Merdeka Day roundup: Brands push for positivity and hope amidst challenging times

Merdeka Day celebrations have definitely become more sombre amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. In line with this year's National Day theme of Malaysia Prihatin, Prime Minister Muyhiddin Yassin reminded Malaysians to cultivate a deep caring attitude towards one another, show concern for family, friends, neighbours and employees, and defend the nation's sovereignty. Meanwhile, despite the uncertainty hitting consumers and companies globally, Malaysian brands are still not forgoing the opportunity to rally Malaysians and remind them of the importance of being tenacious, uniting together as well as supporting local businesses. Here is how brands are celebrating Merdeka Day this year.

Axiata Group

Axiata Group has launched a two-week campaign in conjunction with Merdeka Day and Malaysia Day titled "True Stories of Tunku". Featuring first-hand eyewitness accounts of the acts of compassion by the nation’s first Prime Minister, Almarhum Tunku Abdul Rahman Putra Al-Haj, the stories are narrated from the memories of Malaysians whose lives he touched. The campaign follows the successful Getaran Pertama integrated campaign Axiata rolled out during last year's Merdeka Day. The campaign featured a heartwarming story about a multiracial choir arranged by Tunku to perform the Negaraku for the first time for the birth of the nation.

Among those whose real stories will be turned into inspiring dramatisations are Malaysia's longest-serving parliamentarian, Tengku Razaleigh Hamzah; 93-year-old educator and social activist, Rasammah Bhupalan; one of Masjid Negara's original architects, Baharuddin Abu Kassim; and Tunku's personal cook and butler, Puan Salmiah Mohd Isa and Encik K. Muthu a/l Kalimuthoo, respectively. The campaign was done in collaboration with M&C Saatchi and will run on Facebook and YouTube. 

Jamaludin Ibrahim, president and group CEO of Axiata Group, said: “At a time when we are nostalgic about the birth of Malaysia, it feels right to pay tribute once again to our nation’s first Prime Minister Tunku Abdul Rahman and his exemplary legacy of values.”

He added that compassion is integral to human existence and as can be seen through Tunku’s actions. Regardless of background, age or race, Jamaludin said Tunku was there for citizens if they were in need. "If all Malaysians take this same spirit of compassion into our hearts, then we, as a nation, can truly face the future with unity and confidence," he said.

Celcom Axiata

In celebration of the upcoming Merdeka Day, Celcom Axiata has rolled out its Celcom MeReka Merdeka initiative to enable Malaysians to support one another during these trying times. Driven by the Celcom MeReka Merdeka online platform, Malaysians are invited to create and submit their own face mask design. The designs will then be made available to the public for pre-order, effectively creating a new revenue stream for those who need it most.

Celcom said it saw this as an opportunity to help alleviate the financial pressure of Malaysians as they may earn passive income through the sale of their own face mask designs. The telco added that pushing for these reusable masks is also a more sustainable option as its more cost effective in the long run and lessens consumers’ footprint compared to single use masks.

In collaboration with social enterprise Earth Heir and M&C Saatchi, Celcom will work to produce reusable face masks in a sanitised workshop and hand sewn by artisans from marginalised communities. Celcom explained that since Earth Heir has produced a line of face masks themselves, Earth Heir possesses the knowledge and experience that answers its requirements for the campaign.

Meanwhile, the telco has also called upon notable Malaysian artists to create their very own limited-edition face mask designs that will be put up for sale soon. The artists include fashion designer and empowered feminist, Alia Bastamam, viral mural artist, Suhaimi Ali, talented graffiti artist Chern Cloakwork, and henna artist, Karthine Maniam. “We chose artists from various disciplines to represent our rich diversity as a nation and to offer a selection of designs for everyone to choose from,” Celcom said.

