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Marketing little treats

Is marketing necessary in influencing habitual purchases? Erica Ng finds out.

I’d visited Macau many times before, but I still found myself in one of the overcrowded bakery chains fighting to fill baskets after baskets with egg rolls, peanut candies and almond cakes.

They were plenty of cheaper options in smaller bakeries and the shopping experience in these chains was usually quite chaotic. The most baffling part was the fact these chains have outlets in Hong Kong, so why did I line up every single time and carry bags of pastry treats across the harbour?

If I think about it, neither of the two biggest names – Koi Kei and Choi Heong Yuen – are particularly good at their marketing. They have plenty of TV ads running in Hong Kong, both tacky in my opinion with Koi Kei’s choice to star Greater China’s most overexposed food critic Chua Lam and Choi Heong Yuen’s maddeningly brainwashing jingle by Macau band Solar.
They did little in upping or “rejuvenating” the two brands’ images, and even less in helping the brands to differentiate from each other.

My purchase decision process was straightforward. The marketing glamour, I’m afraid, was completely irrelevant.

The two chains were the most recognised bakery brands in Macau, not just by tourists but by my grandmothers and aunts who have never been to Macau and for whom my souvenirs are for. While I’m all for trying new things and supporting smaller businesses, I don’t think I can fight the 1000-year-old Chinese gifting tradition to stick with the big names.

Both Koi Kei and Choi Heung Yuen have shops everywhere, literally around every corner at every tourist spot in Macau. Their retail networks are comparable – if not more concentrated – to 7-Eleven’s in Hong Kong. With souvenirs for grandmothers, convenience triumph exclusivity.

But quality still counts, and with my years of experience consuming countless cookies from both brands, I’m confident to say they are equally as good.

For some products, marketing may play a less critical role in maintaining their brand image. Instead of going for the obvious choice of putting out a TVC, or getting distracted by the latest digital tools, it’s important not to lose track of what’s really important to your customers and keep doing what your brand does best.

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