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The Asian marketer: under-prepared, lacking innovation and unhappy with agencies

The vast majority of Asian marketers believe their brands are under-prepared for future challenges and do not have innovative marketing strategies, while many are also dissatisfied with their agency partners, research has found.

Consultancy R3 revealed the findings of the study which further underlined the issues facing marketers and in a session at Mumbrella360 Asia.

Alarmingly, only 7% of Asian CMOs questioned by R3 claimed their brands were sufficiently prepared to “navigate into the future”, with 62% saying there were dissatisfied at how marketing uses data and tech.

Even more remarkably, only 3% believe their marketing strategies are innovative, while 55% revealed they were not happy with the performance of their agencies.

Addressing the figures, R3 partner Seema Punwani, said it illustrates the rapid change facing marketers in the region as they grapple with combining data, technology and marketing.

“It does show the way things are changing so quickly,” she told delegates during a debate on the Future of the CMO in Asia. “It feels that no-one can say I am completely prepared to face the future when it comes to marketing.”

Referring to the dissatisfaction over the convergence of tech and data, Punwani said it partly reflects the differences of opinion in the workforce.

“It goes back to the fact that things keep changing. As new people join the organisation and with so many millennials coming in, the way data and tech is interpreted by old timers like me and millennials is very different,” she said.

But Punwani told the audience not to take the agency dissatisfaction figure “too seriously”, likening it to dating sites telling everyone how better off they would be with another partner.

I would not take this very seriously because usually everyone is always looking for ‘what’s next’ and who is better. It’s like all the different dating apps in the world telling us, ‘there is always someone better out there’.”

“At R3 we always tell marketeers that it’s most important to make partnerships work. In some cases we see ourselves like a marriage counsellor where we help clients as well as agencies come together to resolve any gaps and work together to have a better output.”

Singapore Economic Development Board marketer Dane Lim

Dane Lim, director of marketing and communications at the Singapore Economic Development Board, admitted it was a “challenge” finding the right partner, partly due to the sheer number of agencies.

“We are trying to make sense of how we find the right fit. Five years ago, one or two agencies would be there for the long term.”

Depending on the job that needs to be done and who is best suited to carry out the work, agencies are increasingly selected on a project basis, he said.

“The shift has been quite drastic.”

Andrea Peterson, executive director of destination marketing at Marina Bay Sands, said the days of the “one stop shop” seem to be over.

“There are so many different specialists we need to tap into,” she said.

She added she was “shocked” at how few executives did not feel their marketing strategies were innovative.

“Innovation has to start with getting data, insights and working with your creative partners,” Peterson said. “That small number [of marketers believing they have innovative strategies] was surprising because that is the way we operate here.”

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