#AOTYAwards spills: AKIN gives us a sneak peek into its ambitious 2021 goals

AKÏN has slowly and steadily been making a name for itself in the agency scene in Singapore which culminated the agency in bagging the gold and local hero awards for boutique agency of the year and independent agency of the year.  The agency also bagged bronze in social media marketing agency of the year and the local hero award for digital agency of the year.

In 2019, the agency reinforced its business positioning  in three distinct ways - to help brands build lasting relationships and build communities of advocates; using its brand consultancy arm to help businesses find resonance with their communities and relevance for the future economy; and through digital innovation and transformation, support sustainable business growth and brand longevity.

Moving forward, Arvin Tang, managing director of AKÏN says that clients can expect more original and incisive ideas from the agency. Earlier this year, the team set up a dedicated in-house insights team to support its delivery of future-proof brand and marketing solutions. “ These first-hand insights also open up more blue sky thinking for the team and help to validate our intuitions, so that we can boldly challenge some industry norms,”Tang said.

Adding on to the conversation CTO Kenneth Sim said, it’s the agility present in its DNA which has enable the company to break away from being a “conventional marketing agency”.  

“With these recognitions to our name, we expect current and incoming clients to be more confident of our methodologies and we look forward to co-creating more ambitious shared goals and winning concepts with them,” Sim added.

This interview is done as part of MARKETING-INTERACTIVE’s winners and finalists’ interview series. To find out more about the awards, click here.

Read also: #AOTYAwards 2020 highlight: AKIN

What are some of the expectations your clients now have for your brand?

Tang: They can expect more original and incisive ideas from AKÏN. Earlier this year, we set up a dedicated in-house insights team to support our delivery of future-proof brand and marketing solutions. Having our own research team grants us greater control over how we can use data to distill consumer and cultural truths, and drive sustainable, long-term business impact for our clients. These first-hand insights also open up more blue sky thinking for the team and help to validate our intuitions, so that we can boldly challenge some industry norms.

We are also exploring deeper, bigger-scale collaborations to co-create more innovative solutions for existing and new clients. We have our eyes on new markets, spaces and products, and plan to establish new partnerships and technological tools that can change the way marketing is traditionally done. In turn, businesses can look forward to benefitting from more extensive brand campaigns and revenue acquisition interventions. We believe that businesses who share a similar definition of success will be excited at some of the new capabilities and offerings we are planning to launch early next year. 

Sim: AKÏN will stay true to its DNA as an independent agency, which has allowed us to be agile. Detached from what is typically expected from a conventional marketing agency, we can offer an all-rounder perspective and consult on projects that require us to switch between business, mar-tech, data, and other domain lenses.

With these recognitions to our name, we expect current and incoming clients to be more confident of our methodologies and we look forward to co-creating more ambitious shared goals and winning concepts with them.

How has your clients’ marketing plans shifted this year?

Tang: There’s a lot of uncertainty on the ground, and many businesses are taking a wait-and-see approach, rather than being proactive. Yet, interestingly enough for us, the majority of our clients stayed on course for what they set out to do at the end of last year. To compensate for shifts in consumer behaviour due to the COVID-19 pandemic, many of our clients sought our advice to build up their digital capabilities, and consolidate and integrate cross-platform data points to inform their strategies moving forward.

Understanding user behavior has always been the crux of how we approach marketing at AKÏN. Our strategies always seek to move in parallel with changing consumer needs, motivations and frustrations in order to help our clients bring value to the market. As such, the quick pivots and adjustments we made these months are true to our modus operandi.

Sim: Some of the new clients we’ve acquired this year have asked for urgent support for digital transformation or to pivot towards digital-led business models. By incubating and accelerating these new brand and engagement strategies with them, we were able to identify the most impactful and effective ways to help them not just react to the pandemic, but also prepare for a post-pandemic, digital-first world.

What are some of the trends you see carrying on post-pandemic, and how are you readying your workforce to be ready with these trends?

Tang: The detriment of COVID will only be amplified in its wake. We can expect the market to continue fragmenting and becoming more disparate. We urge fellow agencies to bind together as a collective to thrive, and explore how we can help each other acquire different and new markets. We hope to be able to expand our network of industry partners through meaningful, mutually beneficial tie-ups.

AKÏN also intends to extend additional support to local, medium enterprises via local government funding for qualifying companies. We believe that this particular segment of businesses faces a unique predicament following the pandemic, which can be resolved via well-planned digital interventions.

To support these initiatives, we’re looking to train up more of our specialists to become consultants that can analyse and problem-solve from an elevated vantage point. We brought on more experienced industry professionals and consultants to value-add to our existing team.

Sim: We’ll also be supporting more professional training for team members who prefer to specialise, especially in areas of data analysis, digital technologies or customer experience.

Tang: Earlier this year, AKÏN launched our not-for-profit ‘Plugs & Sockets” initiative to support Singapore Small Medium Enterprises (SME) affected by the Circuit Breaker. This is a community-based project to pair local firms requiring urgent business support — the ‘Sockets’ — with our network of business partners and leaders — the ‘Plugs’. Do join our network if you would like to support local businesses. 

What do you think makes for great marketing these days?

Tang: We believe that the best brands never outgrow an honest human-to-human connection. As a business scales, it is common to become fixated on technology and reduce its consumers to transactional data. Many lose sight of building relationships with people, letting likes, followers and other vanity metrics stand in for real engagement.

Sim: At AKÏN, we see technology as a valuable tool to help bring brands closer to their community, not replace it. Technology can be used to plug the gap in an organisation’s marketing infrastructure by better personalising engagement for each customer.

Tang: This is based on our proprietary Human Brand Methodology, which acts as a guiding philosophy for brands that want to become more human. This layer of people-centricity brings greater clarity to a brand’s purpose and value, and helps them to articulate relatable and personal brand stories.

We also advocate for co-creating value with our clients to drive actual business impact and shared success. The best solutions in marketing are often not foreign to the organisation — they’re embedded within its vision and values, waiting to be brought to life. We grow businesses by enabling their own people.

How are you planning for 2021?

Sim: In line with AKÏN’s vision of creating a world of human brands, we are looking to promote community hosting among local and regional businesses. We aim to democratise the ability for organisations to own their platforms or content hubs, so that they can own the process of engaging their communities and nurturing true brand advocates. 

We also intend to push for the uptake of marketing technologies and drive digital innovation in the industry, allowing businesses to not only use data to optimise current plans and executions but also leverage on its predictive potential.

To support these efforts, we are looking to double down on our own in-house capabilities as well as providing training for the wider industry. We will have an exciting major collaboration lined up in January 2021.

Tang: Our team comprises talents from diverse backgrounds – economists, sociologists, creatives, marketeers, business generalists, techies – and we are open to professionals and potential partners who can add to the range of our perspectives and delivery.

With that said, we are ready for more disruptive and purposeful projects in 2021.  

Related Articles:
#AOTYAwards spills: How OC Digital's search for creativity landed the gold
#AOTYAwards spills: 3 times Overall Agency of the Year TBWA\’s secret sauce