A tale of two millenniums

One hundred and thirty four–year-old Chinese medicine manufacturer Eu Yan Sang has a problem. Its target audience is splitting into a dichotomy.

On the one end, it needs to speak to an aging population; but on the other, the increasing awareness of health among the younger generation is boosting its customer base of 35-year-old and under from a mere 10% in 1997 to the current 30%.

It’s remedy? An eight-minute micro-movie that looks at not the demographic, but psychographic, of its audience, which, according to Eu Yan Sang managing director Alice Wong, is anyone who cares about his/her health.

“We’ve wanted to do a corporate ad since 10 years ago but have yet to find the right message to convey: a lot of what we do is about obliging regulations and ensuring standard and quality; these things are really hard to convey to the consumer,” she said. “So what we did instead was deliver a message of benevolence.”

Our take is not to target a certain demographic, but a psychographic. The story is a sentimental one: we’re touching the hearts of people who are helpful and are benevolent at heart.

Andrew Lee, founder and brand design director at Metta

The micro-movie – which appeared in a two-minute ad and, subsequently, shorter versions on television – is a tale of a group of miners trapped underground, and only one of them had a watch.

Having heard the rumour that trapped miners only have enough oxygen to last 24 hours, the watch carrier lied about the time to motivate his comrades, who all survived except for him.


Andrew Lee, founder and brand design director of Metta – the creative agency in charge of the campaign – said the biggest goal for this extravagant push is to differentiate itself from other Chinese medicine manufacturers by conveying brand values like persistence, eye for perfection and benevolence.

“In advertising, we often glorify things like love, violence, a certain human character or even kinkiness; but we rarely glorify benevolence. And this is exactly the brand value we want to tell people,” he said.

“Our take is not to target a certain demographic, but a psychographic. The story is a sentimental one: we’re touching the hearts of people who are helpful and are benevolent at heart.”

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But why only a branding campaign 134 years after the company opened its doors?

On the corporate end, Wong said the company’s branches across Malaysia, Singapore and Hong Kong fell under ownerships of different families in the past and were only consolidated in 1996.

In 1997, Eu Yan Sang repositioned its regional brand with renewed packaging and, in Hong Kong, officially moved into shopping malls.

“We had to get our materials ready before we can do a big rebrand,” she said; yet she added that the TVC would only operate in Hong Kong for now because “Chinese medicine is a very cultural thing. Malaysians have a spicier diet, for example, and would have different health issues compared to Hong Kongers.”

Moving forward, both Lee and Wong said they need to plan their digital strategy to further tie the message of benevolence to the brand.

“This is only the beginning. We have to let consumers understand this link of Eu Yan Sang and benevolence to truly claim this brand image as our own,” said Lee. “Yes, this is a century-old brand, and we’re always facing the challenge of speaking to two extreme age groups; but the message is still the same, just different ways of approaching these people with this message.”

The campaign also appeared in print and out-of-home ads and, eventually in December, in cinemas. Media placement was executed in-house while PR was handled by Ogilvy.