Nuffnang Malaysia's country manager Kausern Hieu (pictured) is no stranger to the digital world. He has more than 15 years of sales, digital marketing experience and also hands-on expertise in leading and managing people across different levels within organisations such as start-ups and NGOs.
According to his LinkedIn, he was previously the executive director, talent and transformation and digital director at Starcom for more than three years and six years respectively. He wants to live in a world where the next generation are affirmed by the older generation to go on a journey of self-discovery and be all they were created to be.
In an interview with A+M, Hieu shares his early experience with social media and how he has put his learnings in the digital field to good use at Nuffnang.
(Check out the previous editions of Tech in check here:
Digi’s chief digital officer Praveen Rajan
Hong Leong Bank’s chief digital and innovation officer Shailesh Grover
McDonald’s Malaysia digital director Muhamad Zaid Hasman)
A+M: What was your first digital role like?
Hieu: I started my digital career in a permission-based email marketing company about 15 years ago. It was a start-up with a small team. You know the saying "There is a time for everything"? Well, my timing of jumping onto the digital marketing bandwagon was particularly bad.
It was the peak of the dot-bomb era. My learning curve was super steep and the business folded within two years. But I want to believe that no experience is ever wasted. That experience actually led me deeper into the rabbit hole of digital and content marketing which I’m thoroughly enjoying now.
A+M: What was your first biggest tech boo boo?
Hieu: Given the length of my work experience in this field and how fast the digital marketing industry moves, I definitely have had my fair share of mistakes. However, the most memorable one happened a decade ago where I learnt the power of social media the very hard way.
I attended an industry event and something unfortunate happened during the gathering. I left the event and immediately expressed my thoughts on Facebook without revealing any names. When I checked my account a day later, I was shocked that my post received more than 50 comments supporting my content. Inevitably, names were revealed and a swift action was taken on the responsible parties by their employer. What was meant to be a harmless rant on social media resulted to an impact on the career and reputation of others.
A+M: How did you overcome it and what did you learn from it?
Hieu: It took me awhile to accept my actions but very quickly, I learnt that no amount of beating myself up will change the outcome. That experience gave me a first-hand taste of the power of influence amplified many times over on social media.
I still believe in speaking up on certain subjects but from that incident, I constantly remind myself to think before I speak – to choose my words carefully before I express it on social media. I also realised that the motivations of my earlier actions boiled down to this – the need to be heard and validated.
This lesson is most helpful now in my current responsibility at Nuffnang. We have always encouraged social media influencers to find their own unique voice in this crowded space, to express their opinions and stand up for what they believe in. It’s because seeking public validation and gratification online with a beautiful face, a perfect body and material possessions will not be sustainable for the long haul.
All these will fade (even with the availability of filters!) but the strength of one’s character and how they treat others, will not.
A+M: What are some of the common challenges you face with digital today?
Hieu: The world is getting more and more commoditised. Here’s a familiar scenario: we see something we like offline and we go online to check for the lowest prices. We then check-off the products we want, drop it in the shopping cart and proceed to pay. Easy peasy. That’s the world we’re living in today, thanks to the Internet.
Commoditisation is also happening in the influencer and content marketing industry. Back then, we used to be able to get away by simply providing a list of bloggers (now known as influencers) to clients. But in today’s world, where influencers are mushrooming almost every other day and their prices and fees are transparent, Nuffnang has chosen to swim against the tide with our ideas-first approach when we craft out influencer solutions for our clients.
Our full servicing team aims to add value by actually engaging with our clients to anticipate and solve problems they never thought of, discovering the right influencers for their brand and deliver off-the-charts results, instead of just giving them a catalogue.
A+M: Are there any digital trends which excite you or that you are wary of?
Hieu: Despite the growth of the influencer marketing industry, we’ve seen a surge in demand for micro-influencers. This is so because their campaign engagement rates are proven to be higher than that of top influencers, as their smaller followings gives it a more personal touch.
To handle the scale of dealing with so many influencers, we have seen the introduction of more tech and tools in the industry to create a more efficient marketplace where the demand (brands, agencies, advertisers) will meet the suppliers (the hundreds of micro influencers). It makes sense, doesn’t it? But is automation the way to go? Well it’s more complicated than you think.
The truth is, influencer marketing is a success because of its organic nature and when we try to completely automate that, we lose its authenticity – the very foundation that this industry was born in.
I believe a successful solution will need to have a correct mix of automation and personal human touch amongst all stakeholders involved.
While there isn't one solution in the market that is capable of achieving this today, we at Nuffnang hope to be able to crack this soon by leading a healthy ecosystem for advertisers and our half a million of social media enthusiast community in Asia.
A+M: Any top tips for marketers and brands embracing digital?
Hieu: Technology is a useful servant but a terrible master. It’s the same as digital marketing. Because every digital touch-point can be measured, we have more data points than we actually need. That said, crunching data is easy with the availability of powerful software these days but delivering meaningful and optimum results from it isn’t that straight forward.
In fact, it can be time-consuming and extremely draining if we rely solely on data to drive our decisions. I believe data is a powerful tool to serve us as it would help us to understand the many facets of our business and marketing challenges. However, to avoid the problem of analysis paralysis, we need to embrace our humanity and learn to take risk in our decision making if we want to be ahead of the curve.
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