Christy Ng Shoes

Christy Ng Shoes worked with independent agency Your Maker to produce five films as part of its Merdeka Day campaign known as #IniKanMalaysia (This is Malaysia after all). The campaign aims to show Malaysia as a country that is never short on ways to showcase its greatness through small and big acts of kindness, love and understanding. The films coincide with the launch of Ng’s Merdeka-themed bags and aprons.

Your Maker’s co-founder Lee Tak Shune told A+M that instead of making up stories, it looked to retell real life stories found online of Malaysians doing meaningful things that touched lives. According to him, most of these stories were told through a single post or tweet or article.

“We located the Malaysians responsible for the nice acts to reveal more about them, to honour them, because their acts reflect what this nation is really about, despite local politics that always seek to divide us,” he added.

He also said this is the first time it has done content for a women’s shoe brand and it expected a hard sell brief. However, it was not what they received and the team is grateful for it. “Because that is not our style. We help sell stuff for a living, but not at the expense of being overly in-your-face,” he added.

Lee also said this is the first time Ng is launching festive pieces and she wants to celebrate being a successful local brand by highlighting ways different Malaysians display their brand of kindness, love and understanding.

The films run on YouTube and Facebook and feature an Indian and a Chinese boy coming together to help a Malay friend fulfil his Islamic obligations, a teacher who decided to give English tuition for free and conducts it in Bahasa Malaysia, as well as a mamak chain boss whose worker uses his work time to feed a disabled customer.

Digi

Digi Telecommunications aims to instill national pride and rally Malaysians to support homegrown businesses by leveraging on digital technology via its Kita Buatan Malaysia campaign. According to the telco, traits such as determination, resilience, diversity, passion to win and to never to give up are clearly demonstrated by local businesses as they fight to survive in these challenging times.

As part of the campaign, Digi is assisting these local brands to extend their reach to more potential customers by giving their businesses an online presence. This will be done through its MyDigi app and on Shopee’s Buatan Malaysia dedicated microsite.

The campaign will culminate with the Shopee x KPDNHEP x Digi Buatan Kita online sale, the largest local products sale in Malaysia featuring local brands on 16 September. The sale which features curated homegrown brands will offer exclusive discounts and free shipping vouchers throughout the campaign period.

Digi’s head of marketing services, Bernard Lee, said that every decision to buy local is a choice to support and trust the brands that have come to life in our own backyards. “In line with this year’s Merdeka theme of Malaysia Prihatin, and the ‘Kita Buatan Malaysia’ spirit we want to honour our homegrown businesses who have all persevered in these uncertain times and support their business by bringing them onto the online sphere," he said.

According to Lee, by helping to digitalise their businesses, Digi is providing them the opportunity for their brands to be discovered by new customers across Malaysia and other parts of the world without having to invest in an online presence,” he added.

Meanwhile, Shopee’s regional managing director, Ian Ho, said this is its second year running the Buatan Malaysia Campaign on Shopee. "As Malaysians’ uphold the Malaysia Prihatin theme this Merdeka, we hope that they would also be discerning in their choices when they shop. We call on Malaysians to join Shopee, Digi, and the Ministry of Domestic Trade and Consumer Affairs in thinking, choosing and buying Malaysian-first," he added.

Ikano Centres

Ikano Centres aims to shed light on the diversity and uniqueness of Malaysia this Merdeka and Malaysia Day. Together with Ensemble Worldwide, Universal McCann and Directors Think Tank, the #KitaDLL campaign for Ikano Centres, which includes IPC Shopping Centre, MyTOWN Shopping Centre, Toppen Shopping Centre and its meeting place in Batu Kawan, encourages Malaysians to redefine and reimagine what “Dan Lain-Lain” (DLL) means to them.

Dan Lain-Lain” (and others), is a commonly seen checkbox across official documentation, to encompass all other races in Malaysia besides the three primary bands of Malay, Chinese and Indian.

The social experiment-based film features interviews with a wide cross-section of Malaysians - adults and children - to ask them about topics around race. The film and microsite urge Malaysians to create their own version of “DLL” with the hashtag #KitaDLL to stimulate this conversation across social media. 

