5 firms in Malaysia that redefined experiential marketing – Marketing Interactive

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Customers are now seeking better experiences more than ever before in this rapidly evolving digital age. According to a study by Salesforce, 68% of marketing leaders claim that their companies are increasingly competing on the basis of customer experience. Along with stellar customer experience, experiential marketing is key to how brands should differentiate themselves from the rest of the pack.
Experiential marketing, more commonly known as engagement marketing, is a strategy that immerses customers within a product itself. Beyond experiencing the product, customers are able to experience the brand for themselves. In creating an emotional connection between the brand and consumer through unique experiences, brands are much likelier to retain and attract their customer base.
Brands in Malaysia are no stranger to experiential marketing and even doubled down on it over the past two years, staying ahead of the curve to stand out in the eyes of consumers. Based on the results from A+M’s Marketing Excellence Awards Malaysia in 2021, these five brands, listed in alphabetical order, impressed the judging panel and created an impressive playbook that other brands can turn to when executing experiential marketing.
1. BMW Malaysia
In 2020, BMW Malaysia beat out competitors Mercedes for the first time in seven years. According to the brand, this was seemingly odd given the state of the pandemic, which rendered most Malaysians unable to leave their houses, let alone buy cars.
The Movement Control Order (MCO) in Malaysia saw BMW facing difficulties in driving sales given that its highest sales-converting channels, the car showrooms, were no longer being visited. This interfered with the brand’s plans to launch its latest model, the BMW X5 Plug-in Hybrid. BMW thus sought to bring the showroom to its clients, by re-engineering the showroom experience through the world’s first-ever web AR showroom. Given Malaysian’s digital affluence and the new trend of “going virtual”, BMW focused on bringing consumers a fun virtual experience, while retaining its trademark showroom ambience.
BMW’s AR showroom sought to achieve four things: 
1. Quintupling consumers’ interest in the X5;
2. Encouraging drivers to engage with its showroom and spend time;
3. Garnering earned media for maximisation of media budgets and impact; and 
4. Receiving five times more booking and converting five times more sales. 
Using its three-gear showroom strategy, BMW enabled potential clients to immerse themselves with the car through the webAR app, where customers would be greeted by BMW Malaysia’s CEO through a livestream and be taken to the virtual showroom. Next, consumers would get better involved with the X5, being present at every consideration touchpoint while investigating the car. Lastly, clients would be able to initiate bookings through hyper-remarketing tailored messages, based on each audience’s deal-breaking factors, such as financing and warranties. 
The webAR showroom featured 3D models of the X5, where each model was built using powerful 3D engines and crafted with painstaking detail across 360° angles. This enabled consumers to better immerse themselves in the viewing experience, where they can adjust the position, colour, size and viewing angle of X5, while also explore the car’s unique features by holding onto hotspots that test drive performance and review the car specs. Just like a real showroom, consumers would be able to place the car in their environment, walk around and inspect it, discover new features via digital brochures, and even conduct a digital test drive.
BMW saw success with the campaign. Aside from hitting 94% in audience engagement, BMW was able to gain significant media traction, attracting both local and global coverage, as well as 39.6x earned media value. A 73% increase in searches for the BMW X5 was also achieved, leading the brand to beat out rivals Mercedes by attaining a 52% market share.
2. Malaysia Aviation Group 
Amidst border closures and travel restrictions, the aviation industry was hit particularly hard during the pandemic. In spite of the difficulties in staying top-of-mind, Malaysia Airlines made the most out of this opportunity by introducing a new kind of experiential marketing – ASMR.
Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response (ASMR) is a kind of brain massage that is relaxing and offers users a full-body massage-like experience. For this particular campaign, Malaysia Airlines concocted a solution that would offer those experiencing cabin fever the experience of flying, through sound.
From the moment one enters the airport to embark on their next travel journey, they are greeted by thousands of sounds: of checking in, to security checks and boarding gate announcements to the Malaysia Airlines in-flight announcements, sounds of taking off, the dinging of the seat belt and more. To allow users the experience of travelling once more, Malaysia Airlines looked to social media channels to deliver ‘The Sounds of MH,’ a 30-minute audio recording of the various sounds of travel.

