Taking a shit or crammed on a train: SGAG boss highlights value of timing in content delivery

The co-founder of Singapore comedy portal SGAG and the director of global insights at Mead Johnson Nutrition gave contrasting perspectives during a panel discussion on the risks of customer complacency today, but both argued that the key to driving customer loyalty comes from empathy and timing.

Karl Mak, co-founder and business director, SGAG and Amit Dewan, global consumer insights, Mead Johnson

Karl Mak, co-founder and business director, SGAG and Amit Dewan, global consumer insights, Mead Johnson at Millennial 2020 today

Talking at the Millennial 2020 conference in Singapore, Karl Mak of SGAG, the popular jokes site that has been around since 2012, said that the brand had amassed a large following by being “hyper local”, reactive and developing a deep understanding of the 99% of Singaporeans who are crammed on to a train every morning.

On the consumer journey and the importance of mobile, Mak explained how fresh content is posted very early every morning, as the mobile device is the first thing people reach for when the wake up, and 80% of SGAG’s readers come via mobile devices.

“Then you get on a super-squeezy train to work,” he said, recounting the consumer journey. “You’re not going to have room for an iPad or room to tilt your phone to watch a YouTube video. You’re going to be scrolling. And you may not have headphones. We serve content that is optimised for that,” he said, adding that SGAG’s videos feature captions.

On the need for brevity to reach time-poor commuters, Mak continued: “The connection might be cut off by the time you hit Tanjong Pagar [train station], so we have to be fast. You might have 30 or maybe 45 seconds, and we can’t take up too much of your data, so we cut it off a video at a minute, max.”

“Attentions spans are getting shorter, people want things now, and they want to know in the first five seconds whether or not they stay watching, or drop off,” he said, explaining that SGAG sees video content in 15-second “brackets” that might or might not have audio.

On context, he said: “We talk about Monday blues on Monday mornings, and we talk about Sunday blues on Sunday evenings. When people get home from their journey, they’re probably going to be taking a shit, and they’ll be scrolling for that too.”

A recent SGAG video that went viral was timed around the Pokemon Go craze. A member of the SGAG team pranked Pokemon Go players in Hougang into thinking he’d found a rare Pokemon character. The video has been viewed 5.3m times on Facebook, and 540,000 times on YouTube.

Being original and staying relevant were two key challenges Mak highlighted for SGAG, which has around 253,000 Twitter followers, 500,000 fans on Facebook, and launched a Malaysian version, MGAG, last year.

“When trains first started breaking down in Singapore, we thought wow, we can do all these things about broken down trains. But now they’ve broken down 50 times in a year, so how can we talk about it in an original way? And how can we talk about the haze in an original way?”

Operating in a very different field, targeting pregnant and new mothers, is Amit Dewan, Singapore-based director of global insights at Mead Johnson Nutrition. He pointed out that the company had to know when in the consumer’s journey they had “a right to communicate.”

He explained that mobile was critical in reaching mothers who had very recently given birth. “Their lifeline to the world is a mobile phone. Even an iPad is too heavy. Desktop is out of the question. If you’re not there when they have a question, you’ve lost them.”


Dewan: “Loyalty is driven by emotion”

He cautioned brands against getting “caught up doing cool stuff” with a short lifespan and focus on engaging with customers on an emotional level that lasts by producing authentic, credible content.

“Folks whom you’ve engaged with in a meaningful way, you don’t need to run promotions at them – they are with you for life, literally,” he said.

Dewan shared how consumers who had not used Mead Johnson brands were calling the company’s call centre for mothering advice.

“They were saying, when my kid reaches a certain age, I’m going to switch to your brand. It’s that feeling of being indebted to an interaction – that’s the way engagement works,” he said.

Dewan added that a common misperception of customer loyalty is that it is driven by transactional behaviour. “It’s not. It’s emotional. If you ask people why they bought a product, it’s because of their affinity to the brand,” he suggested.

“As digital powers the ability to advocate and engage with people at a level that traditional marketers could only ever dream of, it’s important to keep this in mind – your engagement is emotional in nature and loyalty will be driven by that.”

Mak rounded up the session by calling on the audience to invest in content. “And that doesn’t mean just ripping off a newspaper ad and putting it on Facebook, because that doesn’t work any more,” he said.

“Millennials don’t care any more about looking at two pieces of chicken on their Facebook wall. They want content that’s funny, engaging and relevant to them.”

Mak added there was a need for brands to have a content strategy.

“It’s not a hit or miss and that’s the end of the story. It’s a process. You look at the data, you iterate and you refine. It’s a long process for brands to find out what they do best. It’s not something you can achieve overnight,” he said.


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