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#PRAwards 2021 spills: Mad Hat Asia eyes regional expansion as industry bounces back

#PRAwards 2021 spills: Mad Hat Asia eyes regional expansion as industry bounces back

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Heineken, together with its agency, Mad Hat Asia, secured the bronze award at  MARKETING-INTERACTIVE's recent PR Awards 2021. Heineken and Mad Hat Asia understood that its brand was always associated with social experiences, and had to adapt its brand to the new norm. With the struggles clearly outlined and identified, Mad Hat Asia set out to educate consumers of the different Heineken 0.0 occasions on which consumers can experience the Heineken satisfaction.

Meanwhile, other clients Mad Hat has worked with include Cadbury, Rexona, Parkroyal Collection Pickering, Nutox and Lifebuoy, according to its website. With a wide range of clients on its roster, Mad Hat has no doubt solidified its position as one of the go-to agencies in the region. In a conversation with A+M, the PR team at Mad Hat Asia shared about the brand's proudest achievement in 2020, and what can be expected of them in 2021. 

This interview is done as part of A+M’s winners and finalists’ interview series for PR Awards 2021. To find out more about the awards, click here.

What would you say was the biggest accomplishment for the whole PR/communications community in 2020?

Mad Hat Asia: Albeit due to necessity, we've seen quite a number of communications consultants and agencies up the ante on putting themselves out there - having their voices heard and names known. The age-old irony of agencies has been the ability to publicise their clients' brands, but not their own.

We also often get too caught up in the usual and the grind to take a step back and connect amongst the community. With the rise of digital content consumption (and production), we saw a lot more sharing of best practices, raw conversations and comradery across the creative and communications industry-- an overall positive impact to the community!

What would you say was your proudest achievement of the year?

Mad Hat Asia: The past year, and a bit, has seen entire industries and civilisations rapidly shift in the way we operate, interact and survive. Our proudest achievement at Mad Hat Asia has been continuing to navigate the ongoing challenges and uncertainties to not only survive, but thrive as a team. Led by empathy and authenticity, we've seen the Mad Hat team foster even stronger connections amongst each other, with partners, industry peers and with our client partners.

The pandemic has also challenged most of us such as brands, teams and individuals alike, to strip off personal agendas, and focus on authentic communication. This, coupled with the digital-heavy communication allowed us at Mad Hat Asia to experiment for our client partners' brands and hone our abilities in new ways we connect with audiences via social media.

What are some communications trends you see carrying on post-pandemic?

Mad Hat Asia: We have seen everything turning virtual over the past year and with that came along virtual events too. Virtual events have proven to be beneficial to marketers because not only do you get to engage with consumers, brands can also engage with a wider group of audience, with geography not being a barrier, and all of which done at the more effective cost. I definitely see this living long after the pandemic too!

The other one is raw content. Given the lack of travel, multiple lock downs and generally being deprived of social life, Malaysians have become more creative with the content they put out on social media. We have seen a lot more people being happy to embrace their natural selves, stripping down the frills, goofing around and putting out content on things that really matter during this period.

The pandemic has weirdly made us more comfortable with ourselves and our lives, like nothing before and I do not see this back paddling itself.

How will the role of communications professionals evolve as we move into a rather uncertain future?

Mad Hat Asia: I think the role of communications consultants has been evolving even before the pandemic and times have depicted that a single and even multi disciplinary skills isn't enough to keep a finger on the pulse of this ever-changing environment. We have to understand what it takes to make a campaign successful and that entails understanding the role of comms from a brand point of view while delivering it to its audience in the most engaging and palatable manner.

"Getting the right message to the right audience" is the mantra we chant at Mad Hat Asia - recognising that as communications consultants it's vital to see beyond disciplines and specialisation. To put out creative and compelling content befitting to various segments of target audiences by deep diving into who they are, what they care about, where they go for content and so on.

The role of a communications consultant in this day and age and moving ahead is to understand their audience and work backwards from there.

What can we expect from your company in 2021?

Mad Hat Asia: While 2020 was much of a scramble to cut through uncertainty and absorb new circumstances, we see 2021 very much as a year of calibration. We see Mad Hat Studios, the social media and content division of Mad Hat Asia, take the lead in new media and engaging content, building on many of the lessons learnt in the past year, to continue leading the team in experimenting with different means of communication and connecting with audiences.

We've also resumed investment into regional markets for Mad Hat Asia's geographical expansion plans, primarily Singapore and Indonesia. 2020 saw our expansions both put on hold due to travel restrictions, and subsequently accelerated as people across the region adapted to the virtual and thus borderless nature of effective and collaborative work. Mad Hat Asia looks forward to establishing ourselves as a truly borderless creative communications agency, bringing heart and wit to brand communications across the region.

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