The campaign runs until 23 September with digital ads across Facebook, YouTube, Instagram, TikTok and mobile gaming platforms. Digital OOH user generated content also celebrate everyday Malaysians with their personalised DLL acronyms that represent their unique individuality and passions. Additionally, the agency team has also created more than 200 customised variations of #KitaDLL short videos, utilising Google’s Director Mix platform to deliver individualised ads at scale to all Malaysians.

Andrew Yeoh, head of marketing and innovation (shopping centre) for IKEA Southeast Asia, said Merdeka is usually a time for emotional storytelling, but it wanted to try a different approach. IKEA's vision of creating a better everyday life for the many people is built on the core beliefs of inclusion and diversity. As such, #KitaDLL struck a chord with the team as it represented a great conversation starter, especially given the current global backdrop of multiculturalism and inclusiveness.

"The agency team capably articulated a powerful Malaysian truth about how our diverse differences often bridge and bring us together, rather than drive us apart. This is something uniquely and truly Malaysian that deserves to be celebrated now more than ever," Yeoh said.

Ensemble Worldwide's ECD Chan Woei Hern said the team wanted to challenge themselves and go out of the box to do something different. So it decided to pick the “box” that nobody ever talks about, a box every Malaysian is familiar with.

"There are over 250 ethnicities that might belong in the “Dan Lain-Lain” box, yet the more we spoke about the idea, the more we realised we didn’t know much about our fellow Malaysians to begin with. We also asked ourselves, if we were all different, then perhaps we can all belong in one big box called Malaysians," he added.

He also explained that the team wanted the main film to also be a blank canvas for Malaysians of all backgrounds and ages. "But more than just a film, we hope that Malaysians get a chance to paint their own pictures by being part of #KitaDLL. Ultimately, we wanted to get beyond the ‘checkboxes’ that define us. What sets us apart should be something special we all embrace too," he said.

MyGroser

MyGroser's self-produced short film titled "Together to be better" embodies the same approach to everyday life that has seen Malaysia set the tone for growth, multiculturalism, a commonsense love-your-neighbour value, and the belief that we are better together. The video is inspired by the everyday resilience, strength and humanity demonstrated by Malaysians and in line with this years’ national day theme of #MalaysiaPrihatin.

As the country continues to deal with the after-effects of the global pandemic, MyGroser has chosen to focus on what continues to make our country great. It’s people, unity and commonsense approach to helping each other.

Besides this, MyGroser is also hosting a Facebook contest as part of its #TogetherToBeBetter campaign. It encourages fans on MyGroser’s Facebook page to test the depths of their local knowledge by participating in its daily Malaysia Quiz.

Stephen Francis, CEO and co-founder of MyGroser, said it has seen the power of people coming together regardless of race, religion, colour, economic station or anything else in lifting the nation during difficult times. "Together we have all made life better for someone and in our own way, we have taken our view as an independent grocery brand and translated some of the situations we have seen among our own customers into a short video that we hope Malaysians love," he added.

PETRONAS

To commemorate Merdeka Day and the upcoming Malaysia Day celebrations, PETRONAS has released an animated film titled "Operasi Koperasi" which was inspired by a nostalgic Malaysian childhood game “Lawan Pemadam” (Battle of erasers). The film’s fresh take on unity explores PETRONAS’ 2020 Festive Campaign theme of “Our Unique Family” further and was done in collaboration with Ensemble Worldwide, Reservoir World, Astatica and Kena Sound/Scifi STudio.

The scene takes place in a school co-op and centres on 14 characters being the state flag erasers - each representing the 14 states in Malaysia. When three of the erasers fall off the shelf, panic ensues, and the remaining erasers deliberate over an impossible rescue mission. With teamwork and ingenious contraptions, the erasers manage to reunite with their family members. The film ends with them celebrating a successful operation, but with rain pouring down ominously and yet another obstacle ahead, the erasers band to face it together.

