in light of the recent Covid-19 pandemic and Movement Control Order (MCO) across Malaysia nationwide, which had been extended to 12 May 2020, we invited business leaders from various industries, from corporate to agencies, to share their reflections, challenges and considerations going forwards during these unprecedented times to emerge stronger.
At OPPOTUS, we always make it a priority to serve as a voice of the industry, to share valuable market insights and provide actionable solutions to support the growth and innovation of the local businesses. #MalaysiaBoleh #GoLokal
Thank you to all who took time to contribute and take part in our “Marketing Strategy in times of COVID-19” series.
* Views and opinions expressed below are largely exact verbatim with very minimal edits to suit.
Getting through Covid-19 together
Ian Goh, Head of Growth Marketing & Partnerships at OYO
As the MCO, hotel occupancy is dropping drastically. Under this situation, most hotels will have to either shutdown or operate in a limited manner.
Our main challenge at the initial stage of MCO was to identify if the hotel industry would be considered under essential services. As it wasn’t classified in the beginning, the first thing we had to solved was the cancellation and refund of our future bookings. However, the government later made a different announcement, where all hotels became classified under essential services but only to essential service staff & international guests.
As most of our major use case which was in travel/leisure category had been affected by the MCO. We had to explore other use cases in the current situation, and we figure that due to the lockdown, some international guests may be facing the problem of finding a place to stay. Likewise, essential service staff that had to be deployed to the affected area, all needed a place to stay. All things considered, we decided to play our part and launched the #StaySafeAtOYO campaign which provided a 50% discount to those that need to stay in a time of need.
With OYO, we always strive to provide quality living spaces to all. During this time, we are also giving out complimentary rooms to health care sector that needed a temporary resting place. Additionally, we have put forward multiple initiatives to reach out to NGOs, foreign embassies & other related stakeholders to assist them in any way we can.
These are unsettling times and COVID-19 is clearing impacting our personal and professional lives, but we are in this together and we will get through it.
Stepping Up Amid COVID-19 Crisis
Kazi Nowrid Amin, Digital Marketing Manager at IQI Global
As a marketer, the COVID-19 crisis has not only been a challenge but also an opportunity for us. Like most businesses around the world, we have seen fewer potential clients in the marketing sector. It even affects our recruitment drive as much as well up to 70% on the first week. Fortunately, with our experienced marketing team, we managed to plan ahead and experience little to no disruption amid the COVID-19 crisis
We saw a huge potential in live webinars. So, we started organizing different webinars for potential investors and real estate agents. And that has helped us a lot. But remember hosting webinars is not the solution; you need to have a well-planned strategy to make it happen. Also, after the webinars are over, you need to make sure you have successfully converted people and our marketing team has done it in a superb way.
In the post COVID-19 scenario, I think we are going to see a lot of ‘new normal’ as the Malaysian PM has mentioned. What it will consists of: (1) It will change the future of learning and teaching. Online learning and online teaching session will be more popular. (2) Remote recruitment will be more popular. (3) Consumer behavior will change permanently. For example, people will get used to online grocery shopping, buying products from e-commerce stores, food delivery and many others. You will learn more by seeing Google search trends from the last 90 days worldwide.
As for the business after COVID-19, I believe Malaysia is resilient and the market will recover, hopefully business will be as usual within 2 to 3 months’ time. However, I foresee a longer downtime for the global market. Besides that, we know a lot of SMEs might exit due to this crisis, but the same time, I think we will also witness innovative players emerging from this crisis.
Esports And Gaming Takes The Spotlight – Marketers, Awake From Your Slumber
Allan Phang, Regional Head of Marketing & PR at EVOS Esports
Esports and gaming will certainly be part of the ‘new normal’, as the absence of traditional sports and entertainment events during COVID-19 has resulted in a dramatic spike in viewership, according to regional industry players. Even professional traditional athletes and musicians have turned to esports and gaming to engage with their audiences during this ‘stay at home’ period.
We’re constantly providing always-on exciting quality content to entertain our audiences via our gaming influencers and professional esports athletes with up to 350M total views per month across the region. We’ve seen an increase of enquiries from brands who are keen to explore esports and gaming as part of their digital marketing strategy; in connecting with this hard-to-reach demographics of Gen Z and Millennials. There is virtually tons of potential marketing and branding integration opportunities, if done tastefully.
Our livestream viewership has increased by 50% and our content viewership doubled during this lockdown period. Global market research firms discovered that more than a third of internet users between the ages of 16 and 64 have been spending more time playing video games in recent weeks; with 43% of young male internet users aged 16 to 24 saying they’re spending more time gaming. The research also finds that 10% of internet users globally have been spending more time watching esports.
Marketers who are brave enough to experiment with esports and gaming activations now will likely emerge as the clear winner post COVID-19, as they gain significant share of voice and top of mind directly targeted to their key demographics. Marketers, awake from your slumber! GLHF.
