is nothing new, throw in Bhuddist philosophy, however, and you might just have the perfect combination.

Enter Maverick Foo. A marketing veteran, Maverick has marketing running through his veins. An ardent advocate of modern marketing with a dash of old-school common sense, Maverick is a leading marketing strategist and digital influencer. Join us in this issue of the Marketing Expert Series as we explore the fascinating life of a unique marketer and the power of psychology, Buddhism and marketing.

Hello, Maverick! I’m very excited to have you join us for this issue of the Marketing Expert Series! I’ll throw a softball question first to get us warmed up. You’ve had a pretty special journey to get to where you are now, can you tell us a bit about who you are and how you got to where you are now? 

If you cut my wrist, chances are the blood that squirts out will try to market you something. (Disclaimer, it’s not something I’m looking to verify). I’ve been in marketing for the last 18 years, from mediums such as newspaper ads, billboards and fax machines, to social media, video and multi-step funnels.

I’ve always been interested in psychology, but I remember my mom saying that it may not be a favourable degree to have (ie. if accountants work with accounts and musicians work with music, then psychologists work with psychos?)

So I ended up taking an engineering degree, which I dropped out of 3 months prior to graduating. During those 4 years, I was actually spending more time at the psychology and human resources section of the library than the engineering one.

In hindsight, I figure that was my mom’s grand plan all along. If she had allowed me to take on psychology, would I have been as passionate?

As it turns out, even though I’ve never worked as an engineer, the systems and structural thinking I picked up is useful for design work-around and growth strategies.

What drew you to this line of work? Was it inevitable or something that crept up on you a little bit at a time?

Many years ago when I first started, I went to a sales presentation for one of the largest insurance companies in Malaysia. I fumbled a little, and the prospect actually said I was the worst sales person she had ever met. She even dropped an email to my boss to say that.

Since that day, I decided that because marketing comes before sales, and if the former is done well, the latter would be easier, or maybe even unnecessary!

The irony? That insurance company is currently one of our clients for the third year running. 🙂

If we consult LinkedIn at the moment, right now you’re a Marketing Strategist & New Profits Consultant at the Authority Institute, among several other things – like Marketing Strategist and Program Developer at High Income Trainer (HIT). You’re also doing some high end training for companies like Great Eastern. Let me just say it: you’re a busy, busy man! What is it that keeps you motivated and enthusiastic about the work you do?

I’m a naturally curious person, especially when it comes to psychology and technology, or a combination of that, being Mar-Tech.

My Mom, a teacher all her life, had a big influence on me as well. I enjoy taking complicated processes, distilling them into frameworks, and teaching them. 

I guess you can say I’m one of the lucky people who happens to like what I do for a living, and my favourite pastime is tinkering – testing out new apps, finding ways to simplify complex marketing messaging, producing content etc.

It’s funny that I try to finish my weekday work as fast as I can, just so I can do more of them over weekends.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t ask: You’re a former Buddhist Monk and now you’re a leader in the marketing community, how does that happen? 

Well, I was a novice Buddhist Monk for 2 weeks when I was 13, 14 and 15, mainly because my Mom was a staunch Buddhist, and wanted to see her son be part of the temple. The first year took some coaxing, since being a monk meant a strict schedule and no forms of entertainment at all. Being a 13 year old and told not to be able to play video games or listen to Backstreet Boys?

The experience was really good, though, and I went back for the 2 subsequent years.

I credit a lot of my current success (and the ability to overcome the failures), to my time at the temple. Powerful principles on relationships help me understand customers and partners better, and the profound wisdom of elders has helped me understand myself better as well.  It has also helped me find peace even in the eye of the storm (constant reminders still needed, trust me, I still have a long way to go).

You see, if you can understand the thought process of others, you will be able to elicit their behaviour, and also appreciate the emotions they project. Turn that around, and you can use the same wisdom for a better state of control. I’ve always believed that the external wars are won by winning the internal battles.

Has it influenced how you tackle your marketing strategies?

