The Marketing Society Hong Kong

Hong Kong Changemakers Reunited

A review of The Hong Kong Changemakers Conference 2023

The Marketing Society’s Hong Kong conference reunited the industry with a forward-thinking focus and positive outlook, writes Kiri Sinclair Founder & CEO, Sinclair and Board Member, The Marketing Society Hong Kong.

We met at Soho House Hong Kong on a warm afternoon in early November, taking advantage in a gap in the city’s busy social calendar between the annual FinTech conference and start-up festival. It was harder than previous years to secure speakers, as we’re all back to our usual travel schedule of being out of town more than in town (or so it seems).  But we came up gold in the end, with an amazing line-up of changemakers, industry leaders and unique voices who inspired and moved us throughout the afternoon.

The conference kicked-off with the always amazing Clement Kowk, CEO of The Hongkong and Shanghai Hotels sharing his ‘Journey from finance to luxury hospitality’. The full house audience were wrapped throughout. He talked passionately about developing skills that can take you across career opportunities, the importance and benefits of having a strong personal network and how thinking like the boss is the best way to build your career towards being the boss. As the leader of The Peninsula brand, the pinnacle of luxury hospitality, he spoke about the balancing act of embracing sustainability while accommodating UHNW customers, and the importance of personalisation and human touchpoints when marketing luxury.

Next up was Andrea de Vincentiis, Regional Head of B2B Marketing APAC at HSBC who inspired and challenged us to be creative in our B2B campaigns. His passion for the ‘business to human’ (rather than business to business) mindset sparked inspiration, especially when he shared examples of how emotional triggers can have a powerful impact in the B2B space. He ended by reminding us all to Invest In Brand, not just performance marketing (with a reminder that performance marketing is not the only branch of marketing that performs!).

The conversation then turned towards the arts with a discussion on ‘Reinventing cultural narratives through artful storytelling’ moderated by The Marketing Society Hong Kong Board member Nellie Chan of Google. Digital artist Henry Chu and Gusto Collective’s Aaron Lau shared their perspective on how brands can link art collaborations to brand purpose for amazing outcomes. With respect for the artists process and creativity (… not directing and dictating their every step!) true collaboration creates brand new cultural elements – and allows brands to “move at the speed of culture”.

We then took 30. Getting people back to their seats following the break was like “herding cats”, one participant said to me. Well, thankfully, I like cats, and after a bit of herding we headed into the next session which was a PechaKucha presentation by the creative guru that is Andreas Krasser of DDB Hong Kong titled, ‘Confessions of an Agency CEO’. And he sure did confess. It was an authentic and honest talk admitting to fears while inviting the audience to consider their own 10% of brilliance.

To me, the most engaging discussion was the session’ What’s on the mind of Asia’s marketing leaders?’, a panel moderated by South China Morning Post’s Kevin Huang with speakers Dr Yvonne Leung of Bupa International and David Kim of Vitasoy fame. I resonated with so much of what they had to say and will highlight a few of their talking points in bullet form for ease:

  • Key pain points in modern marketing – connecting with customers and creating relevant experiences for the next generation consumer
  • Marketing is collaborative – we engage across internal and external stakeholder needs, balance (long term) branding with (short term) product-based sales performance and manage a variety of expectations across the business
  • When overwhelmed, go back to basics and focus on the core portfolio or cash cow
  • There is a paradox (inconsistency) in what customers say and what they mean or do – for example, customers all say that sustainability is a must but their buyer behaviour often shows otherwise
  • Analytics is the biggest new job in marketing and it’s here to stay, invest in people and tools that can read the data and offer interpretations that help build your brand

There was also much talk about how to do more with the same budget! 

We then turned our thinking towards ESG Marketing with a panel discussion on 'winning hearts and budgets'. Moderatior Natalie Truong, Chair of The Marketing Society Hong Kong spoke with Gill Meller, Legal and Governance Director of MTR Corporation and Alan Corr, Global CFO of HSBC Asset Management. It was fascinating to hear ESG marketing from the legal and financial perspective, with the speakers reminding us that it is essential to link ESG back to business strategy and objectives and bridge data to storytelling when making your pitch to the Board. They also told us to be resilient; I heard this as ‘ask until they say yes’.

The day ended with a fireside chat moderated by Hong Kong Vice Chair  Hina Wainwright of adm Group speaking with Carmel Armstrong of local NGO Love 21 Foundation. Carmel shared the story of Love 21’s mission to empower the down syndrome and autistic community in Hong Kong through sport, nutrition, and holistic support programmes under the banner of #Somuchability. She reminded us why it is so important for marketers to engage their local NGOs when building ESG and CSR campaigns to create true community benefit.

To all that spoke and all that attended – a big thank you. It was a hugely successful event. We are so grateful to have a strong and insightful membership community at The Marketing Society Hong Kong.

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