Staying Agile Is The Key To Accelerating Change
David Toh, Global Account Based Marketing Leader at AVEVA
AVEVA being the leading engineering solution provider in the industry, we have not spared of the key challenges in this new norm of Cov-19. Fundamental challenges are to ensure we remain reliable, resourceful and resilient for our customers, partners, community and above all, our staff. We had to respond – fast and furiously. In addition to the adhering to local government directions of lock-downs and practice of social distancing, we had to first direct our staff to be mobile and connected – using flexible working and virtual tools to enable operations to remain seamless and secure with each other and our teams. We then look to customers and partners to ensure availability, productivity and efficiency remains constant and non-disrupted. Part of our communication strategy in agility is to make available complimentary access to selected cloud offerings (until June 30), extensive webinar series and e-learning courses.
The new norm in marketing today is how we are able to maximize technology and our marketing expertise to help customers and partners respond to the current market crisis i.e. drop in commodity prices, work productivity and efficiency and achieve digital transformation and enabling new business and operational opportunities. In doing so, it’s vital we continue to listen to the needs of our customers and be ever ready to respond effectively. AVEVA has the global footprint and the IT infrastructure in place to provide the support services required by our customers especially in this moment of global disruption. We’re very encouraged by the response of our customers and partners and we look forward to the months ahead with strong expectations. Stay positive and stay safe.
Building a Post-Covid “New Normal” Together
Anusha Segaren, Head of Marketing at Celebrity Fitness, CHi Fitness, Fitness First & GoFit Malaysia
Being in the health and fitness industry in Malaysia, we have taken a hit from the MCO as fitness centers and studios are not permitted to operate, and profitability and revenue streams are affected which impacts business stability.
To mitigate this issue, we’ve had to depend heavily on our online channels to deliver our workout experiences by streaming Live Workouts and sharing Home Workout guides on our social media and digital platforms, all of which are available for free.
While missing the “human touch” our fitness team have also gone above and beyond to showcase workouts, tips and live sessions for their fans on a daily basis through social media, to keep their members engaged and motivated during this period.
We will continue to push our digital offerings in line with the booming trend of online workouts and fitness programs along with a mobile application to be launched soon for members to book classes and view timetables with ease. We are committed to guiding our members and staff through what we deem as ‘a new normal’.
While it’s important to keep active and exercise 30 minutes daily to boost our immune system, it’s equally important to practice collective social responsibility, be mindful and protect each other’s health and safety during these unprecedented times.
Even after the MCO ends, Malaysians will still carry a certain degree of uncertainty and fear especially for confined spaces, such as their clubs. While we have always placed high emphasis on cleanliness, we acknowledge that it’s now even more important than ever.
COVID-19 will be a tipping point for technology adoption
Jan Wong, Founder at Openminds Resources
We were fortunate to be somewhat prepared on various levels prior to MCO, be it on working arrangements or existing client engagements. Nonetheless, the major challenge is primarily towards collection, contract cancellations and deferment which affected plans to scale. Several promising projects that are dependent on the China market has also been put on hold at the moment.
Our teams are accustomed to remote working, communications and management from the beginning due to our working culture. Therefore, as we are relying on digital means, we experience little to no impact from the movement control. In fact, we witness an increased in productivity in some areas by going 100% remote. The decision to have multiple service streams across the region and industries has also proved to be effective as we are not left defenceless, with on-going projects from different countries, essential industries and through our education arm, OpenAcademy that was able to quickly pivot to electronic means.
This MCO has caused a shift in both consumers and businesses. Consumers will see increased levels of confidence in technology usage and literacy, while businesses will see increased adoption of technology for different parts of their business including communication, collaboration and discovery. Putting both together will result in a whole new world altogether as the market will be more saturated and competitive.
Evolution is necessary in light of MCO
Alloysious Chin, Senior Marketing Consultant in Sunway Malls
Being in an industry that thrives on high traffic and high sales turnover, the mass retail industry is dependent on volume to translate into profits. MCO directly impacts every level of business plans and marketing. Great care and consideration have to be put into marketing efforts and a change of communication styles to both the tenants and shoppers. Communication now is almost solely digital and social to reach the intended audience.
It is a continuous learning process for any industry at this point of time. Though diseases like SARS, MERS, etc forms a previous experience for many companies that have waded through those period however, today’s situation has more trans-border factors like cheaper transportation which increases mobility of transference, information sharing moves at the click of a finger through sharing, social media and internet.
New advertising strategies by moving traffic to the digital sphere is a daily learning curve that has to be adopted in these new environments for any traditional business. Even the e-commerce industry is still learning and evolving to cope with the sudden onslaught of demand.
Logistics of fulfilling the online purchases becomes a supply and demand issue as the sudden declaration of MCO left many logistics companies trying to cope with this. This is very important for the retail business as the shift to online in order to reduce the physical contact between people.
Businesses no longer compete against each other but form collaborations to push through and that is something very important to understand at this point of time. The idea of “brands” has shifted to “industry”. It is no longer individual restaurants but “The F&B Industry” as one. It is no longer which store front but the “Fashion Industry” as a whole.