Because Buddhism talks a lot about the state of human existence, ie. life is suffering, it has given me much insight into human nature. Coupled with my interest in psychology, they are a potent mix of knowledge that can be used in predicting consumer behaviour, improving copywriting and even closing sales.

At the end of the day, as long as we’re selling to another fellow human being, we have to acknowledge their psychological states, mental models and emotional triggers. The best part is that this knowledge is not new. As a matter of fact, it has become very predictable. 

FOMO (Fear Of Missing Out) drives us to check our phones every few minutes. Guilt allows working parents to justify spending more money on their kids, as they assume that money buys happiness. Anger lets voters pick the opposition party, and frustrated housewives to go “revenge” shopping using their husbands credit cards.

How we express our emotions has changed over the centuries. Before, having a body covered with gold ornaments was a show of status, and now, it’s the ability to appear happy and successful all the time on our social media feeds.

Technology will come and go, but psychology will stay.

The first time I met you, back in 2019 at a Masterclass in Kuala Lumpur, I remember you saying that your ‘age’ meant you had an advantage over the younger marketers that had spoken before you. Tell us, what advantages does an ‘OG’ marketer have over the younger generations?

Experience over different marketing channels, really. As some platforms become less effective, we don’t use them as often. Flyers, newspapers and buntings, for example, are now being replaced by newsfeeds, in-stream video ads and podcast advertising.

However, there are lessons to learn from putting USD2000 on a newspaper ad. Lessons such as copywriting refinement, big-picture thinking and prudent spending, because compared to paid ads of today, that was a huge amount to test the market. Now, with countless technologies on A/B testing, retargeting pixels and remarketing, the risk has reduced significantly. When the pressure is less, we tend to omit important learning points.

Another advantage of age is also network and connections. There are 3 sources of traffic when it comes to marketing:

  1. Free
  2. Paid
  3. Partnerships

Free takes time, and paid takes money. Partnerships, if properly executed, can cut short go-to-marketing timing, and cost a fraction. However, to be able to execute successful partnerships, some experience is needed. Lucky for most, experience comes with age.

Having said that, sometimes age comes alone too 🙂

One of the things that those of us who follow you like about your communication is your down-to-earth, honest style. You have no fear – what’s that all about?

I do have fear, actually! I still feel nervous before going to stage, or even a Zoom call.

But if you’re referring to fear of being judged for what I have to say, then yes, I do admit I can be loose of tongue, I point out the elephant in the room, and state the obvious. Perhaps it’s one way to demonstrate a level of authenticity.

On that note, I personally think that if a market leader or public figure cannot make up his or her mind and speak boldly about what they believe, the younger, modern markets may not resonate with them. As the world progresses, I notice edgier brands with personalities stand out. Apple, Crossfit, Porsche, Nike, Tesla are a few brands that are not afraid to stand up for what they believe. They have a message, even if it means alienating a portion of the market. It’s about identifying your most profitable markets, and getting them to be your advocates. The thing about every fan? There will be a few haters too.

I like to think that’s how a brand knows if they are successful. If no one hates your guts, you’re probably doing it wrong.

And now, because it’s practically obligatory for me to ask – has COVID-19 impacted your work and the strategies you’ve had to employ? Do you see any lasting trends that we should take into account?

Yes, COVID-19 has a tremendous impact on how we conduct our businesses, because it has a tremendous impact on what we’ve spoken about earlier – psychology. The consumers’ perception and experience has changed during 2020, and companies will have to accommodate that in order to stay relevant.

For example, marketing messages have to reflect that the brand cares about the well-being of their target audiences. They also need to be seen as a necessity instead of a luxury.

Lastly, COVID-19 has also broken down the borders as consumers are getting more and more comfortable buying things online, even from countries they previously shunt. With the increased choices now made available, local brands have to double down on their brand story to retain the loyalty of their fleeting customers.  

What about when, finally, this pandemic is over  – any big plans for you?

Travel! I used to travel 90 days a year, and 2020 saw that number down to 20 🙁

Any advice you’d give to young and aspiring marketers or entrepreneurs? 

You can choose to invest in marketing dollars, and it’ll be an ongoing expense. Instead, take the time to understand the buyer’s insights, because once you’ve understood them once, they hardly change.

