Insights on Branding and Marketing

By Eugene Goh

Discovery+ is a series of online industry panels which give students the chance to interact with working professionals and learn about the careers they aspire to enter. These panels provide youths and working professionals with the opportunity to better understand industry trends, hear first-hand perspectives from industry professionals, and gain valuable advice on entering or navigating these industries.

On 6 July 2021, Advisory hosted Discover+: Branding and Marketing, the 37th edition of the Discovery+ series. Speakers on the panel included:

  • Brenda Han (Moderator) – Executive Group Director (Former), Ogilvy
  • Irene Lin – Chief Marketing Officer, Wildlife Reserves Singapore
  • Jessica Beaton – Director, APAC Digital & Marketing, DTC (Disney+), The Walt Disney Company
  • Patrick Tan – Design Director, Razer Inc
  • Rod Strother – Managing Director, Integrated Brand, Edelman

Below are some key points shared during the session:

One of the key factors is finding out what really gets you excited to go to work. When we think about a single industry like an agency or a brand, it is the skill sets in their roles that will help you. 

On the agency side of this industry, you hand something over to a client at the end of the day. This process is very much like a sprint you take on the project and do as much as you can before passing on the baton. When working in the brand side of this industry, one has to take all of that and explain them in the boardroom. There is a greater understanding of the start to end process. It is very much like a marathon since the progress can be slower but there is no baton passing involved. 

For career progression on the brand side, you have people who come in with a strong specialty. Brands will often look in a more siloed perspective when it comes to hiring and they hire people for specific skill sets. On the agency side, people have a lot more mobility. They are able to learn a wide array of skill sets in teams. They are able to move around a bit more through departments such as account management or the creative side whilst getting client exposure at the same time. 

So depending on where people choose to go, they can either become a specialist or build a more well-rounded background. Neither is wrong, but these environments do nurture people differently.

Entering either the agency or client side requires hard and soft skill sets. Hard skill sets include analytic skills, UX or creative skills and these will be what get you through HR in the beginning. 

However, soft skill sets are crucial as well. You have to understand the business that you are going into. If you cannot take the data and explain it to a client why it matters and how it is going to impact their business, you are not going to succeed. The same applies if you are on the brand side and you cannot explain why the engagement rate number is going to drive something that ultimately hits the business.

So while hard skills are amazing, everybody needs to continue to develop the ability to look at what they are doing and see the bigger picture. That makes you a really successful agency person. Clients will love you because they do not have to look at you and ask “so what?” On the brand side, you will be able to grow because ultimately, your boss and your boss’ boss do not really care about the engagement rate. They care about what that means to the company. 

Attitude plays a large part as well. Hirers look at how you approach the interviews and how you stand out as a candidate. Hence, you have to bring something different to the interview. If you are hired, you will have to bring what you brought to the interview to your job as well. 

Internships are a great way to get the experience and companies take in many interns each year. 

Aside from internships, there are also other ways for you to gain experience. You do not actually need to have direct experience. You can volunteer to do somebody’s website or utilise your marketing skills in your passion projects and show the interviewers your capabilities. There are so many ways for you to show that you understand what you are getting into without having direct job experience. Everybody should look at how they can make that connection in any interview and any role that they go for. 

Some companies work with schools as well so make use of these opportunities to get involved in the work. Interact with the people working in the industry because these interactions can help you decide if you actually want to join this industry. 

Another way is to do your own research to find out who’s who in the company that you are interested in. Try to make direct contact purely for information and with no expectations of securing a role with their company. Ask questions to find out more about the industry and there may also be an added bonus of being on the radar of the other party when it comes to future opportunities. 

As is commonly known, to get your dream job, you have to be hungrier than your peers. You need to show your dream company that you can pull this off. To do so, you need to be different from the rest. If your presentation or your résumé is not up to standards, then do not bother sending them. Make sure you do not have any spelling mistakes and every detail included is accurate.

Modern marketing is all about collecting data on consumer engagement with the brand. That is why social media is so often talked about because it is the easiest touch point where we can understand how consumers are viewing us.. 

From a broad branding point of view, different metrics that are used to measure against competitors include your share of voice, which is whether you are being talked about in the market on and off social media; and positive versus negative sentiments towards your brand. Brands also often use net promoter scores which is how people are perceiving your brand and how they are being advocates for your brand. 

These metrics are very technical but they all level up to several simple questions: are people talking about you? Are they being loyal to you? Are they being your advocates? That is very much what modern marketing is all about. 

There have been a lot of changes, going from traditional advertising to direct marketing, morphing into digital marketing. Fast forward to today, there are also customer relationship management and social media. 

Regardless, marketing is all about trying to find out more about the customer and your target audience in order to gain actionable insights. This allows you to narrow cast and provide a service or a product that is relevant to the audience that you are going after. The ability to do that has changed from making guesses to being really targeted in your approach. 

What we can do back then and our ability to do things today are at completely different levels. It is somewhat scary to think about what we are going to be able to do in the next five years, and get really targeted. 

Another major thing to focus on today is brand trust and the importance and trust that people are placing in brands these days. As we become more targeted in knowing more about the consumers, the expectations of the consumers have also grown exponentially as well. They have expectations of you as a brand, how you market, the things you say and your ethics. All of that has completely changed as well. 

It really comes down to the company culture – how much the company believes in marketing; seeing marketing as a performance driver and not just as fluff. So, that is the first thing that sets things apart. 

It is different between countries as well. There was a period of time when Asians in US companies were trying to educate the US on China. Eventually, the US started to fall behind too. So, there are definitely differences in how you market and how you should tell your story, particularly for countries that have a large enough consumer base and the ability to adapt. That also depends on what you are trying to do and who you are trying to tell the story to. 

From there, you will also have to ask if that requires you to change your strategy. You will have to figure out what the local customs are and the channels used to listen to your story. Your story may need to be altered as well. Then, segment by segment, the more personalised you can get with your distribution and delivery, the more effective your marketing will be. 

Firstly, that will have to be the numerous mistakes made along the way, and some mistakes were pretty expensive. However, the best way to manage all these mistakes is to own up and to be honest with your mistakes. Do not push the blame to your colleagues or your partners. The next step is to ensure that you do not make the same mistake twice. Learn from them and move on. 

Secondly, it is not ideal putting yourself in roles just because you think you need to keep moving up. If you enjoy something, keep doing it. There is nothing wrong with that. It is not about having to get to that next level and then the next level. Instead, spend more time adding more to what you enjoy doing.

Thirdly, it has also been tough justifying marketing’s role in an organisation. Marketing has gone through this shift where people used to think it was really fluffy, to a role where it is really touching everything, be it product, pricing or placement. So organisations are now prioritising marketing where it is most effective. The focus now is on defining the role and finding out how we should take responsibility for all of those different pieces. Digital media is holding marketing more accountable but being that voice of prioritisation and reason for marketing has been pretty new developments. This is a core part of any type of marketing leadership position. 

Lastly, there are times when you will have to switch off the marketing machine, especially in times of crisis. Things can happen really quickly but it is crucial for the marketing team to come together and decide what the next step is. There are many things to consider such as displaying your organisation’s compassion, how you collaborate with others, how to care for the people involved and managing social media. This is definitely one of the tough situations that people do not usually talk about often. However, you will definitely come out stronger because you learn so much as things happen very quickly.