When it comes to marketing, the real conversations happen away from the office...
Today’s special: Desmond Ku, founder and director of The Bridge Agency Limited
We’re perched at the Peak Galleria - the entirety of Hong Kong stretching out from our table’s view at the 37 Steakhouse & Bar - as Desmond Ku strolls in. Yet though he’s dressed in an immaculately stylish suit from Joyce, it’s actually the ear to ear grin he’s wearing that immediately grabs Marketing’s attention.
"Clients say I have a lovely smile and that I'm very energetic!", he says with a laugh. And we’re inclined to agree.
It’s that intoxicating dedication to joy that not only surrounds Ku as a person but is at the very core of the agency he founded. Straight out of university, he tried working for agencies for a time and even gave in-house marketing a shot, which bored his socks off. But it was only in setting up his own PR outfit, with the freedom to experiment, that Ku found his real happy place.
As we tuck into our red prawn carpaccio starter, Ku explains his agency’s vision, "Our mindset is that we're not just paid to the job, we want to work with a client to make the project great at meeting their objectives. We want to develop friendships between the agency and client, not so strictly business, not so focused on earning money."
It’s the kind of rewards gained from nurtured relationships that Ku credits for his young agency - founded only five years ago - netting a host of its major clients that include McDonald’s, Columbia, Hennessy and Tissot. Having maintained a tight network and a great rep is what got referrals knocking on The Bridge’s door before the paint had dried on its open sign. It’s therefore unsurprising that the agency is branded after a symbol for the strength found in connections, and in more ways than one.
"We try to bring different parties together and try to connect different vendors,” Ku says. “The Bridge in Cantonese translates as "ideas". And we want these ideas to connect different parties for success."
In a short time, The Bridge Agency has already formed tight bonds with clients with whom it has delivered on with that promise of success. A great example being Hang Lung Properties, an award-winning partnership so close that Ku’s team is regularly brought into campaign development brainstorming sessions to provide PR perspective from inception.
Ku says, "We can tell them, is this newsworthy? Is this going to be easy to sell to media? We sit in the meeting from day one just like we're on the same team."
The waiter serves us each a perfectly cooked steak as Ku informs me that its that level of trust his team’s approach engenders which has given The Bridge Agency the chance to demonstrate its influencer knowledge with the blessing of clients.
"Clients have to be open-minded because we often propose people they don't know. They may know the stars on [local broadcaster] TVB or in the movies but they don’t know the international influencers, and they only know the figures like, ‘oh they have one million followers.’ They trusted and believed in our understanding of the correlation between the campaign and the influencers and they trust me and trust my team. We make it happen."
Whether it be drawing mathematics professor (and Instagram hunk) Pietro Boselli to Café de Coral’s Italian coffee launch or bringing Brazilian gymnast Arthur Nory Mariano to Fashion Walk’s’ King Of Sport campaign, it’s hard to argue with the results. And it’s not by accident, Ku’s team use their extensive media connections to gauge every choice before they pull the trigger.
"We try to identify the influencers that will have a strong viral effect and before we invite them we make sure the media would love to focus on and feature the influencer. We try to maximise the ROI."
A decadent chocolate dessert ends our meal as we ask Ku a burning question. At six people, The Bridge Agency is a lean fighting machine but why hasn’t he chosen to rapidly expand and bring on far more clients?
"We won't take too many jobs at the same time. We want to maintain the quality of our work,” Ku explains. He even admits that after winning the Best in Show - Agency and Best Boutique Agency prizes at the PR Awards 2019, multiple competitors were asking for his services but that he turned several down to stay loyal to the clients he considers friends.
"In my perspective, we can't earn all the world’s money. Being happy is better instead," Ku says, with of course, a smile.
This content was sponsored by The Bridge Agency Limited