For example, in a state of crisis, most people will become short-sighted. Selling long terms benefits will not work as well, as customers will be looking for short-term wins.

Lastly, with an understanding of psychology, try to improve the copywriting, particularly story telling skills, because the better the copy is, the more relatable is. And in a sea of similar products and services, the story is something that can draw customers to.

Thanks for taking part in this Series, Maverick, and for sharing your experiences with us! How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you?

Cool! They can connect with me at LinkedIn ( Also, if they are interested to know more about the psychological shifts of consumers during their crisis, and if you’re ok to share, here’s a quick training video that I did for a client, which I made available to the public.

Integrated Marketing Communications – IMC for short – connects marketing teams, making sure that all brand messaging and communications are aligned and consistent. With the united front that IMC provides, companies are stronger and better able to communicate both internally and with external parties like customers, prospects and partners. 

But what is an IMC really? To fully benefit from the advantages that a fully integrated marketing communication strategy offers, it’s important to understand exactly how it works. Over the next few weeks, we’ll explore the powerful impact that an IMC provides. First, though, we need to establish a few basics, just to make sure we’re all on the same page.

What is Integrated Marketing Communications?

Integrated marketing communications (IMC) helps marketing teams connect all of their communications and messages to keep consistent branding. Essentially, IMC is the strategy that takes your marketing department from separate initiatives and activities, with different messaging and approaches, to one interconnected approach. IMC takes all the various marketing activities, collaterals, and channels and merges them with one branding message and tactic. 

Consider all the elements that make up a marketing department for a moment. There’s marketing – consumers, products, services, corporate -, public relations, content, creative, perfromance, and lead generation, to name a few. Marketing is a very large field after all, so it’s no surprise that the many different aspects can sometimes clash into each other without something to unify them. 

Enter integrated marketing communications, the unifying force that can tie all the different marketing targets, objectives, and strategies together. Bridging the gaps between the disparate marketing agendas is key to advancing any overal marketing goal and reaching any company KPIs. 

Examples of an Integrated Marketing Communications Campaigns

There are several great examples of IMC campaigns, many of which you’ll not even have noticed when you’ve come across them. All we see is the end result, a consolidated, integrated message that touches us in all the right ways and motivates us to purchase the products or services they’re advertising.  Take the following two campaigns for example:

1. Always #LikeAGirl

Feminine care brands like Always and Dove are consistently trying to be the voice for good. They adovcate for self-esteem and inner beauty. Knowing that their products start to play a role in young girls’ lives usually around the same time that they also start struggling with their self-image and self esteem, Always is always determined to make a difference. The effort they’ve put into their campaigns has won them multiple awards from various institutions. 

2. Snickers: You’re not you when you’re hungry

Many of us feel ‘off’ when we’re running low on energy, and we need a pick-me-up. Snickers hits the nail on the head with the “You’re not you when you’re hungry” campaign. It’s one of the most well-known advertising lines to date and chances are that you’ve seen the ads somewhere whether on television, at a bus stop, or on YouTube.

Snickers integrated marketing campaign

Both these campaigns deliver a single brand message to their audiences, integrated and consolidated brand messaging. We don’t see what it ties together, and that’s the point – all that we know is that there’s a message and it’s clear. These campaigns tie together all of Always’ and Snickers’ messaging across the marketing board and because of that solidarity the advertising resonates more strongly with its audience.

Final Thoughts

Integrated Marketing Communications pulls together otherwise disparate strategies and brand messaging. By bringing everything together under one banner, companies strengthen their marketing and branding both internally and externally. As in all things, a united front is a stronger front and sends a stronger message.

Are you looking to strengthen your brand messaging? Would you like to run IMC campaigns that empower your company? We can help with that

Content creation is at the heart of marketing, feeding digital marketing strategies and driving brand awareness. When you break it down, without content, marketing is reduced to empty strategies that don’t go anywhere. Creating engaging content takes skill and experience, it also demands a strong understanding of target audiences and markets. Luckily for Dulux/AkzoNobel, Sunny Naresh is the right man for the job. 