Ensemble Worldwide ECD Chan Woei Hern said school is when individuals truly learn how to be Malaysian. And with schools opening up again, the one lesson that all kids look forward to, is friendship. "We fight, we compete, we disagree, but when it comes down to it, we’re in it together. Being able to tell it through the eyes of a bunch of state erasers, made this truly a #StoriesOfJoy narrative for PETRONAS," he said.

Chan added that there were so many little touches from the team, its partners and clients that made a world of difference. "We all had a lot of fun with the storyline and little nuances of languages across the states. More importantly, it was a truly Malaysian effort behind-the-scene too," he said. The film runs on Facebook, YouTube and TV.

RHB Bank

RHB Bank's film for Merdeka and Malaysia Day aims to restore hope and optimism for the nation as Malaysians continue to find strength to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic and its aftermath. In the face of the nation’s greatest ever challenge since achieving independence 63 years ago, this film serves as a timely reminder that doing good has always been the fabric of Malaysian identity, and that it is only through good actions together can the nation overcome this obstacle. The campaign was launched on 12 August and runs across all RHB’s social and digital channels in conjunction with Merdeka Day on the 31 August and Malaysia Day on the 16 September.

Abdul Sani Abdul Murad, CMO at RHB Group, said, “In our weakest moments, we can only endure so much alone. But when we stand united, we can persevere even in the toughest of times. The pandemic has brought on uncertainty and the fear of having to face what’s ahead alone. But if we stand firm with the support of one another, we can overcome the challenges together – and that is what our brand promise ‘Together We Progress’ is all about.”

The film depicts a series of events showing individual Malaysians making the choice to do good and going out of their way to extend kindness to one another, even when it’s easier to do otherwise. The film then culminates with an act of unity, people coming together for the greater good to help reopen the doors that were shut to mark a brand-new beginning.

Yoodo

Who amongst us has not been scared out of our minds by a lipas terbang (flying cockroach). Screaming and flailing as we try to run away from this winged terror. Yoodo understands the torment that consumers have been through and thinks it is high time everyone united and take a stand against this. Its Merdeka Day advertisement titled "Not your normal Merdeka ad #yoonity", captures the shared animosity Malaysians have against the six-legged scourge. With this, Yoodo is looking to relate to all Malaysians on the most basic-level and bring greater #Yoonity during this month of patriotism and togetherness.

The advertisement showcases a diverse group of Malaysians from various age groups, races, religions, and localities. It begins with them gathered in a single room for what looks to be a heart-warming social experiment on unity, but chaos quickly descends when a dreaded flying cockroach is introduced into the room. 

Head of Yoodo, Chow Tuck Mun, said no matter what the focal point may be, the spirit of being Malaysian is what truly binds us together. He added that Yoodo is a proudly Malaysian company, and it has displayed this over the last couple of years through various initiatives in its key target segments. These include tech, esports, active sports, music and entertainment which are all aimed at connecting and uplifting communities.

Additionally, Yoodo is tapping into that National Day spirit and calling on Malaysians to rise and unite against the flying menace through an online petition. The petition calls for the entire lipas terbang species to see adequate punishment for their crimes against Malaysians. The petition further demands a RM5,000 fine or two years of cockroach prison or both for any lipas brave enough to fly into anyone’s faces. As a reward, selected brave petition-signers will stand a chance win exclusive Yoodo anti-lipas goodies which includes t-shirts and tote bags.

Yoodo is also launching an Instagram contest with a special flying lipas-themed AR filter. To enter, contestants will need to post an Instagram story using the filter, tag @yoodomy and hashtag #yoonity, and ensure their account is set to public. Twenty winners will win exclusive #yoonity merchandise over the course of the contest, beginning 2 to 16 September. It is also offering a 10% cashback promotion for users switching from other mobile services.

Photo courtesy: 123RF