UEM Sunrise's Kenny Wong: 'The FOMO mentality could waste resources unnecessarily'

UEM Sunrise recently unveiled a new tagline named "Find Your Happy", signifying belief, optimism and resilience. Its CMO Kenny Wong, said the company underwent "a long period of soul-searching" since January 2019 for the tagline, which ended in an internal kickoff last month. As UEM Sunrise moves towards positioning itself as a brand that creates spaces rather than physical brick and mortar branding, Wong is also gearing himself up for the challenges that may arise in 2020. 

He joined the company in 2018 and has been leading its marketing, brand, and customer experience since then. In this series of The Futurist, Wong shares with A+M areas of marketing that are overhyped and how marketing will evolve this year.

A+M: What are some areas of marketing that are overhyped?

Wong: I think, at times, we tend to jump the gun and blindly follow emerging trends without really understanding the impact and returns. The fear of missing out mentality is one which could waste resources unnecessarily. The marketing scene is evolving even more quickly now and at one point or another, you could say that a lot of things were “overhyped” or rather, used inappropriately. Some of these could be:

  • Marketing automation – relying too much on marketing automation can essentially defeat the entire purpose of using it in the first place. I am not convinced (yet) that it will replace human-to-human interaction.

  • Personalised marketing – When implementing personalisation into marketing initiatives, we should use only data which has been provided with consent and is in accordance with the PDPA.

  • Influencer marketing – A brand can come off as inauthentic if it chooses the wrong influencer or if the messages do not come off naturally from the influencer. Not only can this lead to a discrepancy between a company’s brand voice and message, but it can also lead to exposure to an audience that, quite simply, isn’t interested in the service being offered.

A+M: How do you foresee marketing evolving in 2020?

Wong: The fundamentals in marketing will remain the same, and marketers will continue focusing on targeting the right segments while the usage of technology increases. Marketing will, however, evolve to the point where success will hinge on targeted, relevant and compelling emotional storytelling that strikes at the heart of consumers and relates to their beliefs besides meeting (or exceeding) their needs. In my opinion, curating lifestyles and delivering a people-based approach to marketing and placing particular importance on environmental or social impact, as well as sustainability elements will be a few of the critical success factors to drive the success of both marketing and brand campaigns.

In the future, anticipating the needs of house buyers two to four years down the road will not be confined to just bricks and mortar. We would have to factor in the fact that their needs and tastes will be heavily influenced by technological advancements such as 5G, smart home capabilities, Internet of Things, and more. With the rise of the gig economy, these are also exciting times for the market.

Could selling houses become a thing of the past, with rental becoming the new normal? If it does, the responsibility lies in us to anticipate, respond accordingly and make it exciting and enticing for the market. Ultimately, the million-dollar marketing question is: Can we make it easier for people to have a home? Hence, we look at our buyers’ personas, study them and curate specific campaigns and sales packages that would address their needs. If we do this correctly and well, the company will be able to evolve successfully with any marketing trends.

A+M: What excites you most about the property scene and why?

Wong: These are challenging times for the property development industry. Personally, I feel that 2020 will be more about weathering the storm before the actual recovery. As we go through one of the industry’s toughest periods, I believe we need to employ a human-centric approach that addresses not only the "hardware" or the physical aspects but also the "software" part of the equation, which seeks to listen, learn and respond to the more intangible or emotional needs of our consumers, which are now more complex and ever-changing. This will include elements relating to the environment and sustainability, education, health and well being as well as communal enablers.

The first phase of this human-centric approach, using the tagline “Find your Happy”, has commenced company-wide. The “Find your Happy” story is at heart, one of belief, optimism and resilience and one which recognizes and accepts the differences among us and that happiness is a journey and, as a state of mind, differs from one person to another. Today, our brand’s purpose or some may call it our "Why", is to inspire joy and happiness one space at a time. We position ourselves as a brand that creates spaces which are planned, built and curated to inspire togetherness and contentment at all our brand touch-points.

A+M: Do you have any tips for marketers to achieve high ROI for their marketing efforts?

Wong: It all depends on the objective of the particular marketing campaign. Not all ROIs should be measured in dollars and cents. At the end of the day, if your campaign is able to reach your targeted audience, engage with them and the intended messages are received, that would be a great achievement if awareness, message recall and engagement were your objectives. If your objectives pertained to lead generation, however, there would be more tangible data-backed evidence that can support ROI more distinctively. I think the key is to be objective-driven and not too greedy with your target setting.

The article first appeared in A+M's January-March edition of The Futurist.