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Meet Paul Lim, a digital marketing trainer and expert who has built a successful career, starting as a regional sales head for well-reputed companies and transitioning into an entrepreneurial journey as a digital marketing trainer.

His passion for education and mentorship led him to become an adjunct faculty for business schools in Geneva, London, and Zurich, as well as a digital marketing trainer for over 2,500 individuals in various digital and meta-marketing areas.

With the rise of the digital age and the impact of the pandemic, Paul adapted his strategies to become more adaptable, resilient and client-focused. In this issue of the Marketing Expert Series, Paul takes us through his career journey.


Hi, Paul! Thank you for joining us in our Marketing Expert Series. Let’s kick off with some background, please tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get to where you are now? 

 I started my career with several well-reputed, listed companies in Finland, London & South Africa, working in the packaging industry as Head of Regional Sales for many years. I spent 70% of my time travelling, canvassing for sales from overseas customers.

The hectic and demanding schedule meant that I was neglecting my daughters. This realisation prompted me to make a change and embark on my entrepreneurial journey.

I started managing a marketing agency specialising in website development and Google marketing for 5 years and was headhunted as General Manager for Media & Publishing industry in Myanmar.

A chance encounter at a networking session with a director for a business school lead to an invitation to join them, which is how I started my educational journey as an adjunct faculty. Gradually training opportunities flowed in and I embraced these opportunities wholeheartedly.

And now, I find myself wearing multiple hats: a digital marketing strategist, Meta Blueprint trainer, entrepreneur, speaker and author as well as an adjunct MBA faculty who teaches digital marketing for three business schools in Geneva, London and Zurich.

When the COVID pandemic hit, I decided early on to book a return ticket to Singapore since many activities were standstill. It was December 2019, I returned home with no career plan.

You are an entrepreneur and digital marketing strategist. You’re also an author, and you’ve trained more than 2,500 individuals in a variety of digital and meta-marketing areas. Please tell us more about how you came to be a trainer and what your training involves.

After consulting with my mentors on business options, I decided to take on a business in digital marketing training because training is an evergreen industry.

The pandemic made people realise the need for upgrading their skills for career opportunities and business survival. With my knowledge and experience, I suppose it’s not really surprising to learn that I enjoy the satisfaction of moulding young minds.

To date, I have trained over 2576 individuals from Singapore and regional countries in the areas of meta-marketing, digital marketing, social media, Google marketing and online campaign management.

In addition, I have the opportunity to teach in these prestige courses: Masters Programs, Diploma in E-commerce, ICDL Digital Marketing, SG United Skills Program (SGUS), Career Conversion Program (CCP) and Affiliate Marketing (Lazada & Shopee).

The world has changed in the last few years, with the Pandemic and the shift in the economy, how have you been impacted by these changes?

Paul Digital Training (PDT) was established in January 2020 during the Pandemic.

PDT delivers a wide range of cutting-edge digital marketing courses. I chose digital marketing courses because of the rapid digitalisation we’ve faced in the last few years. The world has gone digital, it is the right move to ride on the trend.

I entered unchartered territory without prior industry knowledge during my initial venture. As a result, I experienced many trials and tribulations in starting my training business.

Therefore, I had to work hard to learn the ropes from my mentors to gain a foothold and respect in this competitive industry. The journey was tough but I was optimistic. I believe with hard work and perseverance, the right opportunity will come to me at the right time.

I received my first training after many months of canvassing. Gradually, my business grew via word-of-mouth referrals. With support from valued clients, PDT was able to develop digital training courses for various industries and a pocket of clients from neighbouring countries. I’m now a training partner with many established Approved Training Organizations.

How did the developments over the last few years affect your strategies?

I needed to become more adaptable, resilient and client-focused to succeed in today’s competitive landscape. To boot, I need to react swiftly to evolving market conditions and trends. We are committed to delivering the best experience at every stage of the client’s learning journey.

Tell us about some of the most effective digital strategies you’ve implemented recently. Is there a strategy or campaign you’re most proud of?

 I used Public Relations as the most effective digital strategy to bring my business to the next level.

I got involved in many corporate social responsibility activities; volunteer work and helping unprivileged students in Myanmar, Nigeria, Sri Lanka & Cambodia when      I was an entrepreneur managing a marketing agency.

Additionally, I was also appointed judge for the Singapore Website Awards 2017, featured for industry insight on Myanmar, Nigeria and Singapore news media and magazines.

Author of two books (my 2nd book – Marketing for a Digital World will be launched at end of February 2023) and a contributing author to several bestseller titles.

How do you stay up to date with the latest digital marketing technologies and tools?

Stay updated with digital marketing gurus, professional websites and online influencers. Build connections from LinkedIn, establish rapport and leverage the subject experts

Renew my Google Ads & Meta certification with yearly examinations; keep my credentials current with the latest digital marketing technologies and tools updates.

Furthermore, I’m a strong believer in mentorship; I have 3 mentors from India, Malaysia & Singapore who mentor me on the latest META Marketing tips & techniques to help me to optimize an Ads budget and eventually my clients benefit too.

In your opinion, what are some of the biggest challenges facing marketers and digital experts in your industry today?

In my opinion, the biggest challenges are inflation and the overall cost of manpower. Especially in light that retaining good talent and online advertisement costs are expected to go up.

In terms of business, it is increased productivity and cost efficiency that will drive earnings. PDT focuses on growth through leadership and training to combat challenges and stay ahead.

Any advice you’d give to aspiring marketers and digital entrepreneurs especially those interested in digital marketing training? 

Aspiring marketers or digital entrepreneurs need a high ability, drive and desire to learn. Don’t give yourself excuses or procrastinate. Test your ideas fast with your potential customers to get feedback.

What keeps you motivated? Do you have a personal motto/saying or something else that drives you forward?

Delighted to share the latest digital knowledge, and skills and add value to my clients’ learning journey as well as witness the growth in their careers.

Every class brings new meaning to learning and every class brings new friends to my circle, thus motivating and driving me forward.

Thank you for taking the time to share your insights and experiences with us, Paul. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you or your digital marketing training courses?

Feel free to contact me on my website, via Whatsapp, or on LinkedIn.

When we look back to the early 2020s we have a clearer picture of what we are currently lacking. . We’ll be able to see how industries are impacted by the pandemic and its subsequent socio-economic consequences.

One of the industries we’ll look at very closely is the healthcare sector. For obvious reasons healthcare is one of those industries, driven to evolve to tackle the global crisis.

Joining us in this issue is Mandy Phang, Group Head of Marketing and Communications at Ramsay Sime Darby Health Care. She shares with us her hands-on experience and real-world situations from her very rich and diverse career and offers insights and advice for young, upcoming marketers.


Hi, Mandy, thank you for joining us in our Marketing Expert Series. Let’s kick off with some basics, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now?

My name is Mandy. I was born and raised in Kuala Lumpur, truly a city marketer and not a fan of nature. Advertising and marketing are my passion and that explain my career journey of 23 years working in various marketing roles across different industries, crossing from advertising agency to automotive, property development and healthcare.

It is always fun and exciting to apply marketing ideas and strategies in a different industry.

You’re the Group Head of Marketing and Communications at Ramsay Sime Darby Health Care. What does Ramsay Sime Darby Health Care do exactly?

Ramsay Sime Darby Health Care (RSDH) is equally owned by Sime Darby Berhad and Ramsay Health Care. RSDH’s portfolio in Malaysia comprises Subang Jaya Medical Centre, Ara Damansara Medical Centre, ParkCity Medical Centre and Bukit Tinggi Medical Centre.

It also operates three hospitals in Indonesia, namely RS Premier Bintaro, RS Premier Jatinegara and RS Premier Surabaya. RSDH is steadfast in providing the highest quality patient care, committed to the tagline “People caring for people”. With cutting-edge technology, state-of-the-art facilities and experienced consultants across a wide array of specialities, RSDH’s experienced healthcare team is committed to the highest quality patient care, clinical outcomes, staff and specialist well-being and stakeholder interest.

And what does your role entail? Is there a part you enjoy most?

My role in RSDH covers all aspects of corporate branding & communications, performance marketing, PR, digital marketing, contact centre and crisis management. This year, I have also been appointed as the Asia lead on corporate sustainability for RSDH.

What I enjoy most in my current role is the experience of witnessing and participating in the fast transformation of healthcare marketing pre and post-pandemic and driving the acceleration of digital marketing in the business.

I joined the healthcare industry in October 2019 right before the COVID-19 pandemic put the world went into lockdown mode in March 2020 and it lasted for more than 3-years. During the period, there were many priceless learning experiences on crisis management in the realm of healthcare where many unprecedented issues had to be managed well and timely on a weekly basis. Having the opportunity to learn and be part of the healthcare support system at a time when health services were needed the most is definitely the biggest spotlight in my career history.

What about your achievements – is there something that sticks out? A ‘most memorable’ achievement or proudest moment in your career so far?

