Brand trend: Chacko says it’s not really about big or small brands but how relevant they are.

IAA Malaysia chief: A brand must bring its purpose to life in a relevant way

WHERE does a brand stand in an age of disruption where changes are taking place at the blink of an eye? Can it survive amid the transformative changes and still be relevant and meet its purpose?

In over a hundred years, big brands have survived wars, recessions and public relations disasters. Their survival has been the subject of discussion everywhere, from AdWeek to the Financial Times and the teh tarik stall.

Today, big brands are falling like dandruff off hair. Digital world? Social media? What else? Where does the blame lie for this disruption to convention? As how the general election (GE14) has shown, do legacy brands have a shelf life?

“Big brands are doomed to oblivion: Lessons from GE14” was the timely theme at the debate series event presented by the International Advertising Association (IAA Malaysia chapter) recently in Kuala Lumpur.

In setting the tone of the event, IAA Malaysia president John D. Chacko, who is also the vice-president of IAA Asia Development and IAA World board member, opened with enlightening observations.

“It’s not really about big or small brands. When a brand does not bring its purpose to life in a relevant manner, and much worse, if it betrays its purpose for personal or political gain, it will be set back or even be doomed to oblivion,” he said.

The debate teams featured professionals from a wide spectrum of the marketing, communications, academic and media landscape, who articulated their points for and against the argument with well-researched analysis.

On the proponent side, the panel comprised Redberry Media Group chief executive officer Tho Tuck Who, GetResponse Malaysia head Mellissa Lee and Benefit Point marketing director Joy Abdullah.

UiTM former head of advertising programme and associate professor Abdul Rahim Mohd Saleh, Prudential Assurance Malaysia chief brand officer Fiona Liao, and investigative journalist R. Nadeswaran represented the panel on the opposing team.

Moderated by Marketing Magazine founder and chief executive officer and IAA Malaysia honorary advisor Harmandar Singh, the arguments raised thought-provoking messages that resonated well with the 100-strong audience.

“Big can be a disadvantage, too structured to change quickly to glaring opportunities or imminent threats,” said Tho.

Nadeswaran rebutted: “Big brands won’t just fade away. They can’t be destroyed. They tried hard with a brand called ‘Mahathir’ but failed miserably.”

Liao added: “While a big brand has the advantage of access to resources such as money, talent and experience; the key survival factor of any brand – big or small – is its purpose, relevance and ability to constantly innovate and evolve with the changing times.”

On the other hand, Lee voiced out: “Consumers have learned that their voice and their opinion matter. They won’t hesitate to call out and question even big brands, and this is further amplified as social media has given them a completely open platform to speak out”.

“Listening to the people i.e. every stakeholder connected to the brand, is critical. And being able to move fast to translate those learnings into effective experiences for the stakeholders that shape their perceptions is also very important”, Joy summed up.

Abdul Rahim remarked how the evolving landscape has transformed expectations in brands across all spheres.

By a show of hands, the opposing team was declared the winner. The arguments presented opened up the discourse for and how brands should always put up the thermometer in the air to move with the times.

In closing the event, Chacko stated: “The IAA is small in scale in Malaysia but big on purpose. Our global mission is to be the compass for marketing and communications, and, in Malaysia, we fulfil this purpose through knowledge and learning and networking events.”

The debate series were made possible with support from Dentsu Aegis Network Malaysia (IAA Corporate Member), Jaffar & Menon, Visual Retale, JDC Brand Truth, Travee Travels, Lantern Media and Marketing Magazine.

Founded in 1938 and headquartered in New York, the International Advertising Association has thousands of members across over 56 countries. The IAA is the only international organisation that brings together advertisers, agencies, the media and practioners in all aspects of marketing communications into a one-of-a-kind global partnership to advance matters of common interest.


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