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MEDIA & MARKETING | Staff Reporter, Singapore
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Brand identity guru Andy Fennell of Bloom discusses how brands can capture the growing market of millennial consumers

Asia holds 60% of the world’s youth and appealing to this huge demographic takes great understanding, says Fennel.

Leading UK-based design specialist Bloom has formally launched in Singapore, marking its first foray in Asia. Singapore Business Review sat down with Bloom’s executive chairman Andy Fennell as he discussed how millennial consumers are driving the paradigm shift in brand marketing, and how firms can respond to this shift in consumer behaviour, demands and expectations that require a commensurate and parallel shift in brand identity.

Fennell was Global CMO (with responsibilities for sales and innovation) – a gargantuan portfolio at the business behind brands such as Guinness, Johnny Walker, Smirnoff and Baileys - before taking on the role of President of Diageo in Africa. His KPIs say it all – during Fennell’s tenure at Diageo, the global behemoth doubled its global luxury business, and quadrupled the innovation contribution to sales in Africa.

Fennell, now the Executive Chairman of Bloom, enjoys the distinction of having once been one of an elite class of individuals to sit on Facebook’s Client Council. The FCC comprises a small but select and influential group of agency and global client leaders who meet several times a year to give Facebook key input on strategy.

A paradigm shift
The world of brand marketing is at a crossroads, what Fennell would see as an opportunity. Those that stubbornly adhere to old methods will quickly become redundant, and it’s the millennial consumer that is causing this paradigm shift.

“The best companies are shifting their brand identity in every way [and it’s due to] the millennial consumer,” says Fennell, “The world is now transparent, but it used to be opaque. Trust has eroded and tech-enabled consumers are better informed. Consumers can find out what they need to know by simply pushing button.”

It’s clear to Fennell that this shift in consumer behaviour, demands and expectations, requires a commensurate and parallel shift in the brand and how it communicates. “Brands must be flexible, relatable and more human.”

The Asian duplicity
Fennell views the exploding market of the Asian millennial consumer as unique, and one that requires a tricky balance when selling to young adults. “There is a fascinating twist in Asia,” he says, “there is a duplicity – the Asian consumer is attached to the past and the informality of a products values, but at the same time brands need to be innovative and different. What you are saying in Asia needs to have coherence.”

Fennell names Chanel and Tiger Beer as being masters of blending traditional values and elements fundament to a campaign that is different and appealing to younger Asians. “The sophistication of the consumer in Asia is off the charts. Smart brands need to make this intersection of marketing traditional values and innovation seamless. Lunar New Year is a great example – smart brands play on traditional Confucian values while at the same time being contemporary and clever, says Fennell. “Young adults want to be like their parents and also differentiated from them at the same time.”

Asia holds 60% of the world’s youth and appealing to this huge demographic takes great understanding. “It is important to have an understanding of the various cultures, but also recognising that the fundamentals are similar to the various cultures. However, reaching out to Generation Z, takes nuance, we can’t focus entirely on group research, it’s now about data.” Analysing big data is only part of the game, old school rules mixed with humility still come into play, “We habitually look at adjacent categories, experiences and designs as well,” says Fennell.

It’s a Level Playing Field
Fennell sees another trend in Asia, cutting edge campaigns are becoming indigenous rather than imported. Developments in brand identity and development is moving west, as much as the traditional eastern movement of marketing and advertising theory. Fennell states that this is off the back of the developmental strides made by the enormous Korean beauty industry. “SK-II for instance has a new informality. They understood their consumers so well. There is a ritual in the manner by which a customer applies moisturiser. SK-II does one thing incredibly well, it has stuck to its business model. There is a great deal about Asian values is very transferable to western brand identity development. The F&B and tech industries are other good examples. Asia is in fact the frontrunner in tech brands, so Asian brands deservedly going global – they’ve been through their experimental phases and are now taking on the world.”

As a take-home, Fennell concludes, “Brand builders need to be brilliant these days at brand identity, when it used to be advertising. Brilliant brand identities have a relatability and flexibility demanded of them by the transparency and trust issues in culture. And in Asia it needs to be recognised that this is not a one-way migration formal to informal, it’s a duality of respecting tradition and adopting more progressive values.”

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