When businesses focus on reviving and evolving each industry as a whole rather than individual marketing or silo communication, that will be the catalyst in the process of recovery. Effective marketing speaks to the heart more so than to the wallet. Consumer mindset now empathizes collaborative efforts more than individual competitive marketing and this easily may be the new focus for many months to come.
How a Pandemic Inspired Change for Livescape
Matthew Dason, General Manager at The Livescape Group
Having worked with an experiential events company like Livescape, who’s core business focuses primarily on live events, has now brought new meaning to the word ‘change’. As an event planner, you’ll know that it is common for us to be faced with adversities both small and big. Our minds have been programmed to act fast and to change to what works best. So when the government decided that the country was to go under the MCO, we took a big hit. Overnight, all outdoor events were either postponed or cancelled and immediately our business switched into survival mode. So what did we do? WE CHANGED.
As a group of 50 young passionate individuals across Indonesia, Singapore and Malaysia, we looked at opportunities in the market and brought the Livescape experience directly to our partners and clients via digital campaign executions, health and security product innovations and even venturing into an online merchandising store like ScaredWhat.com. Going through an unprecedented time like this has challenged us as a company to look beyond our standard operations and to adapt to the changes that we have been dealt with. This allowed us to expand our portfolio and explore new business ventures that complimented the company’s core business as a whole.
There were also changes made in the way we marketed our existing IPs such as IT’S THE SHIP and Rockaway Fest. It was very clear that we needed to shift our focus on building brand awareness and brand equity during this time by using Live Chats, Livestreams, Hangouts, Watch Parties to build community engagement.
Planning Ahead and Enable Remote Working in Time of Crisis
Jonathan Toh, Director and Producer at CJworks Productions Sdn Bhd
As a commercial director/producer, the key challenges for me would be a stiff drop of businesses at the time being due to brands not wanting to spend on marketing at the time being. Secondly, not being able to secure a time, meaning to say, all production prep has been put on hold and lastly the cash flow for operation is affected.
Meantime, we have figured some ways to keep ourselves active during this period. For one thing, we are reorganizing ourselves to be more ready for remote working. We are exploring ways for easy migration or transition with better organisation of files, projects etc. Besides that, as we are unable to go out, we are using this time to research and getting pitches ready, so that when the MCO is lifted, we are always ready to go.
Hopefully, we could all learn from the current crisis, and make future arrangements. For instance, what kind of contingency plans to implement so the projects are either undisrupted or we could plan ahead on what happens next when the MCO bans is lifted.
Beyond question, the market will be quiet after the MCO due to the fact that people are not willing to spend just yet or marketers will hold back their projects due to the uncertainty of the market. Business will take some time to recover, baby steps I would say. But if we are able to get thru this, I am sure things would be better after.
Out of the Box Thinking During Covid-19
Stella Wong, Founder, Brand & PR Specialist at Brand Soul Consultancy Sdn Bhd
While it could be argued that there are always companies that benefit from a crisis, most start-ups and SME are facing profound challenges like drops in business activity and disruptions with operation. As the MCO extends, many projects have been postponed. Clients/prospects are more careful with their marketing spending and are worried about what lies ahead them after COVID-19. In short, we need to constantly challenges ourselves to look for other alternatives to keep our business going.
To combat uncertainties and managing unexpected ad hoc project, we have developed our own 360 marketing strategy template for our clients previously and now that our team is also making use of that to develop creative campaigns and to find out the best way to market our services. Being creative, think of out the box, and at the same time leveraging the power of search engine marketing & in-bound marketing are the ways forward.
During this challenging time, we have also taken initiative to offer free marketing advisory & provide some useful marketing tools to help businesses who have been hit hard by the COVID-19/MCO. Support them to navigate the unstable economy as a branding & marketing consultant.
Looking ahead, I think it will take some time for the market to be ‘revived’ or catch up again. As the COVID-19 has dampen the local economy in Q1 & probably Q2, local and international businesses now need to realign their business model, cut down unnecessary cost, embrace the benefits of digital marketing, and build a stronger brand identity online in order to make their brand standout from the rest.
Staying Remote and Agile through COVID-19
Sasha Yap, Head of Marketing at BrioHR
BrioHR has always focused more on digital marketing to generate leads as this allows us to track, measure, scale, or tweak tactics in real-time. The biggest difference we have noted is that the lower levels of the funnel are now fully online, which requires adjustment on the part of some parties – particularly given uncertainty around when MCO will end.
As a team, we moved quickly to commence webinars during the MCO, and have been experimenting with different types of content and outreach across different platforms for two reasons:
- To add value to clients and prospects in order to help them come out of these trying times stronger.
- To continue to refine our data on what works best in terms of cost and conversions.
One thing to note is that BrioHR has always been a very flexible organization that encourages independent work – so remote working protocols and tools have always been in place, and therefore MCO did not affect the team’s day-to-day operations. Post-MCO, we expect the current trajectory to continue with more businesses looking to move processes online if they have not done so by now.
The views expressed are those of the respective author and do not necessarily reflect those of Oppotus. #staysafe