"The client needs to be in the agency’s head 24/7"

Working in a market like Asia might be exciting, but it is never easy given its diverse cultural landscape and varying levels of educational competencies.

In a conversation with Marketing, Carl Isenbeck, marketing director of Porsche Asia Pacific said in a market like Southeast Asia, creating the right context for different markets is a challenging task. Apart from Singapore, all the markets in SEA are at different levels of development, said Isenback.

“Differing cultures, languages, religions and levels of understanding of a premium brand, especially a sports car company, are challenging,” Isenbeck said. To combat this, the company went back to basics and looked towards its brand ethos – courage.

This resulted in the launch of its “What is Courage” campaign which is a first for the Asia Pacific market. Through the campaign, the brand looked towards creating innovative campaigns which are able to cut through the clutter.

“For Porsche, courage is a quality deeply ingrained in the brand’s ethos. Porsche itself was born in a moment of courage, when founder Ferry Porsche decided to build his dream car himself,” Isenbeck said.

Launched in January this year, the campaign rolled out across the region, including markets such as Singapore, Malaysia, Taiwan, Thailand, Philippines, Vietnam and Indonesia. The campaign stars Malaysian actress Michelle Yeoh, internationally acclaimed chef and restaurateur André Chiang, and actor and race car driver, Patrick Dempsey. The campaign celebrated courage as a defining characteristic for the characters, as they attribute the successful turning points in their lives and careers to moments of courage.

“This parallels Porsche’s courage to build the sportiest luxury saloon in its class, which went on to be a very successful model, despite naysayers calling it ‘madness’,” Isenbeck said.

Skills needed to be successful

When asked what skills marketers need today to be future ready, Isenbeck explained that marketers today need to be a lot more innovative. This does not extend to just ideas, but on the channels as well such as social media.

“This will allow them to reach their target audience and benefit from the measurability of effectiveness of activities,” he added. Agency-client relationships are also crucial in ensuring a brand campaign’s success. For Porsche’s “What is Courage” campaign, the brand worked with its advertising agency Keko and Golin Singapore.

“The relationship is crucial," he said adding:

The client needs to be in the agency’s head 24/7 – from understanding client needs, varying degrees of identification to sense of purpose.

Adapting to the digital world

In the past, a Porsche customer would have gone five to six times to a dealership before making a purchase decision. Today, the number is down to two or three visits. This is largely due to the rise of internet penetration, Isenbeck said.

Nonetheless, while having a digital presence is important, he explained that for big ticket items (such as buying and owning a Porsche), a emotional experience is vital. This makes the personal touch important.

Augmented reality cannot replace the actual reality in that context.

"Sitting in a Porsche, smelling its fine leather, and taking in its ambiance – is an experience that you can’t create an app for," he said.

But this did not mean, the Porsche team took it easy on the digital space, which is now often consumers' first go to for information. He added that in this region, brands, luxury or not, certainly have to be mobile first. And today, there are tons of new content and ad formats to experiment with.

"Data is being used for (re)targeting users with a shift from sole clicks to conversions. We see some brands experimenting with digital showrooms and virtual test drives,” Isenbeck said. While the brand is also exploring similar opportunities, Isenbeck is of the view that with a product of Porsche’s exclusivity, the final buying decision will never be entirely online.

"This is because customers would miss out on experiencing the car’s unique driving dynamics and feeling the butterflies in their stomach," he said. Hence, going completely digital comes with its fair set of challenges. It means having the right tools and the right content at the right time, and everything fully integrated.

“The customer stands at the heart of everything at what we do, and he or she should feel that way. So, the biggest challenge is certainly to offer a seamless customer experience from online to offline and vice versa,” Isenbeck said.