If brands could run in elections in Asia, who would win?

VotingIf people could vote for a home-grown brand to run their country in an election instead of politicians, who would they vote for because it is a loved and trusted brand that it does the right thing?

Mumbrella asked some local agency execs in Japan, India, New Zealand, Singapore, Thailand, Malaysia, Korea, Vietnam, Indonesia and Australia which brands in their respective countries would win hearts and mind, and why.


Tony Savarimuthu, founder and managing director, Merdeka LHS

I take it we are talking about a first past the post system here and not proportional representation! No more than three or four brands would be deserving of a place on the ballot paper in Malaysia. A few others may pick up seats here and there, but the vast majority shouldn’t bother as they would probably lose their deposit. Besides being both loved and accessible (which are prerequisites), the brands which make it to the polls have a tough electorate to please. The increasingly impatient and knowledgeable Malaysian voters would be fairly demanding and scrutinise the election (brand) manifesto thoroughly based on the following criteria:

1. Ability to preserve the peace and be true to the ideals of a united Malaysia
2. Tacit honesty and respect for the rules of fair play and jurisprudence
3. Promote an equitable and meritocratic society
4. Provide economic leadership and prosper the nation
5. Stand up for the man on the street and not run roughshod over him
6. Eradicate poverty, corruption, cronyism and nepotism
7. Have its own house in order

AirAsiaYup, that’s a fairly long list. I don’t think the voters are going to take any bullshit this time. AirAsia, CIMB, Petronas and Maybank are the four brands that stand a chance based on many of the criteria above. I feel each of these brands walk the talk and have built a close affinity with the majority of people in the country. They are all respected widely and have strong leadership. Petronas has had successive leaders who have struck a chord with Malaysians. Both AirAsia and CIMB are seen to be in tune with the aspirations of young Malaysians who want to be citizens of the world. They mirror a meritocratic movement which believes that you can achieve your dreams providing you work hard at it. Petronas and Maybank embody the characteristics of the politicians of old whom you can trust and who will listen to voter concerns: approachable, accessible, humble and someone who will be there when you need them.

Considering the diversity of the country I don’t feel any of the four will succeed in having a working majority on its own, but they would be a darned good coalition together with AirAsia being the first among equals due to its populist ideals.




Sam Balsara, chairman and managing director, Madison Communications, India

I would vote for Brand Airtel to run India (Airtel is India’s leading telecom service provider and has now expanded to major parts of Africa and SriLanka).

Why Airtel?

Familiarity. Airtel has over 200 million customers and a 22 per cent plus market share. It would be fair to say that no other brand touches more Indian lives, in an intense way, multiple times a day than Airtel. But sometimes familiarity breeds contempt. And there would be some form of dissatisfaction with Airtel among its users, but hopefully the electorate would understand that this is more because of spectrum issues about which Airtel can do very little. Familiarity is a very important factor in elections and everyone is familiar with Airtel. Besides, Airtel is modern, progressive, technology savvy and ready to lead India in its next phase of growth.


South Korea


HS Jeong, president and managing Director, Y&R Korea

Naver Corporation is Korea’s premier internet company, operating the nation’s top search portal. But why Naver? For three reasons:

It’s collaborative. A leader should go one step beyond providing information, and establish the platform for the people to speak up in various ways. Naver harbors knowledge search, cafes, blogs, games, comics and more for user-generated content. As Bill Gates one quoted, “As we look ahead into the next century, leaders will be those who empower others.”

Familiar. Accounting for over 70 per cent of all search queries in Korea and the fifth most used search engine in the world, Koreans’ dependence on Naver is indisputable. Being a household name in Korea indicates its power and influence.

Business-savvy. With business ethics centering on honesty and sincerity, Naver’s reputation for fair work practices has accelerated its growth with stakeholders, customers and society. Furthermore, its positive business reputation has served to support its advancement into the overseas market through its subsidiary, Line Corporation to solidify its global position. A president should not only lead within the nation, but have the capability to lead in foreign affairs as well.



IndomieJoseph Tan, CEO, Lowe Indonesia

Indomie is an iconic instant noodle brand known and consumed by virtually Every Indonesian across 10,000 islands. Indomie is regarded as the true connoisseur of authentic Indonesian culture and flavours. Indomie stands for quality, integrity, it’s ubiquitous, popular and consistently propagating unity of diversity through its communication. A principle that mirrors the nations founding philosophy (pancasila).



Temasek Holdings

Fiona Bartholomeusz, managing director, Formul8

For me it’s a no-brainer. Temasek Holdings. While it’s less marketing skewed as a company, it has an excellent reputation as an investment company in the financial world as a well run, progressive organisation. It’s invested in many key industries across the world and while it will always have its share of detractors, it is quietly confident and measured in its approach, produces solid financial results and gives back to the nation with its CSR initiatives. And yes, its run by a cool female CEO.