Throughout my career journey, I always aimed to create new milestones and bring unique value to the company I worked for. I am always game to try new things and challenge the status quo where I go. There were several memorable achievements that made me proud (whenever I tell the story to my team and my son including 😊)

  1. In UMWT (Head of Branding and CRM for Toyota & Lexus)
    Spearheaded the e-CRM project “My Owner’s portal” which was successfully launched as the first mover in the automotive industry. It sets the benchmark in digitalising customer experience bringing conventional car ownership management to the web. Hosted several unconventional and unique car launches event such as a car catwalk show on stage (showcasing the beauty of car design and manoeuvrability), cars stunt shows and parades on the Sepang F1 circuit track and more
  2. In Sunsuria (Marketing Director)
    Organised the inaugural marathon and cycling event from ground zero at the bare land of new township development and attracted over 3,000 participants in joining the event.
    Skyrocketed Sunsuria brand awareness from a new boutique developer level to one of the Top 15 developers in The Edge Property Excellence ranking positions.
  3. In RSDH (Group Head, Marketing and Communications)
    Restructured the entire Group Marketing roles and team within 6 months of joining healthcare and formalised setup of marketing supports including the transformation of manual-based support and clarity of roles between business units (hospital) and group office. Developed mid-to-long-term sustainability strategy with strong support and buy-in from RSDH Board members.

The last few years must have been a rollercoaster ride for you and your team. How did COVID-19 affect your strategies?

The COVID-19 pandemic has, without a doubt, affected the healthcare market, both directly and indirectly.

When I first joined RSDH, my priority was to look into a long overdue rebranding strategy alignment project between RSDH (parent brand) and our business units (hospital brands). However, when COVID-19 hit us we were forced to pause and even stop certain plans.

Our strategies immediately switched focus to ensure clear and fast corporate communications to all our stakeholders including our patients, senior leaders, business partners and our people.

A big part of our daily focus is on communication, communication, communication. During a time of crisis, nothing is more important than clear communication. Disseminating regular messages to our people and giving constant assurance and recognition for their sacrifices and hard work in battling the COVID-19 pandemic is a very powerful supporting force to the frontliners.

What sort of other lasting impacts do you believe the pandemic’s forced acceleration of digital transformation has had on your industry in general?

Healthcare technology existed long before COVID-19, predominantly in medical devices technology, integrated EMR and IT systems, cloud and to a certain extent artificial intelligence (AI) in some parts of the world.

For me, one of the most apparent changes from the pandemic is the shift in the stakeholder’s mindset and eagerness towards digitalisation and innovation within the entire healthcare industry particularly in the aspect of the patient journey experience.

The trend and inclination towards social media marketing is also something that will have a lasting impact post-pandemic as it now becomes a very critical aspect of the consumer decision-making process. Furthermore, the growth of social media platforms has transformed the dynamics of the electronic marketplace by creating social networks of consumers, opinion leaders, and field experts such as KOLs, social influencers, user-generated content (UGC) and more. Basically, everybody has a voice in any products and services on the world wide web and social media.

Do you think that this impact has permanently changed how you and your team go about your work? Where do you see your strategies going in the next few years?

Yes. The impact has definitely changed the dynamics and work habits nowadays. Many organisation stresses even more on performance delivery than before. New processes and policies are being reviewed and updated to ensure better business continuity measures are in place. Less paper printing and higher dependency on innovative solutions and digital platforms are basic tools required for people. Work-life balance is also crucial to ensure sanity (mental health) and productive working stamina applies to all ages of colleagues.

In the next few years, there will be a few key areas of focus in our strategies that are:

  • customer / patient first philosophy (setting new benchmark experience)
  • planet first (increase commitment to ESG agenda and ambitions)
  • strategic partnership and co-branding initiatives

Do you have any advice for young marketers?

Learn to write. Many new marketers can’t write very well nowadays. It is imperative to know good business writing. It is a skill both in high demand and short supply nowadays. Learn how to express yourself in writing precisely, intelligently, and in brief. Good writing will take you places, no matter what your role.

Explore, learn and explore. Too much of anything can become boring, so make sure you’re exploring different areas of marketing to find the area you love in your job. Be humble, dare to speak up and be willing to learn new things. There is no loss but only gain in lifelong knowledge and experience.

Marketing is about both math and creativity. It is not just about some crazy campaigns, but all ideas need to make money sense (=ROI).

It’s been great to learn more about you and your work, Mandy, thank you for sharing your insights with us. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you or Ramsay Sime Darby Health Care?

Connect with me on LinkedIn.

If there was ever any doubt that it took brains, courage and creativity to lead a team through the COVID-19 pandemic, then this interview puts those doubts to bed.

In Malaysia, as in many countries, there’s a clear difference between the big, bustling cities like Kuala Lumpur and Johor, and the smaller, calmer places like Ipoh. Outsiders might mistake Ipoh for a sleepy retirement village, but beneath the surface, there is a busy, dynamic community thriving in sectors like education.

Joining us for this issue is Keh Eng Tschong, Head of Marketing at Tenby Schools Ipoh. He’ll take us through his career and how he found himself at the helm of the team in Ipoh. We follow his in-depth narrative on how he, his team and the Tenby Schools group navigated and survived the pandemic and Eng Tschong’s analysis of how we will be affected from now on.


Hi, Eng Tschong, thank you for joining us in our Marketing Expert Series. Let’s kick off with a little background, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now?

After graduating from Monash University with majors in Marketing and Management, my career kicked off in Petaling Jaya, Selangor, Malaysia.

My roles were mainly marketing-related and, being adventurous at the time, I hopped industries from building materials, home décor and IT before deciding to relocate back to my hometown in Ipoh.

It was in the tertiary education sector that my career truly took off. I was very gratefully mentored by the then-Group-COO of Impiana Group, which owns the local college.

Other than honing my strategic planning skills, I strove to become more well-rounded and at one point I had 3 departments under my wing – Recruitment, Branding & Promotions and Student Affairs & Alumni.

When it was time to move on, I joined Tenby Schools Ipoh under the International Schools Partnership. Still attached to them, I’ve served for over 3 years in Tenby so far.

 

You’re the Head of Marketing at Tenby Schools Ipoh. Please tell us about the work you do.

Naturally, the title comes with the ownership of the School’s Strategic Marketing and Admissions Plan and Annual Budget. Essentially, I make sure that everything is aligned, especially for areas such as key priorities progress, consistencies in key messages, observing and anticipating listed threats, improvement tactics and budget management.

A huge chunk of time is invested in content creation, as we have a commitment to a bi-weekly content calendar submission for review. Ipoh is one of the only two schools in the SEA group to come out with in-house campaign videos from scratch. We went from storyboarding, photography, videography, design, content writing, and copywriting up until editing towards the final product. This is then pushed out digitally through social media and reinforced through offline or out-of-home media.

Usually, there are two main content categories – acquisition and retention.

The department also works internally on designs such as sales, academic and non-academic events collaterals such as posters, landing pages and digital ads. As brand guardians of the school, we try our best to ensure the school as a whole sticks to brand guidelines.

Personally, I’ve also helped in training new admissions staff (sales) in the areas of marketing basics relevant to their daily routines (the 7Ps in our landscape, understanding buyer roles, importance of delivering consistent key messages, buying decision-making process and factors) and personal selling techniques. I’m also the gatekeeper for the school’s social media and admissions e-mail enquiries, mainly filtering and forwarding them to our Admissions Team.

 

What’s it like to work in an international school in Ipoh versus other cities in Malaysia? Is it very different somehow?

I’ve personally not worked in any other international school. Under the International Schools Partnership, we have nine schools in Malaysia – 6 Tenby, 2 Straits and Asia Pacific – and as a group, we have weekly virtual meetings and quarterly physical meetings or team-building get-togethers.

We constantly share best practices and challenges and try to support each other the best we can.

Ipoh is a unique market, especially in demographics, consumer & social behavioural patterns, customer service level expectations, price sensitivity and marketing channels’ efficiencies and effectiveness.

To elaborate, the average age of Ipoh citizens is constantly rising as the salary gap is widening each year compared to other areas such as Klang Valley, Penang, and Johor. This results in the younger generation often opting to work outside of Ipoh and Perak in general.

In turn, this impacts buyer roles. While other schools are almost always dealing with parents (initiator & buyer), Ipoh sometimes deals with grandparents or guardians (initiator & influencer but not the buyer) as many parents are working in other states leaving their child(ren) in the care of grandparents. Naturally, this can complicate marketing initiatives like ad placement and deployment strategy, admissions communication and buying decision processes.

The salary gap also influences consumers in Ipoh to be more price sensitive. The perceived value of “amount of money paid versus products or services acquired” differs greatly compared to states which have higher average salaries and disposable income.

Consequently, the role of customer service frontliners is more challenging and if not managed properly, will result in a higher number of withdrawals.

Ipohians are a very down-to-earth bunch, more resistant to change coupled with a more slow-paced working environment. So implementing branding practices is more challenging as the education process will take longer and the steps in change management tactics must be further broken into smaller steps.

As mentioned on the average age combined with the resistance to change factor, Ipohian’s tech savviness is much lower compared to other major cities in the country and therefore some traditional media such as street buntings and LED billboards are still adopted to have decent coverage on targeted segments.

 

You’ve worked in a variety of industries throughout your career. Is there a moment or campaign you’re most proud of?

There are a few, but the one that will forever be imprinted in my memory would be my time in tertiary education – Perak College of Technology (PCoT).

