KUALA LUMPUR: Amid a year of political upheaval and newfound optimism, local brands are examining what it means to be Malaysian in a new era with their annual national day campaigns.

Campaigns centred on patriotism, food, culture, and nostalgia are common for Malaysia’s Merdeka Day, but some brands are looking to embrace the ‘new Malaysia’ following the extraordinary ousting of the governing party early in the year, and to capitalize on national goodwill.

“This year, we’ve had a change of government since the country first gained independence 61 years ago. So it is a historic time for the nation with a general sense of optimism and change in the air,” said Yasmin Mokhtar, managing partner, Merdeka LHS, in comments in Marketing Magazine.

Embracing the differences among Malaysians and treating all races equally, as well as liberation and embrace of change, have been other potential options as the nation looks toward a new era. But national pride emerged as the core theme ahead of the August 31 holiday.

“This year, the theme of nation pride seems to be the most prevalent as companies try to gain brand love by riding on the positive sentiments of the people post-election. Again, relevance to the brand is key,” said Donovan Chew, Executive Creative Director at BBDO Malaysia in Kuala Lumpur.

Though there has been a real sense of patriotism from consumers, brands themselves have been wary about provoking divides or sensitivities.

“Marketers are weary of backlashes in the Malaysian quick-to-boycott culture, so most of the themes are based on feel-good and positivity because it’s safer,” said Alvin Teoh, Executive Creative Director at NagaDDB.

“The patriotism displayed in previous years felt forced or was done in defiance because many wanted to say ‘This is my country too and you can’t take that away from me’. But this year, it feels like there is a sense of pride in the country and we all want to be a part of this story, this journey,” Teoh said.

Sourced from Marketing Magazine; additional content by WARC staff