Signify ASEAN's marketing lead: 'Up to 50% of our budget is allocated for digital'

Two years after the rebranding of Philips Lighting to Signify, the brand is still well received by the market, Esmond Tsang, head of marketing, ASEAN, Signify ASEAN said. He told A+M that its net promoter score, “remained high and steadily continues to improve further” in both its B2B and B2C customer segments. “The new corporate brand of Signify does not sway customers’ brand preferences as noted in our quarterly NPS,” Tsang (pictured) added but did not give specific numbers despite A+M’s queries.

The launch of Signify’s new brand coincided with International Day of Light on 16 May 2018 and the term “signify”, is a reference to light as a universal sign for safety, well-being and innovation, Tsang explained. “The word is a real and powerful world, full of positive connotations. It reflects our company’s greater purpose and our commitment to sustainability and corporate social responsibility,” he added.

 Among the list of brands housed under Signify include its two key brands Philips and Interact, an Internet of Things platform and connected lighting system. Other brands also include architectural lighting brands Modular Lighting Instruments and Color Kinetics, as well as specialty brands Strand, Vari-Lite, and UHP.

Despite the positive feedback, Signify certainly is not resting on its laurels. According to Tsang, “a significant portion” of the marketing budget is being invested into digital each year and areas include influencing, engaging and converting. While Tsang declined to share the exact value of the allocation for 2020, he said:

Up to 50% of Signify's total advertising and promotion budget has been set aside for digital.

“A clear focus for us to drive segmented market activation is through digital, followed by customer engagement activities. This is to drive more customer intimacy, offering them the benefits of our products and solutions based on their life stages and purchase decision journeys,” he explained.

Signify’s segmentation approach focuses more on lifestyle and applications, instead of demographics, Tsang said. Examples of lifestyles include buying homes and seeking a more sustainable and responsible way of life. Such a strategy “guides [it] more accurately to identify consumer purchase and usage decision journeys, which helps Signify curate its communications and activations", he explained.

Throughout 2020, The company plans to continue investing in the online and digital space, as it is becoming more important to communicate directly with its target audience and receive near-instant responses. “Our marketing strategy has always been all-rounded 360, applying various media touch-points based on the objectives of the campaign,” he said.

Instead of focusing on the actual products, one of Signify’s marketing strategies is to allow consumers and end users to see the benefits of its products and solutions. These are typically done via case studies published regularly on social media channels and its website, consumer events, testimonials by key opinion leaders, and co-branding opportunities.

Following the rebranding, Signify has experienced growth in terms of the digital lighting systems and services solutions across all ASEAN markets, Tsang said. He attributed the success of this segment partly to the branding efforts but also the market trend currently shifting towards intelligent lighting systems.

“The average year-on-year growth rate in ASEAN is over 100%. This serves as an early signal that our company’s strategic positioning, along with the house of brands approach, is in the right direction,” he explained. He added that ASEAN is also among the strategically-focused markets globally, given its growth potential and diverse, but declined to reveal specific figures of the region’s contribution to the overall revenue.  

“Each ASEAN market is strategically important to the overall Signify business in this region. From a market potential perspective, we see an increasing appeal within the Millennial segment for lighting systems that offer health and well-being benefits in Malaysia and Thailand,” Tsang said. Reason being this segment is purpose-filled and have preference for functional benefits with pragmatic designs, and these align with Signify’s propositions.  As a company, Signify is committed to actively tackling global issues such as urbanisation, the pressure on the global food supply due to urbanisation and population, and sustainability.

Targeting in a fragmented market

Based in Kuala Lumpur, Tsang manages the marketing and operations for ASEAN. He works with a team of seven in Malaysia and 30 other marketers, in addition to the country GMs from Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, the Philippines and Vietnam. The role covers communications, product marketing, channel marketing, professional and industry marketing, market and data analytics, and performance management.

Besides the team’s focus on digital, Tsang said that marketing effectiveness is also one of Signify’s key strategic priorities. All marketing programmes across ASEAN markets have a clear set of quantifiable marketing and business goals, eg. Marketing return on investment, effective reach and engagements, as well as incremental sales and brand recall.

Thorough planning and detailed segment insights along with competitive intelligence are crucial in the success of activations within this diverse region.

It is without a doubt that ASEAN is a highly diverse region with its own key segments in individual countries. Citing Singapore as an example, Tsang said its smart home lighting solution, Philips Hue, is “very successful and mature” in that market. This is compared to Malaysia and the Philippines where the solution is still in its infancy. He explained that Singapore consumers are quickly adapting into the smart home era, embracing and integrating lighting into their voice-based smart home systems.

Meanwhile in the B2B space, there is a growing focus for Thailand and Vietnam to win net hotel lighting systems projects, while the rest of ASEAN sees a heightened interest in sustainable lighting, especially in the office and hospitality spaces. According to him, Thailand consumers are also beginning to move towards a similar trend, piloting smart home lighting with different colour and scene settings via mobile apps.

“For Malaysia, the Philippines and Vietnam, consumers generally tend to be more functionally driven, as lighting is being used as illumination,” he said. However, Tsang believes that this behaviour will eventually be overtaken by connected or smart home lighting down the road.

Marketing perceived as one comprehensive role

Like many other marketers, Tsang also faces the challenge of acquiring good marketing talent. Marketing has been conventionally perceived as one comprehensive role, he said, mainly focusing on producing ads and hosting events. However, as the market becomes more complex and competition is becoming more intense, Tsang said the marketing discipline is also evolving into more specialised roles.

“As a growing trend, more and more organisations are searching for marketing talents based on specialised fields, such as product marketing, channel marketing, marketing analytics, pricing management, and digital marketing,” he said. Therefore to keep abreast of the latest marketing trends and tools, Signify also develops its internal talents with marketing competencies based on sub-functions.

When asked about the marketing trends that excite him, Tsang cited SEO and geo-marketing as one of them, as this allows companies to work with an algorithm to market to the specific target audience to create maximum impact and meet marketing KPIs. Additionally, he said social media and influencer marketing has grown in importance over the last few years and are no longer limited to only lifestyle products and brands. "Consumers trust them more than they do brands," he said.