As managers or heads of departments, in reality, what we plan to execute for the year, almost always doesn’t pan out as the year runs down. Not even 75% close to the initial plan becomes reality most of the time due to the many factors and different expectations from various stakeholders.

During my second year in PCoT, I would say the execution was nearly 90% of what is planned at the beginning of the year all thanks to the trust from senior management, my peers, and my team.

The Recruitment Team numbered ten at the time, and we were able to pull off a cost-effective Guerrilla Marketing type of public engagement activity in between the seeding and harvesting period. Combining 2 years of consistent messaging and digital content schedule with some third-party SEM, we closed the year with 680 recruitments as compared to the previous year of 430.

It was really a remarkable year!

 

What sort of impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on Tenby Schools Ipoh?

Tenby Schools Ipoh was the first school in the state (both private and government) to go online since day 1 of Malaysia’s lockdown, thanks to a proactive central office, 1.5 months prior the whole school was instructed to have a detailed plan on “what if a lockdown occurs and how can we prepare to go online?”.

Some hiccups in the first month didn’t stop us, and like many other industries, our community endured the good struggles and is now more tech-savvy and resilient. As safeguarding is an integral part of what we do, we get essential guidelines and through sharing of best practices, we were told by the Ministry of Education during a “spot-check” that we were the golden standard for Covid SOPs at the time for other schools to follow. Unknown to many, the community really pulled through together as non-facilities staff volunteered to put up signs and tape for social distancing measures.

Beyond Tenby Schools Ipoh and applying to general as well, companies could have done more to blanket the transition from working from home towards back in the office. From my viewpoint and observation, the pandemic really took a toll on the mental and physical health of the public even without us consciously realizing it.

This is unsurprising as this was an unprecedented event, at least in Malaysia. For example, some of our physical stamina might have deteriorated, and it’s easy to slip our minds to just expect our bodies to switch from staying at home with minimal exercise to going back to our normal routines pre-Covid.

Numbers-wise the school was hit by expats’ children leaving due to parents returning to their home country, but we managed to retain the same number of children in the first year of Covid and had a small growth in the second and upcoming years.

The pandemic will likely have a lasting effect on our daily lives, although government SOPs have softened, the school majority still stuck to wearing masks, social distancing, and being more attentive towards personal hygiene.

 

How did the developments of the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your strategies as Head of Marketing?

During the first lockdown, we deployed almost 85% of our budget on digital channels. We anticipated that the digital environment would be very cluttered, as every business from sole proprietary owners to SMEs to MNCs would be left with no choice but to promote online. Our response to it was that artwork needed to be cleaner and crisper to optimize impression, engagement and call to action.

Throughout the whole ordeal, there were on and off lockdowns in Malaysia, the priority during those lift-off periods would be getting as many raw materials for content creation so that we keep the momentum going with decent content. My advice to the photographer was in a single photoshoot, try to have more variance so that the photos can be applied to different collaterals and artwork that serve different purposes. During liftoffs, we also deployed some street buntings and were among the first to do so in Ipoh during the second lockdown lift-off.

Content balancing was also a vital component of how we keep our followers intact, we tried to balance retention and ads as best we could while also giving breathers to our targeted audience.

From 80% being spent on digital during the 1.5 years of the pandemic, we are now shifting towards 55% offline and 45% digital in this running financial year budget.

I’ve adopted SWOT in my strategic plans since 2016, often using the 7P model to run a company’s SW and PESTEL for OT. A strategic plan for me should always be a live document, and the pandemic further reinforced my motion. A month plus prior to the actual lockdown, I’ve prepared the usual MarComm plan for the year and a what-if-lockdown MarComm plan for the year. We swam into it right from the start and were able to stay ahead of our competitors.

 

Do you think smaller towns like Ipoh were impacted differently by the Pandemic compared to larger places like Kuala Lumpur? In what way?

I think what hits Ipoh most was and still is, the economy. By observing peers, friends and families working in other states and countries, Ipoh’s recovery was vastly slower. The main factors would be the naturally slower pace working environment mentioned earlier, the difference in SOPs between the different states (many other industries reopened in Klang Valley while Ipoh remained mandatorily closed) and the struggles to hire or rehire staff (laid off during the pandemic) due to its naturally tiny talent pool which was much smaller after the pandemic as much more people are able to find means and ways to generate income online and were contented in working in their own pace at the comfort of their homes.

What sort of lasting impact do you believe the pandemic’s forced acceleration of digital transformation has had on the education industry in Ipoh?

Based on conversations with our existing parents (especially those who transferred from government public schools), potential parents, friends and family, the impact on public schools is not significant. The main reason could be limited funding to put the required technology in place for online or hybrid learning. The mainstream feedback was that what happened in public school was mostly children were assigned homework, given a deadline, submitted, and repeat.

The fact is hybrid or online learning consumes much more time compared to traditional physical learning whereby teachers work around the clock attending to any questions students might have beyond the usual working hours, as some parents can only assist in their child(ren)’s learning after working hours.

On a positive note, around the last quarter of 2021 and early 2022, there was feedback that government public schools offered better employment packages to teachers, with guaranteed minimum yearly increments. Hopefully, this will help improve the education sector here in general, as children are always key to a brighter future.

Do you think that this impact has permanently changed how you and your team go about your work? Where do you see your strategies going in the next few years?

Regardless of Covid, I think the world is constantly evolving and change is imminent, that’s why we run SWOT periodically to predict and anticipate these macroenvironmental changes.

As marketers, we should always keep our ear close to the ground and be as versatile as we could in grabbing opportunities and mitigating threats, or better still turn threats into opportunities.

 

Any advice you’d give to aspiring marketers?

No job is easy and being a marketeer comes with a unique set of benefits and challenges. Marketing and branding practices are very subjective, there could be 99 ways to reach a similar goal so have your own flare, master your 7Ps, have faith and respond based on your data analytics. Most importantly, be happy with what you are striving towards. ‘Okay’ is not good enough if it can be ‘better’, consistency is key in brand-building and opt for progress over perfection.

 

It’s been great to learn more about you and your work, Eng Tschong, thank you for sharing. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you or Tenby Schools Ipoh?

Anyone interested to know more can contact me via WhatsApp at +60125166621 or drop us an email or fill out an enquiry form. For those who simply want to learn more about what we do, you can always go to our YouTube channel to get a feel for who we are.

You may know it better as the ‘fast food industry’, but it’s also known as the ‘quick-service industry’. In Southeast Asia there are plenty of different franchises and types of quick-service restaurants, some focusing on local cuisine and more global ones like McDonalds, Subway, and Burger King.

In this issue of the Marketing Expert Series, Head of Marketing at 4Fingers Crispy Chicken, Belinda Ho, talks about her 20+ years in this fascinating industry and how she came into digital marketing. Her experiences over the course of her career provide insight into the industry itself, as well as her own life’s story.


Hi, Belinda, thank you for joining us in our Marketing Expert Series. Let’s kick off with a little background, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now?

I have been in the quick-service restaurant industry for more than 20 years. Starting with McDonald’s for 17 years, then a quick 21 months in Texas Chicken and finally, nested in 4Fingers Crispy Chicken.

Local store marketing, events and family marketing were my foundation and forte back then. I previously headed the Happy Meal Program in Malaysia. I plead guilty for breaking many hearts due to the “sold out” situation in all of the HM Programs during that time. But in my defense, we did not expect such an overwhelming response…..  Ha! Ha! Ha!

It was my short stint with Shell, representing EdenRed that had me dabbled in digital marketing overseeing built on mobile apps CRM Programs. That was my awakening and brought me further and deeper into digital marketing (social media, digital marcomm, food aggregator and strategic partnership)

When I was at Texas Chicken in particular, the insights into digital marketing played a major role in encouraging me to learn more, leading me to my current position as Marketing Head at 4Fingers.

You’re the Head of Marketing at 4Fingers Crispy Chicken. Please tell us about 4Fingers and the work you do there.

Let me see, where do I start…?

I am responsible and accountable for everything related to Sales, Marketing, and even PR. This includes yearly budget projection & marketing calendar planning, sales performance, brand management & positioning, advertising, new product development, local store marketing, new store openings with image enhancement, digital marketing as well as Corporate MarComm and strategic partnerships. Since we are the brand keeper, we must keep tabs on any new designs from store images to uniforms.

My typical day starts with analyzing daily performance and nimble it strategically. Not forgetting preparing project proposals throughout the year and leading campaigns from the budget; planning to execution. And I usually end my day by visiting at least 1 store out of our 52 stores.

Lastly, I also support Franchise Team and Indonesia Team in setting up of new stores and on-going engagement in campaigns & new products.

What sort of impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on 4Fingers Crispy Chicken?

The impact comes as an opportunity to reach out to customer beyond the storefront, as customer seeks to digitally hunt and engage themselves for their next meal. The need for businesses to change digitally and evolve with new consumer behaviour is essential.

How have the developments of the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your strategies as Head of Marketing? What challenges and/or developments have you had to adapt to since 2020? How have you overcome them?

