Esplanade CMO Eunice Yap: We need to eradicate complacency

The Esplanade has always placed importance on its consumer when it comes to developing its marketing strategies. "It is a continuous learning process where we hone our marketing initiatives based on results/findings, and hopefully, be able to customise and personalise our offerings, and attract new audiences," its chief marketing officer, Eunice Yap, said to Marketing at a previous roundtable.

According to Yap, The Esplanade had a year of experimentation and exploration as it went through a transformation journey. She also told Marketing that in 2020, she will be looking to leverage on technology, be adaptable to the changes, and continue to differentiate and innovate to be relevant.

Yap joined the company in 2014, where she helped drive Esplanade's data consolidation initiative, as well as created its loyalty programme Esplanade&Me to better target consumers across all age groups. In this series of The Futurist, Yap tells Marketing how the organisation has been evolving its marketing strategies to stay relevant, and shares tips on how to thrive in this volatile marketing landscape.

Marketing: What do you think will be the new role of marketers in 2020?

There was a recent prediction that CMOs will be redundant in the future. Some large corporations have attempted to decentralise the role but found that it did not work. The role is all-encompassing and you still need a chief architect to put that chaos into order. Regis McKenna was right to title his book “Marketing is Everything” because we exist because of our customers.

In an era of exploding choice and unpredictable change, we need to be agile in this volatile landscape – continuously pursue a passionate curiosity to learn new things and do one thing better each day.

We need to communicate and inspire change, and radical change if necessary to make customers central to an organisation’s strategic direction. Everyone in the organisation must believe this and hence, internal branding (and working with HR) is the foundation to success.
With limited resources (like many of us are facing), this is a great opportunity to rethink and prioritise the key drivers to effect that transformation – small steps but celebrate those wins. Don’t just jump onto the bandwagon.

We need to eradicate complacency and always challenge the status quo to aim for improvements. Familiarity can sometimes be a bondage to past experiences that cannot propel us forward.

We need to leverage on analytics to help gain insights to enable smarter marketing decisions, and maximise the investment. We need to be agile – we try and try – if we don’t, we will never know what success can look like.

Marketing: What were the biggest learning lessons you are taking into this year?

It takes an army to build a nation. Walk the talk. Communicate. Be open to new ideas. Empower the team. Allow for calculated failures and setbacks. Listen, observe and learn. Find the red thread that binds and tell a compelling story that is consistent for both your internal and external customers. Dream big and bold!

Marketing: How has Esplanade had to evolve in its marketing to remain relevant?

It has been a deliberate process for us over the past five years. We made a decision to undertake digital transformation then, and we now aspire to be the leading digital performing arts centre in 2021! So, what does that mean?

Starting with the basics, we audited the landscape and made improvements where we can gain quick wins - revamped the website with content management system and better user interface, digitalise our centre media with interactive touch screens (without losing a sense of place), automated arduous marketing processes, streamlined and leveraged social media platforms and implemented a membership program to understand our customers.

We got the marketing team exposed to relevant training, seminars and conferences on digital, loyalty, website, social media, content and customer experience. They started to appreciate the impact of measurements, and have ownership and responsibility over these KPIs and ROIs. This is an ongoing process of learning and making improvements.

We started to integrate data to better understand attribution for media investments, make improvements from the Voice of Customer dashboard (owned by various departments), experimented with live streaming and broadcasting to reach out to new audiences, and we are now developing test cases to see how we can enable technology to improve accessibility.

On our 15th anniversary, we boldly started the #mydurian campaign – we wanted Singaporeans to have a sense of belonging and ownership of Esplanade as their national performing arts centre – the page started with pictures of durians but today, we have over 10,000 posts showcasing selfies, performances, our spiked domes and food taken at Esplanade. It’s a humble start but we have been encouraged by it. We recently launched Offstage, an all-access backstage pass and guide to Singapore and Asian arts and culture, with insightful and interesting content for everyone, including families, schools and researchers.

Much remains to be done as many are still not aware that 70% of our programmes are free with performances daily, we offer backstage tours to this iconic landmark, and one can get involved in our mentorship programs, be a volunteer and join our membership. We’re moving into our next phase of growth as an arts centre, to do even more for our next generation of artists and audiences, and enable us to commission, produce and present more productions, especially those that tell Singapore and Asian stories. This is targeted for completion in 2021.

Marketing: What are you most looking forward to when it comes to marketing?

Predict the unpredictable. Embrace the change. Aim to always do better. Complacency is one of the deadly sins in marketing!

The article first appeared in the January-February edition of The Futurist edition.