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Content marketing ‘doesn’t convert’ says Singapore entrepreneur Krystal Choo

The ability of content marketing to move consumers from engagement to action was questioned by Singaporean entrepreneur Krystal Choo yesterday, who said that her company’s analysis has shown that brand-produced content “doesn’t convert”.

Krystal Choo (right) talking at NextTechNow launch in Singapore

Krystal Choo (right) talking at NextTechNow launch in Singapore

The feisty founder of Wander, which started out as a travel app for single holidaymakers in 2015 and morphed into a social messaging app earlier this year, said at an event in Singapore that even if a consumer recognises a brand more as a result of its content, it is unlikely to lead to a positive action such as a sale.

“Brands are moving towards engagement marketing. But that’s not just about content creation, or creating something that engages, because I know from the numbers that that doesn’t convert anyway. Even if someone recognises your brand a little bit more, it doesn’t actually mean a shift to conversion,” she said.

Choo is betting with the new incarnation of Wander that engagement marketing through messaging apps is a more effective option for marketers.

“If Nike owns running and wants to own cycling, I can give them live behavioural insights into cycling communities, the words they use and how to sell to them,” she said. “I can tell you which words to use to connect with them in the chat with the campaigns that you run.”

WanderTalking about her company’s pivot at the launch of Publicis Media’s NextTechNow event, the 28 year-old said: “Because of the influx of singles apps, dating has become a buffet experience. I realised as a founder that was not a battle I wanted to fight. I wanted to connect people in a more meaningful way, I wanted to bring humanity back into the heart of visual interaction.”

“I told investors, screw this. I’m going to pivot to do this, I think this model is better because the messaging space is extremely hot.”

“A lot investors say they invest in the market or invest in the idea. But when you’re pitching an idea, it’s almost always a bit shit in the beginning. Later on, you refine it with the help of investors and mentors, who’ve had more experience in the market,” she said.

Choo’s company has raised further capital and experienced “zero investor drama” when she decided to completely change the business model, she shared.

In a panel debate featuring the CMO of Visa, a company that opened up its technology platform to startups at the beginning of the year, Choo did not hold back in her assessment of the failings of big corporations in how they engage with entrepreneurs.

Big companies tend to be too slow and process driven, and unless they adopt a flatter structure that gives startups better access to decision-makers there will less incentive for entrepreneurs to work with them, Choo asserted.

“They [corporates] say in two years you could be reaching this many people million people. But in two years we could be dead. We want answers right now,” said Choo.

“Big corporations have done very well at creating little programmes that allow startups to come in and not bear the brunt of their processes. But these are silos,” she said.

“And startup founders – most of them I would hope – want to have impact on the world. And if you silo them, and don’t want to give them access to other parts of the business, they are not very incentivised to continue working for your side, or your agenda,” she cautioned.

Coming to the defence of big corporates was Mohan Belani, co-founder and CEO of Asian tech media platform e27. He said that startups often have unrealistic expectations of the speed at which big companies are capable of working.

“Startups think that a deal should take two weeks, but they tend to take around three months,” he said, before highlighting the lack of professionalism that startups sometimes bring to the table.

“Startups need to change their mindset. They need to be more realistic, better prepared, and have a better idea of what they want to achieve,” he said.

Choo shot back that it was corporations that needed to have a better idea of what they want to get out of their dealings with startups.

“A lot of the people we meet in the corporate world sometimes don’t know their own objectives. Just speaking anecdotally, when I go into a meeting I ask: what is your objective, what do you want? A lot of the time, few people are able to articulate it.”

“While we may not be that great at articulating our value proposition, I think the corporates who want to represent us do not have an idea of what they want to change, so we end up guiding them.”

“This process takes a long time, it’s a little frustrating. But I agree that we think we need to improve on how we present our ideas, and also pitch better,” she said.

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