We switch 180 and fully focus on advertising digitally and collaborate heavily & effectively with our Food Aggregators Partners to bring attractive selections to the our consumers. Since delivery is dominating over foot traffic, all campaigns are emphasized towards products that can sustain portability. We changed the packaging to maintain our product quality to be same as enjoyed at the storefront.

Strategies became shorter to midterm. And we (the marketers) must be more adaptable to situational circumstances. Understanding that the lines between tactical and strategic during this period are totally blurred.

From helping to market the brand as a Covid safe brand, marketing the safety aspect of the business, taking on new consumer needs for staples and family meals and now helping the business adapt after it has opened.

In addition to that, the biggest challenges were the insufficient and inconsistent supplies that made the obstacles even more significant, especially our chicken supplies. Because of that, Marketing Team synergizes with the Supply Chain Team to ensure continuous supplies, especially chicken. Marketing will tweak the menu & window calendar campaign based on SCM projections. During this time, we have to be extremely agile and able to response quickly based on unpredictability circumstances.

What lasting impact do you believe the pandemic’s forced acceleration of digital transformation has had on your industry?

The positive impact would be the building of digital infrastructure as the adoption rate of digital engagements are now higher. This accelerated the consumer learning on it and that now has set a foundation for a lot of businesses.

Do you think that this impact has permanently changed how you and your team go about your work? Where do you see your strategies going in the next few years?

In fact, it doesn’t because marketing’s true role is still about “communication of a product to a target customer through a medium and seeks to convert them” and for the past decade it has still proven that change is a constant and marketers must adapt.

Changes in communication channel adoption and effectiveness, consumer behaviour and environment are part and parcel of day-to-day marketing. Ultimately is the understanding of consumer behaviour.

As a woman, there are often obstacles to overcome in any industry. How have your experiences and opportunities helped shape you professionally? Do you feel that your career has had an impact on how you now lead your teams?

Totally agreed. The working landscape is dynamic as we established, and the business world is no longer just a man’s game. In fact, based on my working experience I have met more women Marketers either as a client or within the agencies communities. However, I must admit that battling or trying to compete in this challenging environment is “no walk in the park”.

My experiences and opportunities now had an impact on how I lead my team as they have given me:

  1. The ability to wear many hats
    Balancing careers, household management and taking up the mantel of parental guidance helped me to quickly adjust to new situations and focus on finding solutions to real-life work issues.
  2. Enhancement of Teamwork
    I am an advocate of teamwork and team player. Making bold and wise decisions which will help make the team environment less authoritative and more cooperative, bringing a family-like feel to the team. Eventually, this boosts teamwork across the organisation and helps implement a new culture within the business.

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

Learn how to be proactive & helpful instead of being quiet and waiting for directions. Be PROACTIVE by asking a lot of questions. However, it is AN ART to ask questions without being annoying and counterproductive. You do by listing down all the questions, set a dateline for feedback and coming out with options & solutions.

This behaviour eventually produces the right working attitude and lastly, understanding & be adaptable to the ever-changing marketing industry.

It’s been great to learn more about you and your work, Belinda, thank you for sharing. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you or 4Fingers Crispy Chicken’s work?

You can follow me on LinkedIn.

In Asia, it’s hard to picture life without rice. A staple in every kitchen, rice literally feeds entire communities and has been the primary source of nutrition for entire generations. It’s no surprise then that being in the business of providing rice to the many families that need it is a very complex and intriguing industry.

Vynce Lim originally had her sights set on being a solid creative designer, but things don’t always go the way we plan them – and she is now the Group Head of Marketing at Serba Wangi, one of the leading providers of rice in Malaysia. Join us in this issue of the Marketing Expert Series to find out more about Vynce’s fascinating background and her drive to succeed.


Hi, Vynce, thank you for joining us in our Marketing Expert Series. Let’s kick off with something a bit general, please tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get to where you are now? 

Hi Olwen! It is an honour and thank you for having me.

I had good results in high school, majoring in the science stream. My friends and family expected that I would take the usual path to become a doctor, lawyer, or accountant,  but went on to complete tertiary education in Graphics & Advertising, catching them all by surprise. I started off as a creative designer in an advertising agency. At the time, my goal was to be one of the top creative directors and I didn’t expect that I would end up in marketing.

Senheng Electric Malaysia (Mr KH Lim) was the pivot point for me, offering a stepping-stone as their Head of Advertising & Promotions when I chanced upon the career curves from Design to Marketing. I’ve had an exciting portfolio journey where my responsibility was not limited to the electrical retail industry. Together with the team, we rebuilt Pet’s Retail, Loyalty program, Telecommunication and many more as the business diversified and new brands were acquired or established. 

Eventually, I had to step down due to health issues and joined XOX Mobile as a brand manager, pioneering their brand division. Later, I found that I still prefer a fast-paced environment and leading marketing initiatives, so I re-joined the retail industry as Marketing Manager in OGAWA Malaysia. From there I decided I wanted to enhance my business acumen and completed my Master in Business & Administration in 2019. Throughout the year, I built more of my portfolios as a Marketing consultant in several retail-based industries from home improvement, beauty, to gold and jewellery.

And here I am today, as Group Head of Marketing in Serba Wangi Pvt Ltd. Blessed with an enthusiastic reporting director (Mr. Z Low) empowering me with a team of great comrades, I realized that the marketing landscape is dynamic and I’m always learning to better myself and the team professionally in business and marketing from different aspects. Indeed, the team played an essential role in my career path.

You’re the  Head of Marketing at Serba Wangi. Can you tell us a bit about Serba Wangi? 

Serba Wangi Pvt. Ltd. has been one of the nation’s leading rice wholesalers since its inception in 1993. It specializes in the rice industry, with a wide range of activities including processing, packing, and manufacturing more than 20 different varieties of rice products under the JATI name, one of its well-known trademarks. Aside from JATI, other well-known brands include Kapal Layar, Carnation, Songhe Noble Pine Crane, Songhe Lotus, Fres-Harves, and ecoBrown’s, a rice series aimed at health-conscious consumers. The company’s headquarters, located in Bukit Raya, Pendang, runs its business from the heart of the “Rice Bowl State of Kedah.”

Serba Wangi Sdn. Bhd. strives to maintain an impressive balance of trained, qualified, and experienced personnel in order to realize its dream of pursuing a new paradigm in processing, packaging, and distribution excellence. It also has a large distribution network that spans entire Peninsular Malaysia. Serba Wangi Pvt. Ltd. now markets a diverse range of rice to meet the ever-increasing diversity of consumer tastes, propelling the company to the top of its industry.

What do you do at Serba Wangi as Head of Marketing? Do you have a favourite part of your role?

As Group Head of Marketing, I manage and oversee all the brands under Serba Wangi and entail new product development, strategising and executing Marketing Campaigns.

Although we’re a 30-year-old company, we operate like a start-up where we encourage ownership, transparency, and self-development and aim to empower young passionate individuals to grow professionally and personally. We love and cherish new ideas and we disagree to manage the team with authority and fear. Therefore, my favourite part of my role will be sharing the same passion and creating great marketing campaigns with the team; I would not succeed in any of my marketing works without the team.

How have the developments of the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your strategies? What challenges and/or developments have you had to adapt to since 2020? How have you overcome them?

With the global Covid-19 pandemic outbreak, we’ve all had to learn that “health” is wealth and all industry players are making changes in all aspects to sustain and perform, including ecoBrown’s (One of the pioneer brands under Serba Wangi Pvt. Ltd.)

Like others, the challenges that ecoBrown faces come from things like catering to the high demand of a healthier lifestyle and eating-homecooked meals, the occasional public panic can also affect product prices in the market, and accessibility to our products.

Therefore, we brought healthy rice to Malaysian by introducing ecoBrown’s Sella Cream Parboiled Basmathi Rice and Steam Brown Rice for those who wanted to have healthier eating to be delivered to their doorstep on monthly basis plus a fixed price policy on our e-commerce platform with just a click – through ecoBrown’s Rice Subscription Plans. (https://shop.ecobrown.com/collections/subscription-plan)

What sort of lasting impact do you believe the pandemic’s forced acceleration of digital transformation has had on your industry?

For many centuries, rice has been known to humanity as a staple food, especially in Asia. From feeding billions of people, rice is practically irreplaceable as a source for the dietary, Asian economies, and is appreciated by many cultures globally. 

ecoBrown’s revolutionized rice purchasing method nationwide by being the first to launch the Rice Subscription Plan riding on ecoBrown’s Steam Brown Rice product. We pioneered the rice subscription plan and continue offering more choices of rice and different packages to cater to different demands 

Before the pandemic, experiential marketing was usually conducted offline but at that point in time, people were still cautious about going out. But we do not want to forgo the opportunity to be able to engage with our customers, hence, we thought to ourselves: How about going online?

With this in mind, we implemented online experiential marketing in our marketing plans. 

Content and performance marketing go hand-in-hand. We can’t dive right into promotions when we have not done enough of the upper funnel’s contents. It is essential to understand which content generates attention and traffic vs those that don’t. It involves a lot of AB testing for sure to find the winning angle. Besides that, we utilized AI and tracking to gain insights into our customer behaviours which helped us in our marketing strategies and decision-making. After gathering a pool of engaged audiences who are active and have intent to purchase, we then curated tactical content to remarket and drive conversions. 