Hoping to improve Malaysians’ state of wellbeing during the lockdown days, the ASMR track would enable one’s travel journey to come to life in the theatre of the mind. While the longer video was uploaded on YouTube, the company also used TikTok, Facebook and Instagram to release short-snippets of the audio track through 15-second teasers.
Additionally, user-generated content was used by the company to better engage with audiences. Through teleprompter challenges, audiences would be able to give their rendition of an in-flight cabin crew announcement or a pilot’s announcement. These challenges were also made in various languages to suit the demographic of Malaysians – English, Malay and Mandarin.
The campaign resulted in the company’s YouTube channel gaining over 100,000-subscribers, and the average view duration going up by 54%. While TikTok was a new platform for the brand, the teleprompter challenges led to the increase of new subscribers, starting at less than 500 and reaching 15,000 in the first four days of the challenge’s launch. The language flexibility feature also helped the brand receive over 1.8 million views and 9,749 participants across TikTok, Instagram and Facebook. Many celebrities also took part which led to free publicity.
Malaysia Airlines was also able to attain PR coverage from 33 news outlets locally and globally, leading to an increase in PR media value of RM3,426,690 and exposure through celebrities’ social media accounts, with almost zero budget invested.
3. Panasonic 
Panasonic’s nanoe™X technology is commonly used in home appliances such as air conditioners and has been proven to inhibit viruses.
The threat of COVID-19 made people refrain from non-essential outings, which resulted in few people visiting stores to buy home appliances. Panasonic’s salespersons were losing its existing customer touchpoints such as that of real retail stores. The company needed to raise brand awareness for nanoe™X and to make the most of nanoe™X technology in providing safe air environments.
Panasonic partnered up with Hakuhodo as its lead agency, and Grab as its publishing agency. This was to co-create a strategy to develop a new mobility service that will help societies suffering from the threat of COVID-19. In addition, for Grab’s executives, a primary concern was to ensure that both drivers and passengers would benefit from the service with peace of mind in the execution of their duties. Panasonic decided to communicate the merits of nanoe™X technology across Southeast Asia in such a way that would best represent the brand’s characteristics so that its potential is quickly understood by customers.
panasonic grab banner
The company’s creative strategy aimed to educate the public about the dangers of air pollution and airborne viruses, encouraging the need for a high-tech air purifier to stay safe indoors. The four stakeholders the campaign was geared to included:
1. Grab passengers
2. Grab drivers
3. Panasonic
4. Grab (corporate body)
On the media front, Panasonic’s strategy was to leverage Grab’s SuperApp data and presence in hundreds of cities across Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore. To target customers at scale through a seamless combination of online and offline channels, on the digital front, Panasonic built awareness through in-app Grab ads such as masthead and native image. Simultaneously, to strengthen purchase considerations offline, it enabled consumers to experience the nanoe™X air purifier in 5,500 GrabCar Premium vehicles in Indonesia, Vietnam, Malaysia, and Singapore.
These cars were transformed into mini experiential showrooms with in-car samples, where over one million passengers who rode GrabCar Premium during the campaign could physically try the air purifier during their ride. These vehicles also had car wraps so they effectively became mobile OOH billboards for the campaign, maximising awareness, reach, and brand experience. It was also Panasonic’s first omnichannel campaign executed with Grab, which was created, planned, and directed in collaboration with Hakuhodo.
Panasonic also utilised PR events, natural and organic exposure across mass and digital media, as well as conversations between Grab drivers and passengers (word-of-mouth) as platforms for campaign delivery. Users were also directed to the Panasonic website so they could learn even more about the product’s technology and go further down the consideration funnel. All these provided for a seamless online-to-offline campaign, which led to numerous press coverage and became a PR success.
4. RHB Banking Group
Declining consumer confidence and repeated lockdowns delivered a punishing blow to Malaysia’s economy, where several SMEs across the country were forced to take a hit. SMEs contribute 38% of the national GDP and employ 70% of the country’s workforce; as such, financial institutions such as RHB Bank felt the need to take up ways to provide ample support aid financial aid to the struggling local businesses.
While RHB’s business had been on a downward trend ever since the pandemic hit Malaysia, the company did not turn a blind eye to its SME partners, in spite of reduced marketing budgets and survival reasons. RHB thus devised a way they could support both their SME clients and their own business. This involved finding ways to quickly increase RHB’s market share among the SME segment, stimulate card usage and strengthen the affinity and trust Malaysians had placed in the bank during these trying times.
Financial aid was only one aspect of the solution. RHB bank thus took to a two-pronged approach in aid dissemination, which involved the delivery of financial aid and increasing account openings, as well as helping SMEs gain traction by exposing them to fresh audiences to stimulate spending for RHB’s existing customers. This was termed ‘Project Open,’ described by the company as an end-to-end online initiative to keep Malaysia’s SMEs “open” during and after lockdown. “Project Open” would also serve to sustain RHB’s own business among key customer groups.
RHB conducted “Project Open” in a number of ways. First, the focus was on channelling RHB’s share of Bank Negara’s Special Relief Facility (SRF) of RM10 billion assistance funds to SMEs, and through digital channels.
The company utilised a unique audience insight into SME Business Owners, by taking on the obligation of providing for families and securing employees’ future by encouraging motivation to “stay open”,extending beyond merely making a profit. RHB’s creative work reflected this sentiment and targeted three key SME segments – retail, services and manufacturing. Each ad contained a simple call for action: a QR code that linked to RHB’s dedicated SME webpage, from which the required support could be obtained.  