From the newsdesks of TODAY newspaper to the well-known stage of the brand that is AkzoNobel, Sunny has come a long way and built himself a strong, enviable career. With a background of sports journalism, social media, and content creation, he has the experience and the passion that all digital marketers need to truly make a difference. Join us for this issue of the Marketing Expert Series as Sunny takes us through his career and the experiences that brought him to where he is today. 

Hi, Sunny, welcome to the Marketing Expert Series! Let’s start with some of the basics, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now? 

I started my career in the newsroom of the TODAY newspaper and was assigned to the digital desk where I was part of the team that handled the website and social media platforms of the newspaper.  

After spending four years there I felt it was time to move up the ranks and moved to Lagardere Sports, where I could combine my love for content creation with my love for sports and help our clients expand their digital footprint across Asia. 

The move to AkzoNobel was a lateral one as I wanted to break out of the sports industry and gain some experience in the consumer goods sector so people could see me as a digital marketer instead of a sports marketer. I’m still doing what I love when it comes to content creation and the added challenge of being in an unfamiliar and competitive industry really drives me to improve myself and my contributions to the team. 

How did you end up in this line of work? Was there something that drew you to it?

I’ve always enjoyed creating content and I’ve enjoyed writing from a very young age. My stories were published frequently in school publications and in university I worked as a freelance writer for sports websites, helped people tidy up their resumes and even wrote wedding speeches to help pay my way through school. 

That love for writing helped me land a job in the newsroom and I worked with a great team who helped expand my skill set by teaching me how to shoot and edit video and photos, and how to share all sorts of content on websites and social media. 

Those skills helped me evolve from a reporter to a content producer and eventually into a marketer. As I gain more experience I do less writing and editing and more presentation decks and media plans instead but that working knowledge has allowed me to be more understanding to partner agencies and also come up with more realistic production timelines for projects. 

Right now you are the Digital Marketing Manager for Dulux/AkzoNobel. Can you tell us a little about your role and what it entails? What’s it like working for such a well-known brand as Digital Marketing Manager?

The focus of my role at AkzoNobel is customer engagement and my scope of work includes managing the social media platforms, overseeing the development of digital content and working with the media planning agency to ensure our campaigns are running smoothly and hitting all the KPIs. 

It is a sole contributor role so I work with several agencies to carry out the operational tasks while I work on a more strategic level to chart the next phase of the company’s digital content offering and find out new partners and technologies which we can leverage on. 

Working for a well-known brand has its perks and challenges. On the bright side you do have generous budgets to work with and this allows you to go that extra mile to ensure the content produced will work with the target audience. Testing digital content and data analytics are just some of the additional steps we’ve taken to quality-check our work. Bigger companies do tend to be more risk-averse when trying new content ideas but the testing and reports play a big part in the decision and approval process.  

On your LinkedIn profile, you mention some of your job aspects in this position. For example, you talk about introducing YouTube optimisation, influencer marketing, centralised social media and brand-led digital media campaigns across eight markets in South East Asia. Is there a campaign or singular moment you are most proud of?

Definitely the roll-out of influencer marketing in AkzoNobel. We introduced this when the Covid-19 lockdowns were first announced around March or April last year and we wanted to maintain a brand presence online despite all our campaigns being put on hold and budgets slashed. 

Thankfully it worked out brilliantly for us. We had a minimal budget to work with so we targeted micro-influencers in the home decor space and we were able to reach more people and generate more conversations than competitors despite having fewer pieces of content. The success of this trial led to other markets asking to be included in the programme, which has expanded to five markets now. 

What are the biggest challenges you face when marketing to such diverse markets throughout the region?

When it comes to social media everyone has their own opinion on what works best and it can get difficult to convince them that how they use social media personally might not be the same way the rest of the world consumes media. Using data has been one of the most effective ways to get around this problem as it helps us take a more objective and results-driven view towards our social media and content strategy. 

Another challenge is maintaining the balance between centralised, regional content and local content on social media. Having a standard content plan shared across several markets is efficient in maintaining brand integrity but there’s no doubt that content that’s created based on local trends is among the best performing content on social media. 

