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Can BTS really position Gojek as the superapp of choice?

Can BTS really position Gojek as the superapp of choice?

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Gojek has inked a massive partnership with K-pop sensation BTS to encourage consumers to experience the convenience of its slew of services across GoFood, GoRide, GoCar, GoClub, and GoPay. As part of the "painting the town purple" initiative, the campaign with BTS will cut across Singapore, Vietnam and Gojek’s home turf Indonesia. Ads will be bought across major channels such as OOH and TVCs, and Gojek is also creating exclusive BTS merchandise as part of the initiative.

According to Audrey Petriny, deputy chief of corporate affairs at Gojek, the partnership is “aligned to Gojek’s commitment to create a positive impact on the lives of users, driver partners and merchants." Gojek, however, declined to share more details with regard to the partnerships and cost of investment.

Being one of the biggest pop sensations in the world right now, BTS has inked many major deals with corporations such as McDonald’s, Samsung, Louis Vuitton and even Tokopedia in Indonesia. An article on The Korea Times cited the group to be “one of the most expensive celebrity spokesmodels”, and reported that South Korean companies often pay the group US$2.69 million to US$4.48 million just for domestic endorsements. Meanwhile in 2018, SCMP reported that BTS brought in US$3.6 billion to just the South Korean economy – and the brand has only continued to rise since then.

While it is unclear the price at which this partnership with Gojek was agreed upon, it is safe to say the tag was a rather hefty one. And while the partnership with BTS will certainly raise the profile for Gojek in the short term, whether or not the partnership will create long term effects and conversion, remains questionable, industry players MARKETING-INTERACTIVE spoke to said.  

“Celebrity-led partnerships such as this can definitely create buzz and make Gojek top of mind vis-a-vis its competitors,” said Melvin Kuek, CEO of BBDO Singapore. However, conversion is often a differentiated or superior product, he added.

“In the case of Gojek, its mobility/transport service is at best on par with everyone else,” he said. As such, conversion – especially in markets such as Singapore with fierce competition from the likes of Grab – will still be dependent on its booking rates, availability during peak hours and convenience of use. The same goes for its other lines of businesses such as food in other markets, Kuek explained. The frequency of use will be dependent on the variety and quality of partners on the platform and delivery fee.

“That said, there might be a spike when the company offers BTS premiums/merchandise or even raffles based on spend. However, these promotions will only result in short-term spikes unless the company plans on a continuous barrage of exclusive promos to drive conversion and ultimately change habits – which is just not as feasible,” he added.

Agreeing with Kuek, James Chua, founder of GERMS Digital, shared that while there is no dispute that the influence of BTS is far-reaching, and such a brand partnership can move the needle for BTS devotees, the impact might be less so for the general public. However, while Gojek’s influence in home ground Indonesia is widely felt, in markets such as Singapore where it only made its entry in 2018, brands such as Grab and Comfort have a stronghold.

To achieve long term share of wallet, it is still key to constantly drive stickiness. “For this partnership to drive conversion, producing some form of exclusive collectibles always helps and that should be married with encouraging of app usage for redemption,” Chua added.

Sceptical of the impact branding ads alone will have, Nimesh Desai, CEO of Wunderman Thompson Singapore, added that a few ads splashed across the city are unlikely to cut it on the partnership front. What it boils down to is the entire ecosystem of the partnerships, he added. “BTS has a massive fan base here so Gojek has the opportunity to leverage on that and build brand impact,” he said, adding that another aspect to consider would be events that drive engagement and go beyond just awareness.

A great move to build brand recognition

While only time will tell if the strategy and the dollars dished out will pay off for BTS, Vishnu Mohan, partner and chief growth officer of Dept APAC, explained that the move is certainly “refreshing, imaginative and forward looking”.

“BTS is a global phenomena with a cult-status, a blind-folded loyalty have all the makings for creating a consumer empathy with a generation that can be initiated early on with a delivery partner and built a sticky relationship for years to follow,” said Mohan. As such, done right, the business outcomes will follow.

While partnerships with global stars are not new in categories such as eCommerce, fashion, telecom and FMCG, Sonya David, strategy partner, media group at dentsu Singapore said it is rather uncommon to see a superapp going down this path at such a large scale. She added that as the Singapore market gears up for a landscape with multiple ride-sharing apps, it is clear that "Gojek has chosen a proven approach to driving both brand positivity and growing usage".

David added that the campaign certainly works in favour of the brand in “reducing misattribution to the market leader while building brand recognition for itself”. This recognition will strongly aid Gojek to overcome the first hurdle of becoming an app with a presence on the consumer’s phone.

Given that the Gojek team has outlined promotions, loyalty programmes and incentives designed to drive higher usage and frequency across the complete portfolio of services and convert curious first-timers to regular users, David is of the view that specifically Singaporean consumers will celebrate the options made available with lower-priced rides, especially during rush hour and surge periods.

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