Do you think that this impact has permanently changed how you and your team go about your work? Where do you see your strategies going in the next few years?

Be the change, before change changes you. Therefore, as marketers, we must keep ourselves updated and in sync with the changes while incorporating relatable marketing communication strategies to bring different perceptions of our product(s); in terms of product quality, innovation through digitalisation in marketing strategies targeting our now target market the C- generation – with the new norm and lifestyle. We’re always ready to cater to the new market demand and are open to exploring the latest technologies and implementing them into our marketing strategies.

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

To progress and improve is to stay out of your comfort zone and grow. Always remember why you started, stay humble, keep your passion, and always be hungry for more.

It’s been great to learn more about you and your work, Vynce, thank you for sharing. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you or Serba Wangi?

Let’s connect on LinkedIn.

The finance industry is a complex arena, requiring special insight and expertise to excel. With the last few years, the industry – like all other industries – had to make monumental changes to adapt to the changes in human behaviour.

In this issue of the Marketing Expert Series, we talk fintech, banking and how they’ve changed. More than that, we are given the rare opportunity to catch a glimpse of the inner workings of the industry. Our guide for this journey? Kevyn Eng, vastly experienced, Head of Growth and Marketing at Hugosave, Singapore’s first Wealthcare® and savings app aimed at helping users manage their finances more healthily.


Hi, Kevyn, thank you for joining us in our Marketing Expert Series. Let’s kick off with a little background, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now? 

I started my career in Public Relations with two of the world’s most respected consultancies—Fleishman-Hillard and Burson Marsteller—serving finance, industry and B2C clients. I had the chance to be exposed to the dynamic world of Banking and Finance.

In 2009, I entered the banking space, specifically, payments. In those days, marketing was an end-to-end function that combined today’s business (product marketing) and marketing roles (marketing communication). I’m always grateful for the wide exposure and opportunities to be involved in almost every component of the integrated marketing spectrum. For instance, I was fortunate to have entered banking at the point RBS took over ABN Amro’s payment business and, within two years, executed another brand change to ANZ. In this short span of time, I was thrust into two major bank rebranding exercises and that experience really taught me much.

2011 was another interesting year when I worked on Marketing Communication for private banking clients in Southeast Asia. Though frequent travels were tiring, the direct exposure and working relationships formed with agencies and partners across Malaysia, Indonesia and Thailand were valuable. Today, I still keep in contact with some of them.

2019 was yet another milestone year when I moved into the Intelligent Banking business. Leveraging open banking, cognitive banking and ecosystems, we pioneered changes in mindset, processes and business models, all within a giant bank with a global presence.

Today, I’m leading the Growth and Marketing department of Hugosave, Singapore’s first Wealthcare® and savings app.

You’re the Head of Growth & Marketing at Hugosave. Please tell us about Hugosave and the work you do there.

Launched in July 2021, Hugosave is Singapore’s first Wealthcare® and savings app which helps users become financially fit by spending smarter, saving more, and investing diligently, starting with gold.

Today, more than 50,000 users in Singapore are using Hugosave to optimise their finances. The Hugosave Growth & Marketing department commercialises the business, driving customer acquisitions and CLV whilst optimising acquisition and customer costs. This is done through an in-depth understanding of users’ needs and behaviours, and close coordination and collaboration with many internal stakeholders. We actively acquire and engage our clients through a mixture of broad-based marketing to personalised communication triggered via our CRM platform.

Building the Hugosave brand from a nobody to a multi-award-winning name, the high-performing team deploys a multi-lever approach involving PR, Branding, Content, Social, Communities, Digital Marketing and advertising channels. We also plan and execute innovative campaigns, rewards and partnership activities.

What sort of impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on Hugosave?

Covid-19 has fundamentally changed the way the world works. On a macroeconomic level, it has significantly disrupted supply chains, impacting the global movement of goods and services. This increased the cost of doing business and jacked prices of goods and services up across the globe.

In Singapore, where natural resources are scarce, we are heavily reliant on global supplies. The increases in prices have definitely eroded our savings, disrupting our financial plans and reducing our purchasing power.

The need to save has never been more apparent. Consumers have now a heightened awareness of the need for sufficient emergency funds and saving for rainy days. It’s a double whammy when they now have to spend more on daily essentials due to inflation. Hugosave is well-positioned to help customers save in a painless manner. In line with our Little, Often, Early mantra, we think consumers can still achieve savings when they set aside small amounts of savings on every spend they make. Our Roundups feature on our Hugosave Debit Card does just that. It rounds every transaction up to the nearest dollar and saves the spare change, aka Roundups, in Gold. The precious metal is widely accepted as a safe-haven asset and an inflation hedge.

Consumers can also set scheduled savings in Gold, in any amount starting from S$0.01. This automation at the back allows customers to continue with their daily lives with minimal disruptions and pinch.

Hence, this is a golden time for Hugosave to engage our prospects and encourage them to start their Wealthcare® journeys, and hopefully with us.

How have the developments of the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your strategies as Head of Growth & Marketing? What challenges and/or developments have you had to adapt to since 2020? How have you overcome them?

From a marketing outreach perspective, we see the shift in our budget and investments fully into digital marketing, content creation and public relations.

Whilst we continue to believe in face-to-face interactions with our prospects, the situation during Covid-19 forced us to be sharper in the way we communicate, to further simplify complex finance terms for consumers. Online attention is also way shorter than a physical interaction and so messages needed to be more succinct and on-point.

What sort of lasting impact do you believe the pandemic’s forced acceleration of digital transformation has had on your industry?

The digital wave has accelerated faster as a result of the pandemic. From eCommerce to content consumption, the digital space is now the default for many Singaporeans. As a by-product, our push towards a cashless society has also moved quickly.

Does this then see the death of the piggy bank since there’s even lesser use for coins? Here’s where we introduce Hugosave’s digital piggy bank. Rounding up transactions to the nearest dollar, the cents are now saved and invested in Gold. So not only do customers save from incurring unnecessary processing fees from banking coins, they have a good chance of seeing the investments grow and protecting savings from inflation.

In the world of personal finance and Wealthcare®, a similar wave is happening. Innovations and tech disruptions to traditional banking services have grown tremendously.

Opening banking and SGFinDex paved the way for data democratization, and clients now have greater control over their information. With that, it also spurs growth in Wealthtech apps with better journeys and simpler and easier-to-understand propositions that help clients manage their finances more efficiently and effectively.

Do you think that this impact has permanently changed how you and your team go about your work? Where do you see your strategies going in the next few years?

Definitely, Hugosave is primed at the right time with the right proposition built by the right team.

In times of FUD, people turn their attention to saving opportunities as they tighten their belts. This makes the environment ripe for a business like Hugosave. We provide a platform for our clients to protect, preserve and grow their savings without feeling the pain. From automated savings with every spend via our Roundups feature to scheduled money pots, savings are invested in relatively lower-risk assets such as Gold, enabling their growth.

As a Weathcare® and savings App, we naturally reach out to our customers on a mobile-first principle. Over the Covid-19 period where physical interactions are limited, we make our marketing investments digital. Social media, in particular, Instagram and TikTok is key channels we utilise to get our messages out.

We have also taken the opportunity to explore audio podcasts via Spotify and Twitter Spaces. These platforms enable us to deliver our messages where our clients are. Apart from performance buys, we have also embarked on building our communities on Facebook & Telegram. It’s very interesting to note that our TG community has grown and overtook our Facebook Group within four months of its inauguration.

Communities will continue to be our focus and way to drive multi-way conversations. As we continue to dish out information and bite-sized education on personal finance, our communities will benefit from discussions with us, and amongst themselves.

How do the last few years impact your insight into how personal finances should be managed? Do you have any suggestions for people on how to better control and manage their financial situations?

Savings has almost become a forgotten topic as Cryptocurrency speculation sweeps across the youth’s mind space with the ‘get rich fast’ opportunities. The bull run of the crypto space prior to 2020 saw many trying their luck. Arguments that savings were too slow in accumulating wealth and such investments would work far better.

Looking back now, many have now understood that such speculations are highly risky and should be taken with much caution. With a gloomy economic outlook, people now turn their attention back to savings.

In Hugosave, our philosophy is to start your savings journey with a little, often, early. Start small to avoid feeling the pinch and slowly increase once it becomes second nature.

Keep a schedule going so that you continuously buy into the market, achieving dollar averaging and the potential to mitigate timing risk. Finally, start as soon as you can so that you enjoy the power of compounding interests.

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

My personal mantra is, “Keep going, you’ll get there”. Marketing is a diverse, dynamic, ever-changing industry that continues to reinvent itself as it responds to consumer and social developments. Sometimes, it feels chaotic and frustrating when plans change and we pivot fast to keep ahead and stay relevant. Bite the bullet, keep going and you’ll get there.

It’s been great to learn more about you and your work, Kevyn, thank you for sharing. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you or Hugosave’s work?

Follow me on my LinkedIn or simply visit the #Hugoverse!

