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Marketing in Thailand as a Foreigner: Volume #3 The Marketing Noises

Sometimes, It’s Okay to Wear Socks and Sandals

Sometimes, It’s Okay to Wear Socks and Sandals

Foreign marketers sometimes need to be bold enough to wear socks and sandals in a tropical country like Thailand to stand out. If you wonder why: READ HERE.

In the last article, I discussed the most basic yet essential criterion if you should follow your marketer instinct to invest in new localised materials or use the already existing global materials. I highly recommend you read or re-read it to make sense of my other checklist in this article!

Volume#3: The Marketing Noises

In the Thai marketing scene, noise and triviality constitute 95% of the marketing world. Even if you believe in your power to see them through, you would inevitably misjudge somehow and be impacted by these noises because having to make solid decisions that only locals know best is impossible for you. I normally discuss marketing case studies with a focus on the outcomes, but I guess it can be somehow useful to instead talk about the processes once in a while. Today’s article should shine a light on the basic noises you would def come across as an ex-pat working with the locals!

The First Noise: Influencer or Key Opinion Leader Marketing (KOLs)

In Thailand, a KOL campaign is the most basic idea ever because of empirical successes, but it is not always the silver bullet anyone claims it to be. The truth behind the power of KOLs is the ability to convince consumers through peer-to-peer power. Yet, the adaptability and cognizance to detect marketing fraud committed by brands of Thai consumers are beyond our paces. If your communication lacks trustable naturalness which is usually the case why brand KOL campaigns usually flop because consumers take it as brand communication from the get-go. Before investing in a mega KOL as recommended by the locals, you might somehow need to consider what you expect out of the investment. If it is branded advertising no one believes it is a naturally product-driven talkabout/review you aim to achieve, then you should be fine.

The Second Noise: Data

“Data is the new oil” has been told for the last decades in Thailand. Of course, it gives us a new horizon on analytics to tackle consumers efficiently, but it might not be all cases for Thai marketing situations. The majority of the most lucrative Thai businesses are not tech-based like in the western world but rather consumer goods. The products are bought on the spot at bricks and mortar stores. Thus, data would not be as indicative of consumer behaviours since how their actions and how they make decisions occur offline without traceable website/app journeys to figure out their insights.

I have seen many FMCG brands try so hard to build a data-collecting system and their ambition to convert their brands data-driven against the nature of how consumers purchase their products simply because ‘data is a must’. Thus, the given data is not significant apart from just owning some data. Worse, the data is not intent-based at all due to its source being in exchange for incentives. It is not totally wrong to do so, but you have to consider if it is really worth your time and limited marketing budget for some minimal returns if your product nature does not fit with data-driven aspects.

Marketing in Thailand as a Foreigner: Volume #3 The Marketing Noises | News by Thaiger
The top 10 Thai companies based on Forbes 2000 — being an indication that Thai businesses are not yet as data-driven as we frequently assume. Infrastructure and basic needs are still what drive Thai consumers. (Wikipedia)

The Third Noise: Measurements

People are so aware of the importance of digital marketing because of its ability to measure marketing performance, unlike traditional marketing. I am certain, in a marketing meeting you will be presented with social media growth like a page or subscriber increase or some cost per result from ad campaigns. It is not simple as it seems; each measurement metric works variably and indicates different business or marketing implications. True understanding of what causes these number or what they entail, business-wise, is now what lacks in marketing world because its apparent convenience. It makes people take their significance for granted, and instead the measurements become just vanity metrics.

The problem is not the superficiality or lack of understanding, but it is how they are being used as the business measurement with misinterpretation. Doing whatever possible to lower costs per result being an indicator of marketing efficiency or setting social media growth as the KPI for online marketing without understanding how these numbers work is hurtful to me. Then it becomes a vicious cycle that people work just to hit pointless KPIs or basically to impress the bosses, not for the sake of business efficiency.

Working Also Processes Requires Uniqueness

Being unorthodox in advertising or marketing communication does not only apply to the final product but also the making processes. I am sure, my readers are already equipped with professional noise-cutting skills even without my article, but these noises could become THE PATTERN anyone in your organisation follows, and it is hard to not comply, especially being a foreigner among the Thai traditionalists.

If you are bold enough to break the curse of the trivial noises we, Thai marketers, are all afraid to break through

Yes, you will probably look bizarre.

Yes, you are going to be notoriously remembered for your oddity.

But one thing is, your outcomes will be unforgettable in our little country, which is the foundation of marketing. Remember, Justin Bieber once pulled socks and sandals off!

Writer: Don Gorrith, Senior Strategic Planner at Yell Advertising Bangkok

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