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Creative Catch-Up: Branding Records' Marcus Wong

Creative Catch-Up: Branding Records' Marcus Wong

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Marcus Wong (pictured), creative director, Branding Records, first got a taste of the creative industry as he took charge of a branding project for his relative’s leather goods brand when he was 16.

Since then, Wong had been bouncing between fashion, advertising, arts and publishing until his first agency job when he realised this was his lifelong career perusal goal. 

As a seasoned professional with a diverse skill set encompassing strategy, marketing, writing, art direction, and entrepreneurship, Wong has served clients across varied industries, including arts, culture, publishing, finance, technology, and FMCG. 

Find out more about Wong's journey in creative thus far and who inspires him. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Tell us a little bit about your role.

People often think creative director is a fancy title they see in creative industry, but I think being a creative director is just being a good communicator, internally, externally, on paper and on our crafts. This is an industry that is filled with complex situations and narratives, my job is to clarify complexity, not simplifying it.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: How long have you been with the agency?

Officially, just last year in 2023. I first crossed paths with our CEO Jacopo Pesavento and chief operating officer Gabriele Zanoni seven years ago, although it was for a different role back then. I've always had a feeling that our paths would converge and we'd work together to elevate Branding Records to new heights. The year 2023 marked the official start of this journey, and I couldn't be more excited to see where our collective efforts will take us.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: How did you stumble into this industry?

My first job ever was a branding project for a relative’s leather goods brand, I was about 16 years old. From then on, I had been bouncing between fashion, advertising, the arts, and publishing until my first agency job. And that, was the moment when I realised this is my ikigai, this profession, is the thing that will keep me company until the day I die.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What was your first impression of the advertising industry?

Organised chaos. The inevitability of clashing perspectives and creative minds striving for a unified vision always fascinated me. It's a realm where storytelling intertwines with strategic thinking, pushing boundaries to capture attention in a cluttered world. Each project presents a new challenge, demanding innovation and authenticity to resonate with audiences.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Creatively, what do you feel has been the biggest shift?

To put it mildly, extremely mildly. Our world has changed since the last two times Earth orbited the sun. I notice how much more we depend on technology to fix our reality, the NFTs haze, the work-from-home culture, AI disrupting our industry.

Adapting to these changes has become essential in staying relevant and impactful in the ever-evolving landscape of the creative industry, none of us is right or wrong in this convenience v.s. craft argument, but we can only mindfully walk on this fine line every day without falling into the abyss of creative tepidness. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What’s the most frustrating thing about being a creative?

People in our industry might punch me in the face if they hear me saying this, but I actually love dealing with every frustration we have as a creative. Frustration usually means friction, and friction usually calls for creative solutions, whether it’s dealing with a difficult client, brief, or being in an impossible, unfair context, the way we get out of frustration is simply doing our jobs. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Proudest moment in your career?

A few years ago, I had a sit down with some C-suites from a Fortune 500 company, after the meeting we went out for dinner and drinks, and after one too many I started babbling on about what I would do as an executive at their company. Months later, I saw a version of my idea on the news, and that, is one of my proudest moments in my career.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What is one career mistake you won’t forget?

I have made a number of mistakes, and I don’t regret making any of them, as corny as it sounds, mistakes are the best lessons. There is a recurring theme to the mistakes I have made though, is that I judged. Mistakes happen when I judge a person, a brief, or a scenario too soon, resulting in imbalance, conundrums and drama, and those mistakes are the lessons to remind myself to judge less.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: Mentor you look up to most?

I have never actually had anyone teach me how I do what I do now in advertising. But I do have art or design heroes, Mathias Augustyniak and Michael Amzalag from M/M Paris, Peter Savile, Rai Kawakubo, to name a few, their words and work have shaped me into becoming the creative that I am today.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What is your favourite piece of advertising?

I can think of thousands of “favourites,” but there is one that I keep coming back to in recent months, it is Apple’s Mother Nature, a short film on the company’s carbon-neutral initiatives. No one has ever been able to make sustainability sexy, because being sustainable often means compromising our lifestyle. What Apple did, is introduce certainty, humour and hope to this somehow stigmatised topic as one of the most influential companies of our time, making this “ad” one of my all-time favourites.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What do you dislike most in an ad?

Ambiguity. Creativity is subjective, everyone has their own taste and take on an output, the only objectivity in our industry is, whether is the messaging clear enough for its audience, if it's not, then I have no reason to like it.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What is your dream brand to work with?

People who know me personally can probably answer this question for me, I have two brands that are like a forever “true north” to me, and that is Apple and Hermes. While I know both of these brands usually like to take it in-house, and only delegate its production to creatives, if I was given the opportunity to do a campaign for an Apple x Hermes product, like their Apple Watch, would be a dream come true. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: How do you get inspired when you aren’t?

Listen to Fiona Apple, her music pretty much gets me out of every rut I have ever been in, and that is why I have Fiona Apple lyrics tattooed on my arm, “on I go not toward or away,” my motto. This means that whatever I do or not do, it is not because I want to move towards or away from something, it is the quintessential peace of taking one day at a time, the power of one’s individuality to not let external forces affect oneself.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What is your ritual/superstition before a big pitch?

It is a nasty habit I know, but I usually solve brain knots with a smoke break, the bigger the brain knot, the more smoke breaks I have. So based on this equation, a big pitch equals around 20 smoke breaks throughout its whole pitching process.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What makes the difference between an average ads and mind-blowing creativity?

I always show my colleagues this chart I saved years ago, it is on the idea vs. execution argument. Contrary to popular opinion, I have never really valued good ideas, because any talented people can have hundreds of good ideas a day, but good execution? Good execution only happens once in a blue moon. Averages ads usually have some good ideas and an ok execution, but mind-blowing creativity? Mind-blowing creativity can only be experienced via incredible execution. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What does your family think you do?

Though we are very different, I think my family knows what I do very well. I am fortunate enough to have parents who see the world from their children’s point of view, they may not get it, but they have always respected my craft. Since I was a teenager, there’s always been a shelve of snacks and a fridge full of my favourites when they know I would be working all night on my craft. I am a creative by blood, but without my family’s support, I would never be able to be a creative by choice.

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: If you weren’t a creative, what would you be?

I know it is expected for me to elaborate on my answers in this Creative Catch-up. But really, nothing. I can’t think of one single thing I would be if not being a creative. 

MARKETING-INTERACTIVE: What is your guilty pleasure that you’ve kept hidden from the industry?

Those who know me know I love to share, especially with what I love, I’m always on Instagram bombarding my friends with things none of them care about. The thing that I have never told anyone that I like doing, perhaps is that I actually like monotony, doing something over and over and over again, there’s beauty in repetition. 

Join us this coming 26 June for Content360 Hong Kong, a one-day-two-streams extravaganza under the theme of "Content that captivates". Get together with our fellow marketers to learn about AI in content creation, integration of content with commerce and cross-border targeting, and find the recipe for success within the content marketing world!

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Creative Catch-Up: Havas Group HK's Kenneth Tung
Creative Catch-up: dentsu HK's Jeffry Gamble

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