Malaysian Brands: Uncertainty is the only Certainty

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Samsung, the worldwide electronics and appliance powerhouse, took the top ranking in the first-ever Landor Global Agile Brand Study, beating Apple, a company with a reputation for being an innovative leader in technology, which ranked sixth. Rounding out the top five were Dyson, Google, Wikipedia, and Android. Three Alphabet brands (Google’s parent company) made the list: Android (No. 2), Google (No. 4), and YouTube (No. 7). The final three in the top 10 were Microsoft, Ikea, and Disney.simon bell

The Landor study shows us that ‘agility’ (the tension between consistency and inventiveness) is what drives brands and business forward. Top global brands exemplify agility by consistently demonstrating these six traits in a range of market behaviors, from product development to advertising to customer interaction. The six traits that help a brand be agile were identified as principled, adaptive, responsible, multichannel, global, and open.

What about Malaysian brands then?
Malaysia finds herself in interesting times. The country is lucky, blessed with land and natural resources. However, the recent political uncertainty has resulted in a setback for the economy, businesses and brands.

In this environment, old standards of branding best practices: rigid consistency and bureaucratic decision making, simply won’t work. More than ever, it is critical for brands to evolve at lightning speed to stay fresh and relevant. Here are a few worth noting:

BFM Media: Principled
BFM is Malaysia’s only independent radio station, and it is principled in its purpose to “build a better Malaysia by championing rational, evidence-based discourse as a key element of good policy decisions”. It uses satire to engage a weary populace with their brand, releasing merchandise (t-shirts, bumper stickers) proclaiming ‘Bribe Free Malaysia’ or ‘Bieber Free Music’. And now, a business school has spun off from the BFM brand.

The BIG Group: Adaptive
Highly adaptive, this brand actively seeks new opportunity. Their philosophy is based on connecting people and good food. They confidently state that ‘no idea is deemed too crazy’ – so long as it aligns to their ethos. BIG is nimble in their approach to risk, managing a collection of restaurants, bars, cafes, retail food stores and a concept supermarket.

UEM Group: Responsible
Quietly, UEM gives back to employees, communities, and the planet. The business and the brands that sit within their portfolio are committed to social infrastructure and education programmes to help society and communities grow. With the rise and rise of social media, we know consumers can and will react to corporates that don’t act responsibly.

Maybank and CIMB: Multi-channel
Both institutions use multiple channels and experiences to engage with their customers in the right place at the right time. Building their digital presence and experience has been a particular focus, winning awards in the process. As technology continues to evolve, financial service is a category ripe for disruption.

IHH Healthcare: Global
The business sees global expansion as its avenue for growth. The group provides ‘premium healthcare services in markets where demand for quality healthcare is growing rapidly especially where there are increasingly affluent and rapidly ageing populations’. Recognised brands (Gleneagles, Mount Elizabeth, Pantai) make up their portfolio and they seek others to expand their global business.
Royal Selangor: Open
This fourth generation family business openly seeks co-creation, collaboration and partnerships to maintain relevance. They work with contemporary designers to add fresh designs to their collections and have formed an alignment with the ever-popular Star Wars franchise. Their retail outlets are global (8 countries) and they’re open 24/7, via their e-commerce site.

How Malaysian brands should behave in future
Recently, Malcolm Turnball, the Prime Minister of my country announced the need for Australia to be ‘agile’. In today’s hyper competitive market place, where customers are more complicated and demanding, markets are opening but competition is increasing and digital is creating continual disruption – this attitude is critical.

While there are obvious challenges, Malaysian brands and businesses need to revaluate risk and embrace agility. Success today requires being nimble to risk and responsive to opportunity. We believe that to thrive, brands must be designed for change. Future focused. Forward facing. Ever evolving. Great brands stand for something, but never stand still.

Simon Bell is Executive Director Strategy of Landor, SE Asia Pacific & Japan





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