For new-to-bank customers, RHB leveraged Bombora’s (a B2B provider of intent data) database of SME owners and deployed aggressive programmatic retargeting across major news sources, driving audiences to RHB’s online financing site.
RHB didn’t just stop at providing SRF loans. Once the lockdown ended and businesses began the painful process of rebuilding, came #JomSapot – a platform for SMEs to enlist support from RHB debit and credit cardholders. Merchants from various sectors – including retail, F&B, hospitality, travel, fashion and entertainment – could list their businesses on #JomSapot, and RHB cardholders in turn could make digital pledges to support them. These pledges were then converted into free social media advertising for the SME businesses before ultimately becoming an actual sale when the cardholder fulfilled their pledge by making a purchase from that SME.

For cardholders, every purchase was made from the participating businesses using their RHB credit or debit cards and/or RHB DuitNow QR gave them a chance to be in the running to earn cashbacks of up to RM700.
Over 7,000 Malaysian businesses were aided during the campaign, with the SRF accepting over 1,400 successful applications with RM1 billion in aid given out over the span of 4 weeks. #JomSapot also succeeded in supporting over 5,700 retail outlets with a 21% increase in spending by RHB credit and debit cardholders. 
RHB received top marks from retail banking customers, scoring 90% as opposed to the industry average of 83% on awareness of COVID-19 measures, with a satisfaction score of 7.65 versus the industry average of 7.55. Project Open also propelled RHB to become the leader in debit card usage, with the gap in RHB’s share of debit card spend vs the industry’s growing from 3.8% pre-campaign to 16.3% by the end of the campaign.
5. Wonda Coffee
In spite of the challenges the pandemic brought on to the advertising space, coffee brand Wonda was determined to stay ahead of the curve by reacting with relevant and purposeful marketing efforts to continue to foster meaningful brand connections with consumers.
Wonda’s brand DNA is infused with innovation and creativity. Regardless of the pandemic, Wonda stayed true to its DNA by creating new and differentiated coffee experiences for its consumers, regardless of any product variants that Wonda samples out. The company then custom-designed and launched a series of experiential initiatives, exciting and futuristic in nature, for its consumer base to enjoy.
Wonda knew it was impossible to develop a one-size-fits-all roadmap when navigating a crisis. Every variant and its proposition were different, and the strategy had to be tailored exclusively to be relevant to the intended audiences. This resulted in a deep dive into consumer behaviour, where consumer moods were mapped throughout the entire day. Wonda came to the conclusion that Malaysians begin their day with excitement, while stress sets in as soon as work commences. However, by 3pm, the line graph takes a sharp dip, denoting a negative mood, thus resulting in the “3pm Blues”. This was the perfect opportunity window for the Wonda Booster to energise or reinvigorate its consumers, with double coffee shots that would boost energy at much-needed hours.
Another key challenge was finding the right way to deliver the Wonda Booster to consumers in a safe manner befitting the new norm. Keeping that in mind, Wonda decided to launch the first contactless sampling initiative: the Wonda O’Clock Dispenser. The custom-built 2.4m machine takes the form of the exact appearance of a can of Wonda Booster, at a larger-than-life scale. Without promoters on-site, everything had to be programmed and timed to perfection. A countdown timer was embedded on top of the machine, indicating the time remaining to the opening of the fridge. At exactly 3pm, the buzzing sound would be activated to draw attention and alert consumers that the time has arrived to get the Wonda Booster. The dispenser door will unlock to reveal the product and consumers could then grab their favourite can of coffee whilst adhering to the restrictions in place.

Additionally, the Wonda Speakeasy Café was conceived as a space aiming to add a “spirit of adventure to consumers’ coffee runs”, where consumers will need to hunt for the mobile speakeasy cafe and partake in a mini-mission in order to find the secret code to gain access, thereby giving the cafe experience a more exclusive feel. The mobile speakeasy café’s locations were given via WAZE’s location PINS, and through clues from WONDA’s Facebook and Instagram pages. Wonda Coffee also designed a luscious interior, keeping abreast of social media trends and visibility, for their first mobile café with neon lights and spots where consumers could snap up their most ‘Insta-worthy’ picture.
Despite the challenges, the Wonda O’Clock Dispenser received overwhelming response that resulted in the brand rolling out the initiative in seven others spots within Klang Valley. The Wonda Booster grew 25% in sales value during the sampling period and reached an all-time high in value % share, currently at 0.9pts (vs first launched at 0.3pts in January 2020.
As for the Speakeasy café, this news was picked up by top content aggregators such as World of Buzz, Rotikaya and Gooddy 25, which was able to reach over 120,000 fans of coffee in Malaysia. Nearly 2,000 cups of coffee were served during the campaign period, resulting in RM310,000 worth of PR value in just one day.
Photo courtesy: 123RF
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5 brands in Malaysia that dazzled in customer engagement


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