The thinking behind Tiger Beer’s new global ‘uncaged’ campaign

Tiger UncageOne of Singapore’s most famous brands, Tiger Beer, has just launched a global brand campaign with the them ‘Uncaged, which is based around the idea of releasing young men from their limitations and inhibitions.

Mumbrella’s Asia editor Robin Hicks, was in Singapore to interview the global brand director of Tiger Beer at Heineken Asia Pacific Mie-Leng Wong, and David Nobay, creative chairman at Droga5 Sydney, Tiger’s new agency, about the thinking behind the campaign.

The first thing I noticed about the campaign today was the cover of TODAY newspaper, which featured a Tiger ad with the line “Don’t live life in a cage”. That line probably wouldn’t work in Hong Kong, where some of the territory’s poorest people actually do lives in cages. How are you planning to localise the campaign around Asia?

"Don't live life in a cage"

“Don’t live life in a cage”

Mie-Leng Wong:  You’ve seen a headline that is very specific to Singapore. We’re not creating homogenous headlines for the region. That line will not run in Hong Kong. We’re not just launching words without meaning. The proposition is not meant to be literal. It’s a symbol that represents the cultural and societal constraints that men must fight against in their daily lives. We said we cannot created marketing invested stories, the campaign has to be real.

David Nobay: It’s a question of context. We wanted to build stories around local characters. We’re not looking for soundbites. We want our audience to understand the story behind the brand. The brief has never been to run a campaign with the same lines in the same countries.

So, where did the idea come from?

Mie-Leng Wong

Mie-Leng Wong

Mie-Leng Wong: It all started in the third quarter of last year. It’s mean an immense roller coaster. Our ambition is make Tiger a global, iconic, Asian beer. Tiger has a lot of untapped potential. We wanted to unleash what we think is a universal truth. We locked ourselves away for a week, with everyone from design manager to the managing director involved. We came up with an insight that is not just category related. We found that young Asian men are bursting with opportunity, but are still caged by conformity. We wanted to create a platform that was a springboard to uncage the tiger within.

But why Droga5? Why not an agency with a presence in Asia?

Mie-Leng Wong: We needed a new direction. We wanted to unleash the creative side of Tiger beer. Our global ambitions mean that we need to find right balance between being authentically Asian, and having contact with the West. Australia is a bridge between the East and West. Besides, Droga’s people have plenty of experience of this region.

David Nobay

David Nobay

David Nobay: I’m not going to apologise for winning this business. But let’s not forget that Australia is part of Asia. The more enlightened among us worked that out a long time ago.

Asia is a really important region for us. Many of us have had experience working here. David Droga worked for many years in Singapore. He’s very serious about Tiger Beer brand. We knew there would be critics, just as there were doubters when [US-based] Goodby, Silverstein & Partners worked with CommBank in Australia. We hope that the work answers most of your questions.

Watch the film featuring Joey Pang.

What’s interesting about this campaign is that our client wanted something that, generally speaking, is usually very difficult to do – create an authentic and locally resonant platform that can go global. In marketing, traditionally the water flows the other way. Usually, marketers in Asia adopt stuff from the West, or are told that the stuff they make does not translate in other markets. What Tiger are doing is something that, I suspect, Asian brands will increasing do in the future.

Mie-Leng Wong: We said that if we wanted to be an iconic Asian beer of the world that we don’t want to talk too much about Asian heritage, but rather capture a creative progressiveness, dynamism and courage that’s something to be proud of. Our focus is on millennials, regardless of whether they’re from New York, London or Singapore.

David Nobay: When we first stated working on the business, one of the things we recognised is Asia isn’t a homogenous region. As you mentioned, there are things that fly in Singapore that don’t work in Hong Kong. And young Asian men have a different background to those in the West. The insight was based around a youthful restlessness that is as true in Seattle as it is in Shanghai or Singapore. As a construct, it’s fairly simply. But the process behind it was psychology meets traditional planning. We had to do a lot of research into what a cage means for men in each country that we’re targeting.

Watch the film featuring Antony chen.

How did the relationship with Droga5 come about?

Mie-Leng Wong: I met with David Droga in Cannes just after the acquisition of Tiger Beer by Heineken [in 2012]. We talked about how we could move the Tiger brand on.

Tiger Beer is notorious for revamping its brand and changing the agencies it uses with unusual frequency. Why should we think that you’ll stick with this platform and stay with Droga5?

Mie-Leng Wong: Well, the last time we changed the design was in 2009. So it’s been quite a long time since we’ve done something new.

David Nobay: I do not think that we’ve created a platform that will wear out in six months, regardless of how many agencies they use. This is about the longevity of the Tiger brand.

Tiger's 'uncaged' launch event in Singapore

Tiger’s ‘uncaged’ launch event in Singapore

Tiger is an interesting brand in that in some markets, like the UK, it’s super premium. But in its home market, Singapore, it’s perceived as the beer of choice for uncles [older men]. Do you see that as a major issue for the brand?

Mie-Leng Wong: It’s a very common phenomenon in the beer category. Heineken has the same issue in its home market, The Netherlands. But I don’t see that as an issue. We want to establish Tiger Beer as premium – and not only on price. For me, premium is about a personality type; how you behave and the way you connect.

In terms of our business, yes, “uncles” represent a big part of consumer base in Singapore. At the same time, there is an opportunity to leverage the fact that we are broad appeal to a wide group of people.

A question for you, David. Are you going to set up an office in Asia now that Tiger Beer is a client? I hear Sudeep [Gohil, Droga5 Sydney’s CEO] was in Hong Kong recently…

If we built an office after winning a single client we’d have offices in lots of places. We didn’t make any promises saying we’d set up here or anywhere. The distance has actually created an enormous amount of passion within the agency, and we communicate via video conferencing from Sydney.

The reason Sudeep was in Asia was because of called IMG [which was recently acquired by WME) . They have a footprint physically in this region, but it doesn’t put unnecessary pressure on us as an agency to say, hey, we’re here. We have a regional hub director based here, Simon Lockyer [formerly a new business director at Tribal in Singapore].

I’m a great believer that it’s really important that we under-promise and over-deliver. We’ve held off and said it’s a partnership. We’re spending the next few days talking about the relationship can develop.

Why would a brand like Droga5 want to be low-key? Why don’t you just launch here?

Let’s be clear, I don’t want our work to be low key. It’s a really about raising an interesting conversation about what is possible. And it cuts both ways. There might be a great Singapore agency that wins VB [a famous Australian beer brand that Droga5 works for] next week, who’s to say that won’t happen?

Hong Kong event

Tiger Beer’s launch event in Singapore


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