Tue Nguyen, managing director, Bates CHI & Partners Vietnam

Vingroup would get my vote. Established only 13 years ago, and already fourth in the top 500 companies here.

Pros: Long term vision, steady growth – when they are focused, they do it right and fast. They are heavily investing in e-commerce at the moment so they’re not just a real estate and hospitality company. That means they can be flexible.

Cons: Tries to do everything in-house. It’s not particularly transparent and there are rumours of dubious underground connections, but then this is not unusual in Vietnam.

Vinamilk would be another strong contender. But they haven’t shown much ambition beyond dairy and beverages.

Vinagame is another potentially great company – young, aggressive and ambitious. It’s a bit of a copycat – but hey, if they learn from others and improve their products… that’s how the world works.


New Zealand

Air Middle Earth

Nick Garrett, managing director, Colenso BBDO, New Zealand

Air New Zealand. Over the last five or six years they have done a fabulous job on so may levels. The service levels, the product and the overall brand are world class and it makes the NZ’s proud and flies the flag well in a way you hope your most senior statesman would. They have build a powerful business with innovation at the heart and don’t just rely on national pride and sentiment. There are solid economic foundations, the business is in good health and is progressive in a way a great leader would be. Then last but not least they know they aren’t perfect and do make mistakes in the way the world’s best politicians and leaders so. However it’s the humility of the brand that makes you forgive them because they front up when they need to. Sometimes being fallible as long as you are accountable is extremely powerful.




Wannee Ruthanphon, chairman, IPG Mediabrands, Thailand

In my opinion, I would love SCG (Siam Cement Group) to run the country. It is a Thai conglomerate that stresses good corporate governance. It is not a family run business. During the Asian economic melt down, it refocused its business on three core areas: building materials, paper and chemical. SCG is committed to product development, innovation, sustainable communities in the places where it operates, as well as employee development. It is at the forefront of Thai business that expand across Southeast Asia.




Kan Taniguchi, international marketing director, Tugboat

I think we need to elect a brand like Rakuten. As an ageing society and with youth not participating in politics, brands like Panasonic might win the election. But for sake of future generations, Japan needs to let go and become more modern and globally minded. And I don’t mean Japan needs to westernise.

Old-school big corporations are unable to shine as leaders in the world today. We need new thinkers to lead us, and the leadership at Rakuten has the passion to take Japan to the next level. They would inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.

The runner-up in the election would be Uniqlo, the maker of minimalistic everyday fashion for all, who have shown how to export a Japanese lifestyle brand.



Arnott's Tim Tams

Ben Willee, general manager and media director, Spinach Advertising, Australia

If Australians could vote for a home-grown brand to run the country in an election it would be Arnott’s Tim Tams Chocolate Biscuits. Named after the winner of the 1958 Kentucky Derby and described as two layers of chocolate malted biscuit, separated by a light chocolate cream filling, and coated in a thin layer of textured chocolate. They are not just Australia’s greatest tasting Chocolate Biscuits, they are a versatile taste sensation, you haven’t lived unless you’ve tried a “Tim Tam Slam” which involves biting off the corners, submerging one end of the biscuit in a cup of tea or coffee and using it like a straw. Tim Tams are also made in Kahlua flavour enabling Aussies to indulge in two of their favourite pastimes at once, eating chocolate and drinking alcohol. Often copied, but never equalled the people of Australia have well and truly voted for Tim Tams with their wallets buying on average a staggering 45 million packets a year.


Hong Kong


Keith Ho, managing partner and chief creative officer, Grey Group Hong Kong

For the elections in Hong Kong, there would be one brand that stands out among the rest to be in a position to take the city to new heights. The Hong Kong International Airport (HKIA).


Global Presence – The HKIA serves over 100 airlines operating flights to about 180 locations worldwide every day. If taking the city further starts by building a strong international network, then HKIA has done just that throughout their history.

Determination – It has been said, “Real leaders are ordinary people with extraordinary determination”. HKIA has committed itself to doing all that it can for the people – and the world. Especially, since it offers a wide range of job opportunities for Hong Kong citizens and attracts talent from around the world.

Reliable – This might just be one of the most important qualities. Being seen as reliable is earned, not given. However, HKIA has a solid track record for safety and efficiency in handing flights and cargo. Now that’s reliability.

Forward Looking – A vision is a call to become something more. HKIA’s clear long-term plans to improve its infrastructure and services to meet its growing demand has set it apart from the others.

And lastly…

Relatable – Once Hong Kongers step foot into HKIA, they all have one thing that comes to mind – “It feels good to be home”. HKIA is essentially Hong Kong. It is a leader that you are comfortable in trusting and letting it lead you to new frontiers.

HKIA for Chief Executive of Hong Kong!


Get the latest media and marketing industry news (and views) direct to your inbox.

Sign up to the free Mumbrella Asia newsletter now.



Sign up to our free daily update to get the latest in media and marketing