We try to maintain an 80-20 ratio between the number of content pieces between regional and local content but the budget split for boosting that content is split 80-20 in favour of local content. 

Before Dulux/AkzoNobel, you were the Digital Manager Lagadère Sports, and before that at MediaCorp as a digital producer/reporter. You’ve got a very prestigious CV! Was it difficult to shift gears from one industry to the other?

Not at all! The industries were very different but the skill set needed to succeed in all these roles were the same. 

At MediaCorp, being in the digital team exposes you to various industries and you do need to understand the news that’s coming in from the local, business, global, entertainment and sports desks to be able to decide which one gets more prominence online. I also wrote articles on sports and technology for print and that helped me build a little niche for myself to stand out. 

The transition to Lagardere was easy for me as I am a huge sports fan so I already understood what the client wanted from Day 1 and could get down to executing the social media strategies that I believed would work best for them. 

The job scope at Lagardere Sports and AkzoNobel is very similar and there was an orientation programme to help new staff understand the various products the company sold. 

The biggest change was understanding how different an agency operated compared to a multinational company. There were a lot more processes in place at AkzoNobel and several approvals are needed to move forward in projects but that helps ensure everything is within brand guidelines and all bases are covered. 

You have many years of experience marketing to the diverse citizens of South East Asia. Have you noticed any significant changes in how we market products over the last decade? 

Definitely, people are increasingly making their purchase decision based on emotion so it’s becoming more important for brands to strike up a conversation with the target audience and building the brand reputation instead of just pushing the benefits of your product. 

The digital world has also changed the way we market products by providing us so many platforms and formats to use. From memes to carousels to collaborative ads to search engine marketing, there’s a format to suit every specific need a brand would need. The challenge for marketers is to pick what works best for them instead of indulging in the whole buffet laid out for them. 

Now, I’d be remiss if I didn’t touch on the elephant in the room, the global pandemic. Clearly, COVID-19 has impacted a lot of companies and industries all around the world in the same way. Have your own marketing strategies for Dulux had to change because of it?

When COVID-19 first struck it led to several of our dealers closing their outlets and like most companies AkzoNobel took a cautious approach and stopped all ongoing marketing campaigns. 

But the pandemic resulted in digital marketing becoming the central pillar for further marketing efforts. We started using influencers, we optimised our YouTube channels with the help of 2Stallions and we even developed other services like Dulux Painter Marketplace (which is like an Uber for painters) and AI-powered Preview Service which generates colour proposals for your home in less than 24 hours. 

What about for you, personally, when this pandemic is over, what’s next for you?

The first thing I would like to do is take a holiday and travel out of Singapore. My wife and I have drafted our itinerary for a trip to London which includes a flight up to Liverpool to watch my favourite football team play. The only thing that’s missing on that plan is the date when we can actually travel. 

On the bright side the additional time at home brought on by Covid-19 has allowed me to finally go ahead with some personal passion projects such as a children’s book series which I hope gets picked up by a publisher. 

Any advice you’d give to young and aspiring marketers in the region? 

It’s never too early to start. If you’re still in school, try exploring freelance opportunities or internships to understand the industry and how to manage the relationships between agencies and companies. 

The second piece of advice is to be brave. New ideas are shot down every day and the most common reason I’ve heard is “we have always done things this way”. Take that as a challenge instead of being discouraged and use that as motivation to build your case to convince your colleagues that your idea will succeed.  

Thank you, Sunny! It’s been a pleasure to ‘speak’ with you and learn more about your experiences and insights. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you?

The pleasure is all mine. Look me up on Instagram (@sunnynaresh) or LinkedIn if you’d like to connect or find out more about myself or other personal projects I’m working on. 

The Marketing Expert Series features marketing and communications experts from across every industry. Every month, 2Stallions will showcase the stories and expertise of marketing experts from around the world, join us as we explore how marketers navigate the challenges of the regions and industries they work in. If you’d like to be featured in a next issue of the Marketing Expert Series. Please reach out to us via email.

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