What we learned at Digital Marketing Asia 2020

COVID-19 was a stress test for our industry. At Digital Marketing Asia 2020, some of the industry's most talented digital marketers joined us to discuss how the pandemic will shape digital's future growth. 

Perhaps it was fitting that Digital Marketing Asia 2020 was, like most events these days, an all-digital gathering. For our group of highly qualified speakers, panelists, and moderators, it gave them an opportunity to do what they do best: Go online and deliver. And that's exactly what they did.

Across two days, 22 of the industry's top digital marketers spoke to us from around the globe to share insights on how their brands have navigated a year when digital became — if it hadn't already been — the most important line on everyone's marketing budget. Here are just a few of the things we learned. 

Everybody's changing

The pandemic didn't necessarily reshape business — it simply accelerated moves that many industries already needed to make. Those who thrived recognised the importance of digital transformation long before social distancing and border controls. As head of sales, Hong Kong & Macau for Philip Morris Asia Limited, Louis Lai was one of those people.

Before COVID-19 was a household name, Philip Morris was offering a full suite of digital solutions to all of their retail and business partners as a means of meeting their customers in the digital space. For a legacy FMCG organisation, digital transformation was more than just savvy — it was essential.

"We see the business is changing, not only the consumer," said Lai. "And each is changing faster than what we believe." 

You don't need a big budget

Michelin Guides Asia's Colin Ho had a major challenge: How to keep the restaurant awards brand relevant in a year with travel wiped out, events cancelled, and restaurants restricted or closed outright? Oh, and how to do it all on a shoestring budget?

Ho started by trashing the traditional marketing playbook of paid media and a major event. Turning to Michelin Guides' network of chefs and influencers, and partnerships like foodpanda, Ho took the entire experience online, while reviewing which elements of the brand's digital ecosystem to keep and toss.

With an hour-long livestream and UGC campaign with the winners and F&B community, Michelin Guides Asia saw a 47% increase in engagements and a 66% boost in new followers with just a portion of the spend it used in previous years. When done right, less can be much, much more.

China is a whole new ballgame

As the first major nation to truly bounce back from the pandemic, many marketers are looking to China to grow their business. But that's easier said than done.

QS Search's Remy Wong notes that a brand that doesn't do their homework will be lost: With so many different media in China, from Baidu to Weibo to Bilibili, all tailored to different demographics, it's crucial to understand your objectives and KPIs and selecting the right media to achieve them.

When in doubt? Hire an agency. Brand is everything in China, and how you build it can make all the difference.

camilo jimenez qzeno gq7qa unsplash

Make social matter

When it comes to creating thumb-stoppingly good social media for your brand, getting through the clutter is essential. HSBC's Suresh Balaji looked through the 10,000 best performing social posts across all categories and found it comes down to three key components:

  • Be real and human, without any B.S. or overwhelming self-promotion
  • Be creative; with so much noise out there, people will respond when they see something new
  • Timing is everything; make sure your content is appropriate for the moment, tailored for the platform, and relevant to your audience

Caring isn't creepy

When it comes to shopping online, the data has shown that the majority of customers want a more personalised, tailored experience. However, those same customers are deeply concerned about the companies that have access to their info and data, and, more importantly, how they use it.

It's a dichotomy that Japan Airlines Co.'s Jonathan Wan and Seek's Bernard Chong face on a daily basis, but both agree that there's no better way to give your customers that human touch. As Wan notes, the most important thing a brand can do is build — and maintain — trust. And how do you do that?

For Japan Airlines, it comes down to empathy (understanding needs and being available in crisis situations), honesty (be clear about your offerings and privacy) and integrity (avoid half-truths and practice core values).

For Wan and all of our marketers, good marketing is the same anywhere in the world, whether it's social-based or data-driven, and comes down to the same fundamentals of any good business: Earn your customer's trust and deliver a positive experience, and they'll be eager to share more and return again and again.