Ever wonder where you’d be now if you’d made one different decision way back when? Whether you believe in fate or not, it’s always fascinating to look back and think “Wow, if that one thing hadn’t happened, I might be a completely different person today!”. Time and time again in the Marketing Expert Series, we meet people who ended up in digital marketing by chance; it was not what they had studied, and it certainly wasn’t what they had expected for themselves. Yet, they all love what they do.

In this issue, we meet a man who was in the wrong line of work when he first started. Fresh out of university, he went off to do what he thought was to be his career, until his boss let him know otherwise and set him on a new path.

We might never have had the chance to interview Navin Rajarathnam, if not for that chance of fate. He would never have gone into branding or marketing, and would never have had a fascinating and diverse career, or been able to share the insights of a said career with us in this issue of the Marketing Expert Series. We would never have been able to learn from his experiences or found out how he got to lead a dynamic team at GVE Asia, or share vicariously in his passion and drive.

Luckily for us, someone helped him onto a digital marketing and branding career path. And he loves what he does.


Hi, Navin, thank you for joining us in our Marketing Expert Series. Let’s kick off with something a bit general, please tell us a bit about yourself. How did you get to where you are now?

Firstly, thank you for this opportunity. It is indeed an honour. So! Let’s go back a little.

I started off as a PA with an incubator start-up after my degree as that was the first job that came my way in 2003. After about a year my boss pointed out that my core competencies lay elsewhere and told me that I should be working in either PR or advertising. He was good enough to send my CV to his contacts and I got my first interview with Michelle Ong, then General Manager at Mccann Erickson.

Michelle offered me my first stint as a Brand Executive working on the Proton account. From there things really fell into place; I had truly found my calling. I enjoyed working with the team at Mccann’s and we all grew really close and I am still best of friends with so many of them. We worked long hours but we also partied and that drew us together.

After almost 7 years, I left to join M&C Saatchi and was with them for another 6+ years. These 14 years with international agencies truly taught me grit, passion and never to ever give up no matter what the circumstances are.

From there I decided I wanted to enhance my skills and decided to move to the client-side of business and went to work with a bank, then a glove manufacturer and now I am with GVE Asia. I’ve had quite a colourful career and the industries I have worked with are completely varied, but all this has given me an advantage: it has allowed me to look at business strategies from various perspectives and learn from each of them.

You’re the Group Head of Marketing, Branding and PR at GVE Asia. Can you tell us a bit about GVE Asia? What exactly is GVE Asia?

GVE Asia is an organization that has varied businesses. We currently own and run 10 various business. We started as an importer of luxury cars but have since expanded to include luxury service centres as well as bars and restaurants. We have a medical business as well that deals with masks and sanitisers and we own several clinics. In addition, we also own the biggest 4S Volkswagen centre in Malaysia. Our CEO Dato Sri Devan believes in diversifying and building a strong conglomerate of brands and industries.

What does your role as Group Head of Marketing, Branding and PR look like? Do you have a favourite part of your role?

I lead a team of managers and designers and we look into the various parts of the whole branding and communications. The team manages the strategy, content development, social media management, performance marketing, CRM, email marketing and crisis management, among others. We operate as a startup so no one day is ever really the same. Some days we even assist the project management team or even help the mixologist for the parties we organize in our bars.

I think what I enjoy most in my current role is managing a very dynamic and young team. It’s refreshing and I actually learn something new every day from them. The exchange of knowledge is definitely a two-way street! We have built a wonderful rapport and they inspire me tremendously.

How have the developments of the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your strategies? What challenges and/or developments have you had to adapt to since 2020? How have you overcome them?

Seeing that we have a very varied business model, we have had to adapt and change at lightning speed. Marketing and branding have always been agile, but the pandemic thought us that we needed to take it up many levels up and be adaptive at such a speed that we don’t have time to second guess ourselves or our strategies.

The biggest challenge is WFH. Now since the pandemic is over, the team has had the benefit of working in their own pace so having them come back full-time to the office has taken quite a bit of internal strategizing and a lot of hand-holding.

We have realized that the hybrid working environment has worked and many find that quite beneficial to them. It allows them to manage their families, but we have had to encourage the team and build a better environment within the office to entice them back into the office. To this end, we introduced an ice cream machine, built monkey bars and installed a punching bag as ways to make coming back to work a little bit more interesting.

What sort of lasting impact do you believe the pandemic’s forced acceleration of digital transformation has had on your industry?

The real lasting impact is that social media has helped grow our business in leaps and bounds and engage with our customers. Before this, social media was just used to showcase our luxury cars and to gather leads, but the pandemic has taken that to the next level where customers have engaged with us on a whole different level and we have managed to double our sales in 2020 despite all the lockdowns.

Do you think that this impact has permanently changed how you and your team go about your work? Where do you see your strategies going in the next few years?

I think now it’s gone back to pre-pandemic days and consumers in the luxury segment want what they did previously. They want the experience of walking into a showroom, engaging with the sales team, taking the car for a test drive and having that wow moment. They want to feel special. We have had to re-look our strategies to straddle both online and offline to give our customers a seamless journey as now its even more intense than what it used to be. As the paradigm has shifted, engagement is even more challenging so we need to focus our strategies in building the showroom experience even digitally.

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

Be agile, hungry and adaptive. Speed and accuracy are crucial but being inspiring and thinking out of the box, always gives you the advantage.

It’s been great to learn more about you and your work, Navin, thank you for sharing. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you or GVE Asia?

They can drop me a line at navin.r@gveasia.com or find me on LinkedIn at my profile Navin Rajaratnam and I would be more than happy to touch base and connect.

There’s no denying that every industry was impacted by the COVID-19 Pandemic, but I think it might be safe to assume that one of the industries most heavily impacted by it was the food & beverage industry. With restrictions on movement and delivery services, not to mention the breaking of pre-existing supply chains,  it’s no surprise that many restaurants struggled to survive. 

In this issue of the Marketing Expert Series, Yin Yin ‘Anna’ Goh, provides us with in-depth insight into how one restaurant chain survived the rapid changes sparked by the Pandemic. Join us, as we dive into not only Anna’s story about how she got to where she is now but also into the story of Burger King Malaysia’s digital transformation during and after the Global Pandemic.


Hi, Yin Yin, thank you for joining us in our Marketing Expert Series. Let’s kick off with a little background, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now? 

The pleasure is all mine. I’m Anna Goh – I’m a foodie, and I love to travel and enjoy a good read. 

Right after I completed my tertiary studies, I double hatted as Senior Trading Executive and Managing Director’s Personal Assistant at 99 Speedmart Sdn Bhd. I gained a wealth of experience on how to collaborate with suppliers & brands to feature their products and we worked closely on how to evangelize sales promotions across 99 outlets nationwide. 

As a Marketing Major graduate, I’m always looking for opportunities to extend my marketing knowledge in this industry. I was given a chance to head up my current Marketing department 7 years ago when the business owner of 99 Speedmart decided to take up franchises of Burger King in Malaysia and Singapore. Thinking back on my journey, it’s really a dream come true.

 

You’re the  Head of Marketing at Burger King Malaysia. Tell us about the work you do at Burger King in that role.

It’s a long list but I’m going to briefly touch on what I do: I am responsible for Burger King’s Brand Management and its Corporate MarCom. Anything related to brand positioning, new product development and product launches, advertising and restaurant image enhancement are also under my care. 

My typical day-to-day would be to prepare project proposals and lead campaigns from planning to activation and launches. On top of that, there’s admin fun stuff like monitoring reports, budgets, campaign performances, ROI & projection. Oh yes, and I also oversee the franchisee’s local store marketing activities and execution as well.

 

What sort of impact did the COVID-19 pandemic have on Burger King Malaysia?

The business is severely impacted, be it sales and in-store traffic as the consumers are afraid to step into restaurants to make their purchases. Most of the sales were contributed by delivery platforms. We are also facing serious supply chain disruptions such as sea freight delays, shortage of ingredients, etc.

 

How have the developments of the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your strategies as Head of Marketing? What challenges and/or developments have you had to adapt to since 2020? How have you overcome them?

The developments of the COVID-19 Pandemic restricted everyone’s movement and that affects our strategies. Besides that, the pandemic has taught Malaysians to be more technology savvy as we were required to scan a QR code whenever we visited a place. This changes our strategies as well, we used to invest a lot in OOH advertising, but during the lockdowns, no one would see those ads on the road and no brand awareness was built. We did not do a lot of digital advertising back then, but the pandemic has led us to shift our marketing investment and focus to digital platforms. We have also introduced e-wallet payment options to reduce physical contact during the sales process. 

 

What sort of lasting impact do you believe the pandemic’s forced acceleration of digital transformation has had on the food and beverage industry?

We expect customers to stick with digital interactions as a direct result from the pandemic. 

As for the F&B players, they foresee restaurants will have to offer more online services to the public in order to adapt to changes in consumer behaviours post-pandemic.

 

Do you think that this impact has permanently changed how you and your team go about your work? Where do you see your strategies going in the next few years?

Yes, it does impact the way we conduct our work because change is constant and we have to adapt and adjust from time to time. Even though the acceleration of digital transformation is in place, we do see some shift back in sales from digital platforms to physical platforms as the extra cost incurred of using digital services is one of the factors. 

In the next few years, we will be focusing on sustainability by reducing paper coupon printing and publishing more digital coupons. To be aligned with the regional business direction, we are also working on removing preservatives, artificial colours and flavourings from the food we serve as in BK we believe that real food tastes better. For brand visibility, we are thriving to have a balanced brand exposure on both digital and non-digital platforms in order to maximize consumer reach.  

 

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

Change is constant hence always be prepared to change. Know your market and customers well or else they change you.

 

It’s been great to learn more about you and your work, Yin Yin, thank you for sharing. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you or Burger King Malaysia’s work?

I can be contacted through LinkedIn.


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 the next issue of the Marketing Expert Series. Please reach out to us via email.

If you are interested in building your own company’s digital advertising, get in touch with us today, and find out how you can optimize your digital marketing strategies.

Welcome to another whirling issue of the Marketing Expert Series!

In this issue is a digital marketer whose attention to detail and passion has carried her through multiple industries and career paths. Brenda Hobin is the Marketing Director at Shiok Meats, and she knows what it means to adapt to challenges and grow your marketing funnel. Join us as Brenda takes us through not only her own story but the story of Shiok Meats, the challenges and obstacles faced and overcome, and what it takes to be a great marketer in a trying age.


Hi, Brenda, thank you for joining us in our Marketing Expert Series. Let’s kick off with a little background, can you tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now?

Thank you, Olwen! I’ve had an exciting career and portfolio journey.

From the airline industry, non-government organizations, fast-moving consumer goods, luxury brands, hotels, real estate, master planning, HoReCa, and sailing to the marketing of golf courses. I have also been involved in pro-bono activities such as fundraising to procure necessities to feed the poor or empower children of humble backgrounds to pursue an education, my way of giving back to society. I studied psychology, criminology, sustainable economics, and innovation. The diversity of the industries, combined with my educational qualifications, gave me an edge in deciphering human behaviours and actions. Different backgrounds, nationalities, and cultures dictate how a similar product or message is perceived.

These insights are crucial, as they are the key to understanding human desires and pain points. By understanding these behaviours, we can create products, campaigns, and messages that are relatable and solve a problem or need. My husband, family, and the people I met and worked with play an essential role in my life; because of them, I am where I am today, and probably because of them, I will be where I will be tomorrow or in the future.

You’re the Marketing Director at Shiok Meats. Can you tell us a bit about Shiok Meats and the product philosophy you have?

Shiok Meats was launched in August 2018 in Singapore by Dr. Sandhya Sriram and Dr. Ka Yi Ling. They both have PhDs in stem cell biology and come from scientific backgrounds. Sandhya is also a seasoned entrepreneur. They firmly believe a sustainable solution was required to feed the ever-increasing population without creating additional pressure on the otherwise declining ocean health. They started in a lab with two founders, and today the company has an agile team of 35+ scientists, researchers, food technologists, and business professionals working on a path-breaking technology and building a manufacturing plant of its own.

If you take a shrimp, deshell, devein it, and remove the organs, you are left with muscle and fat cells. This is the part Shiok Meats cultivate, and the same goes for crab, lobster, and red meat. From a taste point of view, the taste is the same with seafood and crustaceans. The flavour comes from the cells themselves and also the liquid nutrients that we feed the cells for them to grow. It is a combination of the two, exactly what happens in nature. The stem cell comes from the animal initially, and we trick these cells into believing they are still inside the animal’s body. We feed them what the animal would give them. These stem cells are grown in large stainless steel tanks, known as bioreactors. Think of a big tank, where trillions of cells are floating around in a liquid medium (liquid nutrients), much like a brewery. By the end of four to six weeks, the cells have increased so much that we perform a step called differentiation, which triggers these stem cells to form the organ they are supposed to form – muscle and fat – the final product. Our final product looks, tastes, and cooks like meat. Our products are all minced, and we are working on a structure (whole shrimp, for example) for the near future.

We are building a system wherein we work with many different animal-free growth factors, food-grade media, and plant-based alternatives that have the potential to yield at scale and lower price points. Some of these are being developed in-house, while we are leveraging strategic partnerships with media development companies for some others. We are also looking at the apparent by-products and upcycling cell media for flavouring mixes and essences. Overall, we are ramping up the construction of our pilot production facility in Singapore to speed up large-scale manufacturing and launch in at least one premium restaurant in 2023.
We want Shiok Meats to be the world leader in cultivated seafood and meat technology. If that means expanding the suite of product offerings to other kinds of meat, poultry, seafood, and other by-products, we are going for it.

What role do you play as Marketing Director? Is there a part of your role you enjoy most?

Currently, I am focusing on the higher marketing funnels, from branding and creating awareness to building a community of mindful consumers. We aim to encourage and influence a mindset shift toward consuming sustainably-grown crustaceans and meats. I am incredibly psyched about building a team of marketers who shares our passion for sustainable living.

How have the developments of the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your own strategies? What challenges and/or developments have you had to adapt to since the start of 2020? How have you overcome them?

Shiok Meats was founded to mitigate the challenges of feeding a growing population ethically and sustainably. COVID-19 only reiterated the fact that we are on the right track. The food supply chain has faced severe disruption. Our patent-pending food technology will only create a favourable condition for self-sufficiency at a national level benefitting the people. If anything, COVID-19 has accelerated and brought attention to what we are doing locally, regionally, and globally.

What sort of lasting impact do you believe the pandemic’s forced acceleration of digital transformation has had on your industry?

There was a greater reliance on digital news and platforms during the lockdown period. We are part of the growing and evolving digital ecosystem. There is no turning back, given the history of how people have accepted digital as the new norm. What is new today will be antiquated tomorrow. The start of lasting impact began a long time ago if we look at the adoption rate of the internet or the proliferation of the use of the new social media channels.

Do you think that this impact has permanently changed how you and your team go about your work? Where do you see your strategies going in the next few years?

As marketers, we must stay tuned and sync with the changes and evolution of communication channels, including digital transformation. The brand strategies, story-telling, and content must align with changing human developments, needs, and desires. Marketing messaging must be relatable. Marketers’ ability to accurately nail down all the touchpoints affects go-to-market strategies.

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

Stay humble, stay curious. Make “Being an Expert Marketer” a lifelong aspiration.

It’s been great to learn more about you and your work, Brenda, thank you for sharing. How can people connect with you if they’d like to know more about you or Shiok Meats?

It is an honour to share what we do with you and your readers. Please feel free to connect with me on LinkedIn!

Marketing in 360° may sound like the obvious choice, but it’s not always the simplest strategy. With the variety and diversity of digital and traditional channels that we now have access to, it’s a small wonder that digital marketers don’t go mad. Quite the contrary, we seem to thrive on the ability to understand, learn and track different platforms and channels to the benefit of our brands and our target audiences.

Joining us for this issue of the Marketing Expert Series is Veronica Sin, a woman who embraces the challenges of brand marketing a fintech company with a 360° approach to reaching audiences in the wake of the pandemic. Sharing her insights into the combining of brand marketing and public relations, Veronica paints a clear picture of what it takes to be dedicated and successful 360° marketing strategies.


Hi, Veronica, welcome to the Marketing Expert Series! Thank you for joining us. Let’s kick off with some history: tell us a bit about yourself? How did you get to where you are now?

Hi Olwen! Thanks for having me. I never thought I would end up in Branding or Marketing. In fact, I started my career with a heart to engineer social good through public relations (PR).

My fascination with PR began during college break when I chanced upon WWII documentaries on Hitler. I remember being awed by how the Nazi high command could influence Germany to believe in outrageous propaganda simply through strategic PR campaigns, such that I thought to myself, “If Hitler could use PR to inspire a nation towards hostility, I could use the same (PR) to inspire equally powerful good and change a nation.”

It was an idyllic idea, but I had a concrete plan:

  1. Spend 2-3 years in a PR agency
  2. Take the skills learned to a nonprofit or cause-driven organization and influence social good from there

Sticking to this plan, I started my career with 2 award-winning PR agencies, helping clients like BMW Group and Facebook build their brands through press engagements. Although I enjoyed managing crisis communications and pitching strategic stories to the media, work-life balance was a concern in the agency world.

After 3 years, I joined Projek57 – a social enterprise devoted to building unity in Malaysia through racial harmony projects and unity-themed retail. This was my first brush with marketing: As it was a small team of 5, my role evolved constantly. Although they hired me to manage the Press Launch for the Unity Ribbon, I was soon managing social media, influencer campaigns, retail marketing and even corporate sponsorship marketing. 6 months in, Projek57 gave me a choice: Stay as Inventory Manager or move on, because they do not need a Marketing Communications Lead at that time.

Changes in HR needs like these are quite common in social enterprises and startups where funding and resources may be limited, but I didn’t know that back then. I left with a bitter thought, “I am done with this non-profit or cause-driven plan”.

I began applying to anything but non-profit organizations and landed a role as Senior Brand Communications Executive in iMoney. They were looking for someone with social media marketing experience, and my time with Projek57 – though short – gave me a foot in the door.

3 years and a lot of learning on the job later, here I am in iMoney – still learning the ropes of branding and marketing, but blessed with a team which empowers me to validate campaign ideas and concepts.

You’re the outgoing Group Brand & Marketing Manager at iMoney. Please tell us what iMoney is all about and the role you play there.

iMoney is a personal finance platform which helps people get more out of their money by:

  1. Comparing and applying for the right financial products through our Aggregator
  2. Learning money management via jargon-free articles and initiatives
  3. Planning your finances with insightful tools like our income tax calculator

As Group Brand & Marketing Manager, I manage 3 portfolios: Brand Communications, PR and Social Media. The role also entails proposing and executing strategic marketing campaigns which encompass the 3 portfolios whenever opportunities arise.

To execute these campaigns, I will usually come up with a campaign plan and set up a briefing session with experts from the various teams – ranging from SEO to Performance Marketing and Email Marketing, to get their feedback on how to maximize results and meet campaign objectives by leveraging on everyone’s capabilities.

Marketing financial technology isn’t always the easiest thing in the world. What sort of strategies do you find most useful for marketing iMoney? How do you stand out from your competition?

The difference between sales and marketing is that while the former focuses on selling, the latter focuses on building relationships. Once a relationship between a brand and a target audience is strong enough, the sale will automatically follow.

Of course, building a relationship between a brand and a target audience is not as simple as dating in real life, simply because a brand is not a person and hence needs to be personified through effective marketing strategies – before you can even push the brand or product to be “loved” or “preferred” over its competitors.

While iMoney earns through the application of financial products, content marketing, and partnerships, the brand is ultimately about personal finance – a highly personal topic, as money is central to every life goal. If you can address your audience’s pain and passion points, your marketing initiatives will likely positively impact your brand and ultimately, your business.

This is my usual game plan when building a marketing campaign:

  1. I usually start with our brand purpose: Why did iMoney exist in the first place? What sort of impact does iMoney want to make in our target audience’s life?
  2. Next, identify opportunities within our brand purpose: What’s happening within the personal finance space? What’s bothering our target audience (e.g. single young working adults earning below RM5,000/month)? For example, is price inflation on many people’s minds? Or is it income tax season where everyone is figuring out how to maximize their tax returns?
  3. Key message: Based on the brand purpose and market opportunities, Build a topic which matters to your target audience, be it educating people about scams or discussing investment strategies for newlyweds.
  4. Channels and tactics: Where does your target audience usually hang out? How do they prefer to engage in a conversation? Is it through Facebook Live or email subscription? Do they prefer listening to a certified financial advisor or learning from success stories?

Have the developments of the COVID-19 Pandemic affected your own strategies as Head of Marketing? What challenges and/or developments have you had to adapt to since the start of 2020? How have you overcome them?

Definitely. The 2 biggest marketing lessons I learned from the pandemic are:

  1. Learn from other brands
  2. Be flexible and dare to test out new ideas
  3. You are as good as your team

One of the biggest challenges is content creation during the start of the pandemic, specifically video productions since physical shooting is no longer allowed. Take our 2020 Raya campaign video for example: Instead of the usual physical film production, we’ve had to produce a video by weaving together clips of iMoney staff at home and fitting it into a script.

Funnily, the idea came when my colleague shared videos by Apple and Google who were making these DIY videos, basically just a collage of stock footage fitted to a script and a soundtrack – since the whole world was on lockdown. I remember discussing with my colleague if we could also pull this off, and achieve the same impact that these giant brands achieved.

Themed “i Bersama u” (or “I am with you”), we built a script which heavily relies on the script and soundtrack to tell the story. Next, we assigned several iMoney staff to shoot video clips of themselves at home. These clips will then be woven together to form a video.

While this sounds easy, it took a lot of briefing and coordination with colleagues who were assigned to be featured in the video. To amplify the sombre sentiment of MCO and at the same time instil optimism, our Design Team also had to get creative with the right soundtrack and video treatment, given the limitations to shooting footage and directing on set.

At the end of the day, our #iBersamaU Raya campaign helped us overtake our competitors in the share of voice (SOV), a key metric in brand performance, at a small budget. Our social media pages also saw higher-than-average growth immediately after the campaign. Taking from this success, we have since produced a few more similar DIY videos with decent results.

At the end of the day, I learnt that perhaps the most important thing to succeed, in spite of the pandemic, is having a team who sits down and works towards the objectives outlined – and the graciousness of your superiors to let you test new ideas.

What sort of lasting impact do you believe the pandemic’s forced acceleration of digital transformation has had on iMoney and the industry in general?

  1. Social media is likely to remain a primary touchpoint:
    Although we are slowly easing back to pre-pandemic life, the past 2 years have globally cultivated a collective social-media-first consciousness where social media is not just seen as a space for business updates but concurrently a customer service front, community space, and experiential relationship between brand and consumer. For example, followers of Burger King’s Facebook page are not just expecting updates of the latest promo but also the brand’s responses to trending topics. The more relevant and personal you can be with your followers, the more likely you can build brand trust and top-of-mind (TOM) recall. Consequently, the more likely you are to convert a follower into a potential customer.I think the pandemic has also made brands realize the potential of social media to amplify any marketing initiative – be it a digital campaign or a physical one.
  2. Collaborations not just to survive, but thrive:
    Digital-led efforts are about maximizing the dollar spent. If you execute a campaign by yourself, how many people can you reach as compared to collaborating with a strategic partner with a different sphere of influence? One thing iMoney – and I am sure many other brands – learnt is that “together we are stronger”. Be it through affiliate partnerships, webinar collaborations, or sponsorship campaigns, you achieve more when you leverage each other’s reach, brand associations, and engagements – provided that the collaboration is a strategic one.
  3. 360° digital-first campaign.
    One thing the iMoney marketing team learned during the pandemic was the necessity of working together across different teams. Before the pandemic, many of our marketing initiatives were planned by a single team – only involving other teams to support.But once the pandemic hit, we realized the importance of involving every team in the planning stage itself to leverage each other’s expertise in order to amplify the impact. Perhaps it’s also that added realization that “all we’ve got is one another to achieve this” – the pandemic does have that effect on our team at least. For example, our recent #TaxTalk campaign – a Facebook Live discussion on how to maximize your income tax returns – encompasses Email marketing, Learning Centre articles from our Editorial Team, engagement posts from the Social Media Team, and even the Affiliate Marketing Team and SEO Team who advised us on the forms of content to prioritize during this season.The stellar results of such a cross-team campaign are a testament to the importance of such holistic campaigns, and definitely, a motivator for us to continue such collaborative efforts in the future.

Do you think that this impact has permanently changed how you and your team go about your work? Where do you see your strategies going in the next few years?

Definitely. Personally, I see our marketing strategy going more towards a 360° approach – where any initiative will be conceived with a view of maximizing the impact by involving all relevant teams from the planning phase itself. Naturally, the primary objectives and key message will be set by one person – who will then consult experts from every team on how we can collectively amplify the campaign results.

Again, this is based on the discovery that no marketing channel exists in a silo – especially in the digital world where the effective touchpoint is two devices at most per person – a laptop and a mobile phone. The more coordinated your campaign efforts, the more amplified your impact will be.

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

Marketing may seem all glitz and glam from the outside – with the flashy film productions, influencer campaigns, and Facebook Live giveaways – but what translates the glitz and glam into meaningful impact are:

  1. Excellence: If you are planning a Facebook Live webinar, it goes beyond engaging the right speaker and promoting your event. Do you keep a timeline and event checklist? Do you brief your guest speakers and provide them with scripts? Do your research and prepare for all anticipated questions that may arise during your Live event? Have you assigned people to manage the comment section? In short, have you given your best to ensure that the event is airtight? It will make a difference to the outcome of your initiative. Having said that, it is ok to make mistakes as that is where you will be learning many of your lessons.
  2. Critical and strategic thinking: Marketers are essentially strategic communicators. We need to anticipate how our target audience can interpret a piece of content. It is never just ” simple or fun ” even for something that seems simple or fun like preparing a meme or social media series, it is never just “simple or fun”. What is the key message you are trying to convey? What is the marketing outcome you want to achieve? Are there possibilities this could be misinterpreted, and if so, what is your rough contingency plan?
  3. Attention to detail: The brand is built in the details. One of the hardest things to enforce among junior marketers – myself included when I first started my career – is keeping the format. If your Facebook banners all have different alignment and font sizes, how unprofessional will that reflect on your brand? If your campaign report has different font colours, what does that say about you as a communicator? Can I trust you with 14 Facebook ad banners in the next credit card giveaway campaign if you can’t handle font sizes for an internal report?
  4. Being organized: Marketers are underrated master organizers who often need to work with people from vastly diverse backgrounds to make “marketing magic” happen. To execute a holistic campaign that spans 5 different channels and at times even stakeholders from different teams and organizations, you need to be chronically organized – equipped with a timeline and campaign checklist whilst keeping an eye on the budget and deliverables. At the same time, you must ensure that people from different backgrounds understand your marketing campaign brief.

If you want to excel as a marketer, start honing your organizational and people skills. At times, you may even need to describe the same thing in 3 different ways – one for the tech people, another for the non-profit partner, and yet another one for the SEO team.


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 the next issue of the Marketing Expert Series. Please reach out to us via email.

If you are interested in building your own company’s digital advertising, get in touch with us today, and find out how you can optimize your digital marketing strategies.

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